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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Food Co-op Heralds a “Black Renaissance”

All told, the co-op raised $5.5 million from a range of partners, including family foundations, the Dayton Foundation, a New Market Tax Credit allocation, and local hospitals, who saw the co-op as a way to address the social determinants of health. These funds covered building and equipment costs. Additionally, the co-op raised about $500,000 in member equity and $1 million in debt from an Ohio-based community development financial institution (CDFI) for operations. When GCM opened, it received Facebook support messages from the state’s two US senators, Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D), as well as the state’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine.

Collaboration, Klein noted in her conference presentation last month, has been GCM’s “superpower” throughout. This included conducting a traditional capital campaign backed by Tony Hall, a former ambassador and congressional representative from Dayton. But it also has included deep organizing and widespread community partnerships.

Sellassie made a similar observation on another panel at the same conference, estimating that GCM had as many as 90 partnerships with outside organizations. As for community organizing, Sellassie noted that, “For Gem City Market, from the name of the market to our mission statement to our architectural design, the community has been throughout. We were highly participatory.” Sellassie conceded that engaging in these community-based processes “took a little longer, and it gets a little stressful at times, but it is more authentic.” And, he adds, it also is critical for ensuring the community feels a true sense of ownership in the market.

Klein provides some of the details involved. About 400 people voted on the store’s name, she explains, adding, “Our architect had office hours at the library. Surveys. Focus groups. Community meetings. Door knocking. House parties. Everything. We were very intentional about that.”

Read the rest at Nonprofit Quarterly

 

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