Capital Impact Partners announced today that it has awarded grants totaling $50,000 to the Association for Black Economic Power and the Sustainable Economies Law Center, co-winners of its fourth annual Co-op Innovation Award. This year, the award recognizes two organizations leading initiatives that address racial inequality and create social impact through economic empowerment for residents in low-income communities.
“We are constantly striving to partner with organizations to help us advance our efforts to expand social and racial justice. I am incredibly proud that we are able to support these two forward-thinking organizations that are employing a cooperative model to do just that,” said Ellis Carr, president and CEO of Capital Impact Partners.
The Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP) was awarded $25,000 to establish a Black-led financial cooperative credit union on the north side of Minneapolis called Village Trust Financial Cooperative. The credit union will provide consumer loans (i.e. payday loans and check cashing services) to residents of North Minneapolis as a way to disrupt the predatory lending that exists currently, and build a cooperative membership base by meeting the immediate financial needs of community members. In addition, the new entity will support efforts to provide technical assistance and financial support for emerging Black-led cooperatives in Minnesota.
This concept was born in response to the killing of Philando Castille, to create economic power as a form of resistance and strengthen the financial resilience of communities of color. Capital Impact’s grant builds on initial support from The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota.
“We are honored to carry a vision of equity for our local community while creating scalable solutions for economic challenges facing people of color across the nation. The establishment of a fund for small-dollar lending, a Black-led credit union, and igniting a local cooperative movement are not possible without brave organizations like Capital Impact Partners, that believe local communities have the power to solve global problems,” said Me’Lea Connelly, Village Trust director. “It is a dream come true to have Capital Impact Partners, a national cooperative leader, join us in our infancy, rooting us in the tradition of innovation and pushing our reach for a greater cooperative renaissance.”
The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) was also awarded $25,000 to increase technical, educational, and operational support for the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EBPREC), which SELC is now incubating. EBPREC is bringing together communities of color, indigenous peoples, and housing justice organizations in Oakland, California to pilot an innovative model of land and housing ownership that disrupts root causes of racialized inequality and makes housing and commercial real estate affordable in the long-term. The organization is collaborating with more than 20 organizations across the country to replicate this model with the goal of building a broader movement and national impact.
This innovative model of land ownership engages everyday people to organize, finance, acquire, and steward land and housing. Unlike a conventional housing cooperative, which is formed to provide housing to a defined group of residents, this approach is designed not only to provide housing, but also to build a large membership base and serve members’ collective goal to transform systems for land ownership. This is critical in a community like Oakland, which is experiencing rapid gentrification, leading to the displacement of long-term residents.
“I’ve been working with the amazing leaders of EBPREC for two years, and I’m thrilled that a leadership team will finally get paid to do this important work. I’m so grateful to Capital Impact Partners for investing both in leaders of color and in innovative cooperative models,” said Janelle Orsi, Executive Director, SELC.
The Co-op Innovation Award represents just one part of Capital Impact’s strategy to promote food, worker, and housing co-ops that support underserved communities. Over its 35-year history, Capital Impact has disbursed more than $300 million dollars in financing to more than 219 cooperative businesses serving 870,000 customers.
“The Co-op Innovation Award is a great opportunity to identify new partners launching programs that align with our strategy and mission. Both of these community-led, local initiatives have potential for national replication; they demonstrate how the cooperative model can address problems, train leaders, and build wealth in communities of color,” said Alison Powers, Co-op program officer at Capital Impact Partners.