Opportunity Challenge Spotlight Video: Worker Cooperatives

Monday November 30, 2020

In early March, the Opportunity Challenge, a joint grantmaking initiative of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund and the Tarsadia Foundation, sought to identify solutions to create an inclusive economy in the U.S.—one that addresses the supports that immigrants need to achieve economic mobility. 

In September, we were thrilled to announce the 12 awardees of the Opportunity Challenge, chosen out of an applicant pool of 470 organizations. The finalists and several semi-finalists were awarded a total of $2 million USD. These funds will support innovative projects and programs to uplift refugee and immigrant communities across the U.S. 

In reviewing applications, four common themes emerged: financial access and inclusion, worker cooperatives, career pathways, and wrap-around supports for workers. 

We created a series of four videos showcasing the work of the 12 awardees in these four issue areas. In this final spotlight video, we hear from the leaders of three Opportunity Challenge awardees on worker-centered solutions, particularly worker cooperatives. These worker ownership models support individual assetbuilding for workers, foster democratic economic development, and promote resilience for communities that have been underinvested in by traditional economic systemsThe leaders featured in this spotlight video are: 

Maru Bautista, Director, Cooperative Development Program of Center for Family Life – SCO Family of Services in Brooklyn, New York
With Opportunity Challenge support, the Center for Family Life is expanding Brightly, the first worker cooperative franchise in the United States to provide a more sustainable path to scale financially successful worker cooperatives in low-income and immigrant communities. 

Andrea Schmid and Rose Bookbinder, Co-Founders and Lead Organizers of Pioneer Valley Workers’ Center (PVWC) in Northampton, Massachusetts 
Opportunity Challenge funding supports Vida Cooperativa, which unites, trains, and supports PVWC’s immigrant worker members in launching and leading interdependent worker-owned cooperative businesses, anchored by its 4.5-acre member-led cooperative farm. 

Diana Wu, Board Member, Oakland Bloom in Oakland, California
Oakland Bloom is launching a cooperatively run commissary kitchen, marketplace, pop-up, and community gathering space that showcases and builds economic opportunities for immigrants, refugees, and people of color to develop, pivot, and launch their food businesses in community with one another. The initiative will also provide technical assistance and additional resources to help businesses adapt to an uncertain food market during COVID-19. 

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