In partnership with Centro Comunitario de los Willows Community Center, we have been working with a group of immigrants to launch a cleaning co-op.
Are you a business owner, or know of one, considering retirement or exiting the business? Help us connect to business owners!
Farmer Olivia Nava from Our Harvest Cooperative and Kristen Barker spoke at the Organic Valley Conference. Hear Olivia’s takeaways.
Sustainergy adds new members to their staff and a worker became an owner.
On January 22, 2019 Cincinnati City Council passed a resolution asking the City administration to conduct a report to “raise awareness of, increase partnerships with, and support worker-owned cooperatives in the City of Cincinnati and encourage small business, entrepreneurs and communities to consider cooperatives an option where appropriate.”
What We’ve Done
Completed two rounds of Co-op U, a 12-week training that takes teams through the steps to validate their idea and launch a co-op business.
Hired a new team member to explore how to raise wages in the childcare sector through childcare and shared service co-ops.
Where We’re Going
Co-op U: hold 2-3 sessions focusing on our immigrant communities and our first online course.
CareShare & Shared Services: launch matchmaking platform with TechSolidarity and a Phase II Prototype. Launch 2-3 products for existing child care business owners.
Conversions/Manufacturing: conduct succession planning landscape assessment for Greater Cincinnati.
What We’ve Done
Helped secure Apple Street Market financing, unlocking over $4 million for construction to begin in early 2019.
Attracted national grant spotlights on our child care work & partnered with a tech group in Silicon Valley to create the beginning of a childcare matching platform.
Formed a Working World local peer network loan fund, raised over $50K, and disbursed our first loans to two co-ops in our network.
Where We’re Going
Local Loan Fund: continue building the infrastructure, including increasing funding for our local loan officer position.
CUCI Internal Infrastructure: strengthen our ability to create and support union worker co-ops by continuing to build and diversify CUCI’s funding sources and systems.
1Worker1Vote National Infrastructure and Symposium: bring together 250+ people from across the country and world, and formalize the governance structure of the national network.
What We’ve Done
Sold over 150 Worker-Owner Workbooks, our union co-op culture development and financial literacy book.
Helped to develop and move forward the 1worker1vote.org Community College Curriculum to make the co-op development process more available to people across the country.
Where We’re Going
Technical Assistance: *NEW* Individualized fee-based TA utilizes CUCI’s direct experience and original co-op development curriculum to help communities across the country jump start their own union co-op networks.
Interco-op Culture Building: As CUCI’s cooperative network builds, we are focusing on strengthening relationships and inter-cooperation among our co-ops.
Check out our impact (right) & financials (bottom) for this year!
In 2017, CUCI became a member of The Working World’s Financial Cooperative, to create a local loan fund to capitalize our co-ops utilizing non-extractive finance principles including no repayment on the loans until our co-ops are profitable. Tapping into national dollars, CUCI’s Loan Fund gave its first loan to Sustainergy for expansion into new product lines at the end of 2017. This year, thanks to a generous contribution from Christ Church Cathedral, we raised $50,000 to capitalize the local fund and approved loans for three Our Harvest Co-op (OHC) worker-owners to buy their cooperative membership shares.
Apple Street is thrilled that NEST, Northside’s community development corporation, purchased the future home of Apple Street Market in November of 2018 with dollars made possible by the City of Cincinnati’s CDBG funds. This building will be a long-term community asset. While the transfer of the property has taken longer than expected, it paves the way for construction to begin on the worker-and community-owned grocery that will come to life in a food desert. Fundraising for working capital can now begin in earnest.
My name is Zeke Coleman, and I am proud to be a worker-owner with Our Harvest Cooperative. Working at one of CUCI’s co-ops has made a huge difference in my life. Before I came to Our Harvest, I worked for five years in a local food-processing plant. Even though I trained in new workers, they would be the ones promoted, instead of me. The company started using reduction techniques with the people of color, which meant that the company made work terrible for us.
Since joining Our Harvest, I am no longer stressed at work or discriminated against as a Black man. In fact, it’s the opposite. At OHC, I was just promoted to the Food Hub Coordinator position after 5 years within the packing, delivery, and sales operations there. The opportunities to learn new skills and receive training in a variety of jobs within the co-op prepared me to step up into the coordinator role.
CUCI has helped us create our own family-sustaining jobs and learn important skills, like understanding the finances of our business and how to analyze key elements of our operations. They have also helped us create a culture of real, deep respect and cooperation. I feel so good about the people I work with.
This year CUCI dove into child care co-op organizing! With partners Cincinnati Federation of Teachers and the Amos Project, we formed the People for Early Child (P4EC) coalition. P4EC brings together parents, educators, and early childhood business owners and directors to advocate for more equitable early childhood system. CUCI is working to bring two co-ops to life in this sector, which relies predominantly on women of color:
CareShare: a worker-owned cooperative child care business that uses innovative web-based matchmaking (designed by TechSolidarity out of Silicon Valley) to bring together parents and teachers to care for up to five children in a family home. Care Share provides personalized early education for more children, and ensures teachers are paid at least $15/hour with benefits.
Shared Services: brings together owners and directors of existing child care businesses in a cooperative to share best practices, and strengthen their businesses through access to substitute teachers, and increased buying power for insurance, food and supplies.
We ended the year showcasing the growing capacity of our organization and knowledge of the sector by publishing a 170-page report, Strategies Towards Wage Equity in Early Childhood, for Cincinnati Preschool Promise.
Some might ask, how can we remain hopeful when so many of us are coping with housing instability, rising wealth inequality, and the day-to-day impacts of oppression? While this continued legacy of injustice disturbs us greatly, we gain energy by working in solidarity with local people and organizations committed to building wealth from the ground up.
