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Collective Work & Cooperation

Co-Familia: Bilingual Childcare Development Center
By Silvia Inez Salazar

Organizing and buying our rent-controlled building in 2011 was a huge accomplishment that took 7 years. Our building used to be called the Norwood Apartments and today it is called 1417 N Street NW Co-operative. We converted our 84-unit building into affordable housing and no longer had to worry about being pushed out because of gentrification.

In 2015, we began to think about the need to have stable and dignified work with livable wages and benefits. Many people in our co-operative work two or three jobs in the service sector and they have no potential to be promoted or gain stable employment. We soon realized that a worker owned co-operative was the solution. A group of 16 women from the DMV area and our housing co-operative were interested in launching their own worker owned co-operative business that would provide childcare services in DC.

Although I had experience organizing my building into a co-operative, I did not know how to organize a worker-owned co-op. The support and collaboration provided by ONE DC was instrumental in getting started. Emily Sladek, Bryant Sewell, Tania Guerrero, Katharine Richardson, and Erin Kessler volunteered their time and expertise with the early phases of business planning. Luther Place Memorial Church lent their support and provided a place to meet. Professor Louise A. Howells, Clinical Instructors Jerome Hughes and Eva Seidelman and a team of law students with the UDC School of Law provided expertise with formulating bylaws and governance. The DC Childcare Collective continues to provide childcare during organizing meetings.

We worked collectively to share the basic concepts of a cooperatively owned business and more importantly, we set aside time for the women to transition from seeing themselves as employees and changing into owners of their own business. By 2018, Co-Familia Childcare Co-operative had evolved into a core group of women leaders with a vision of how their business would function. ONE DC interns Citlalli Velasquez and Esmi Huerta worked with the leaders to create visual illustrations of services to be provided. A grant from the Meyer Foundation provided funding for the worker-owners to take childcare development classes at Montgomery College.

In spite of our collective accomplishments, I was not sure about what direction to take or where we were along the co-op development lifecycle. ONE DC provided support to me and Emily Sladek with applying for a training provided by CooperationWorks! at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The training was focused on implementation and providing practical tools and skills for co-op developers. The courses and case studies presented during the training provided perspective on where Co-Familia is towards launching and what steps to follow. Learning the viewpoints of fellow co-op developers helped us understand the challenges we are facing and how common they are. As a result of the training, we can now provide Co-Familia with the support and direction they need to establish their business.

Co-Familia worker-owners are currently taking child development courses at Montgomery College and are scheduled to graduate this coming July. We plan to celebrate and move forward with renting a locale that will house the co-operative.

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative

Dulce Hogar Cleaning Cooperative, a worker-owned cleaning cooperative, became operational in February of 2019. Dulce Hogar is being supported by ONE DC, Beloved Community Incubator, and Luther Place Memorial Church.The seven worker-owners participated in a year long training process, which included logo and brand development, governance, financial literacy, and cooperative principals. Dulce Hogar has now begun taking on clients across DC and in the immediate Virginia suburbs.
Check them out or request an estimate at dulcehogarcleaning.com


ONE DC Learning Circle
The ONE DC learning circle has started study groups focused on specific types of co-ops.  As Jessica Gordon Nembhard remarks in her seminal book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, "[e]very African-American-owned cooperative of the past that I have researched, and almost every contemporary cooperative I have studied, began as the result of a study group or depended on purposive training and orientation of members."  We are taking this guidance, and starting study groups.
 
The Housing Co-Op study group will meet on Wednesday, June 26, from 6:30-8pm at the ONE DC office. At our first meeting, we'll set goals, decide how often we want to meet, etc. Contact Eric Fullilove (eric.fullilove@ri.org) or Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) if you're interested in being part of this group moving forward. 
 
Kim Lee (klsourceinc@gmail.com) will convene the Health Co-op Study Group! Reach out to her if you want to join in this effort or learn more.
 
The monthly Learning Circle explores the principles and legacies that ONE DC moves forward. The Learning Circle continues to meet on the first Wednesday of every month, from 6-8pm at the Black Workers and Wellness Center. The next session on June 5th (6-8pm at the BWWC) will explore 400 Years of Inequality. Click here to RSVP

Contact Gabrielle Newell (gnewell14@gmail.com) for more information about the Learning Circle or to join the Learning Circle email list

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