More concretely, across our family of cooperative businesses, diverse groups of people have joined forces to build and grow businesses owned and democratically managed by the workers and the community. Throughout each co-op’s growth, CUCI accompanies the community and workers in all stages of developing their business and co-op culture. This includes meeting with all of our cooperatives on a weekly basis, facilitating access to non-extractive financing, accelerating their development through Co-op U, and more.
At a glance, our efforts may seem small, but together we are strong. It takes social movements of all kinds, including the worker-owned co-op movement, to create an economy that works for all. Join us, and together we will build the solidarity economy!
~The CUCI Staff
Kristen, Ellen, Christina, Andres & Maria
CUCI’s loan committee, which manages CUCI’s loan fund, recently approved three loan projects for three Our Harvest Co-op (OHC) worker-owners to buy their cooperative membership shares. These loans will allow OHC to receive the membership share buy-in amount upfront improving the cooperative's cash flow.
CUCI is a member of The Working World’s National Peer Network and Financial Cooperative which brings together place-based organizations from around the country to build a national infrastructure of cooperative lending and non-extractive finance. CUCI is leading the way in worker-owner buy-in loans, the recently approved loans are the first of its kind to be given out from one of the National Peer Network.
Pictured: Olivia Nava and Alex Otto, two of the newest workers to be voted in as worker-owners on the farm team.
Apple Street Market is hiring an exceptional Capital Campaign Coordinator to join our fundraising team! Our Renovations funding to transform and outfit the store is coming together and NEST's purchase of the building is around the corner, paving the way for construction to begin. The next step is raising funds for merchandizing, marketing, hiring, training, and stocking the store through the Operations Campaign and the Coordinator is the key on-the-ground fundraiser, relationship builder, and cheer-leader. send your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the full job description here.
Three representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) visited with Our Harvest worker-owners, board members and regional politicos at Bahr Farm in October. UCS is a bi-partisan organization applying scientific principles of sharing information, seeking truth, and letting findings guide conclusions. One of their areas of focus is Food and Agriculture. They connected with Phil Amadon, a founder and board member of Our Harvest, at an event last summer which led to the invitation to visit OHC at Bahr Farm. Their visit occurred on a beautiful October day in Cincinnati, where a tour of the farm led to a brainstorming session about the next farm bill (4 years from now) and what help and inclusion would look like for small farm operations like OHC. We ended the visit with a delicious dinner on the farm, and agreed to stay connected and look for collaborative opportunities in the future.
Sarah van Gelder, co-founder of Yes! Magazine and author of "The Revolution Where You Live," hung out with Renting Partnerships team at one of our Avondale units and introduced her to our new partners in another Cincinnati neighborhood with Cal Cullen from Wave Pool & The Welcome Project building community through a refugee and community art center.
Our Harvest Cooperative was recently awarded $30,000 from Mainstreet Ventures which funds local startups that have good ideas but and provide grants to support their long-term success.
This has been a whirlwind few months for CUCI. But there is a lot to celebrate!
We completed a report for the Preschool Promise on how to raise wages in the childcare sector in Cincinnati.
We partnered with New Prospect Baptist Church on our first Fall Forum to engage the Cincinnati community around cooperative work locally, with special guest speaker Sarah van Gelder.
Flequer Vera, co-founder of CUCI and Sustainergy Co-op was elected to the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives board.
We partnered with MORTAR and were selected as one of 6 pilot cities to bring a localized version of Transform Finance's flagship training institute that will "will catalyze discussions and actions around how capital flows for communities, prioritizing the amplification of social justice leaders’ voices and expertise." Coming in February of 2019!
Several CUCI staff also attended the Working World's peer loan fund retreat and are processing our first loans to our co-ops.
We have just begun our 2nd round of our co-op incubator, Co-op U.
Later this month you will have an opportunity to become a partner in this work with us by becoming a Sustaining Partner or signing up for payroll deductionswith select workplaces through Community Shares giving! And we really hope to see the local folks at our Annual Creating an Economy that Works for all Celebration on Nov 29th!
This month Our Harvest was excited to fully transition the food hub coordinator position from our interim staff, Maria Dienger, to Zeke Coleman. With his deep knowledge of Our Harvest's packing and delivery operations and his sales relationships and experience he has built up as a worker-owner over the last five years, we are excited to see what he can bring to the food hub coordinator position.
Additionally, Our Harvest welcomed back Amy Schreiner to the food hub team! She worked with Our Harvest when it was just a baby and now she is back after having a few babies of her own.We are grateful to have her back in the Our Harvest family!
In other news, Our Harvest has rolled out new Weekly Harvest Box pick-up sites. Cincinnati Children's Hospital and the Gaiser Bee Company out of Cincinnati's Monfort Heights neighborhood. Cincinnati Children's Hospital has been working with us through their Concierge Services program, which was introduced to provide services to employees with the intention of saving them time and providing peace of mind. The Gaiser Bee Company is a local food producer and fit right in with our mission of providing fresh local food that honors land and labor. They have their own property called the Gaiser Urban Farm where they sell their local honey, teach beekkeeping classes, sell bees and educate about the importance of protecting and sustaining our bee populations!
One of the best ways to support Our Harvest Cooperative and the larger local food system in Cincinnati is to sign up for the Weekly Harvest Box at one of their 15 locations: ourharvest.coop/weekly-harvest-box/.
Sustainergy is proud to welcome our newest member to both the team and the path to worker ownership!
Hailing all the way from Honduras, Yovany Gonzales will be bringing his years of expertise and hardworking spirit to our fight to make the area's homes more comfortable while also lowering energy bills, one home at a time.
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