Field Update: Development in Practice with Hope 4 Us Housing Corp.

Yesterday, after weeks and months of outreach, planning, coordinating, and hoping, I began the development process with a group of four future worker-owners who are currently training in construction through Hope 4 Us Housing Corp. here in Syracuse, NY.  As part of the Cooperation Syracuse Alliance mission, I will be sharing here the story of the progress, summary of the curriculum and the training details, and answer any specific or interesting questions and situations as they arise.

Learn more about Hope 4 Us at https://www.facebook.com/Hope-4-Us-Housing-Corp-530914386964528/ and https://nccnews.expressions.syr.edu/2016/10/21/syracuse-area-program-about-more-than-craftsmanship/

DAY ONE: Tuesday December 4th.

I had previously been briefly introduced to the four participants at a prior team meeting they regularly hold a few weeks prior.  At that time when they agreed to start the development process, I shared the first items of learning collateral with them to review in preparation of today’s first development session – two handouts from the “Collective Ourselves Cooperative Entrepreneurship Curriculum” Authored for the Kris Olsen Traveling Cooperative Institute program of Northcountry
Cooperative Foundation by Emily M Lippold Cheney in 2015-2016:

HANDOUT 1: Cooperative Identity – the Statement, Principles and Values of cooperatives as stewarded by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA).

HANDOUT 2: Cooperative Development Continuum – an annotated presentation of the cooperative development process along a continuum of related tasks.

We then started out with a short re-introduction of names, and what we would be working on regards starting a worker-owned cooperative together.  We then moved straight into a video presentation of the short documentary “Owning the Change: Building Economic Democracy One Worker Co-op at a Time” – Available online at http://www.toolboxfored.org/own-the-change-screenings-around-country/.  The idea being to let other worker-owners from the video describe in their own words and experiences the requirements, benefits, and responsibilities that we would be delving into, and to demonstrate that there are real world examples of worker cooperative success stories.

Following the film, we had a small group discussion that centered around two components.  First, participants were asked to share about their connections to co-ops.  As was expected, most weren’t aware of any personal connections.  One participant mentioned having shopped at the Syracuse Cooperative Market on Kensington St, so we began with discussing what a consumer cooperative is.  We then moved into financial cooperatives, and it turned out one participant has been a long time member of ACMG credit union.  We talked about housing cooperatives, and one participant realized that they know someone who has lived in a co-op apartment building in Syracuse.  We talked about who has had Sunkist juice products before, and all the participants sere able to say they had, and we then discussed the agricultural marketing cooperative form.  Lastly, I asked if anyone knew of or had experience with a worker cooperative in Syracuse, and since there are currently none, the answer was no.  This allowed us to dive into the second component of the group discussion, which was what did the participants take away from the film, or what got their attention, about worker cooperatives.

The primary response was the ownership component and the ability to have control of the business.  To move the discussion forward, I offered specific topics or keywords that related to scenes from the film, and asked for responses to those, including: surplus, distributions, management, decision-making, financing, buy-in, consensus, by-laws, and business planning/financial projections.

Having a stronger joint understanding of worker-cooperatives, we ended the session with agreeing on how we would communicate with each other, and landed on texting as the preferred method.  We scheduled our next bi-weekly development session, and I passed out homework which asks the participants to write down what their personal goals within the worker-cooperative business development are in regards to the topics of working hours, income, professional development, and family/household. We have a long way to go with the development process, but there is nothing quite like taking the first step.

OTHER NEWS: Thank you to Cooperative Federal Credit Union’s Board of Directors for approving a resolution supporting the MVGO (Mission/Vision/Goals/Objectives) document!  You can view the doc online for passing your own organizational resolution at https://1drv.ms/b/s!Agswt-vqj5aQynxYR9WY2wm-cvLI

 

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Cooperation Syracuse Alliance Update for July 31, 2018: Late Summer

Good day! Here is an update following our last meeting on Thursday June 28th. It’s been a full month as I’ve been pre-occupied with an extra large case load at work, as well as traveling to Pittsburgh for a week attending the AFT National Convention as a delegate from Onondaga Community College’ Federation of Teachers and Administrators, and starting my online ESOP training with NCEO – the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Our MVGO document has been updated further with comments from last meeting, there were very few this time, so I feel we are close to the point of moving forward with the next phase which would be organizational resolutions in support of the MVGO. You can always view and comment on the MVGO at: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1C8QNnprkLpT0fGNx_ZMM6EjEPfxljf8rKpwbycgn4wE/edit?usp=sharing

Before moving forward though, my goal is to meet with many of you one-on-one to clarify the work to be done, and at that, only after I finish reading Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi which is commonly viewed as the recent milestone in organizing for the solidarity economy work we are talking about. I invite and encourage you to explore this publication on your own time, for the time being.

Lastly, a first reminder that the Pathways to Ownership webinar series starts this Thursday August 2nd, at 10:00 AM with a session from Joe Maraffino of the Democracy at Work Institute with great detail about the business conversion process from owners to workers. You don’t want to miss it if you are new to these ideas as Joe does a great job presenting them. We’re up to 56 registrations, but have room for a few more, so don’t delay :>) Register at http://www.onondagasbdc.org/pathways-to-ownership.html

And a second reminder that the second session of the Southside TNT Housing Task Force Collective Housing Teach-In is Saturday August 11 @ 12:30 pm at Beauchamp Library (lunch included). This session will focus on Financial issues related to collective housing options. I was asked by the organizers to share some of the resources on the subject that I find most useful from my experience living in and developing two different housing cooperatives here in Syracuse. I wanted to share my responses with all of you as well:
NY Cooperator Magazine – https://cooperator.com/
Communities Magazine – https://www.ic.org/communities-magazine-home/
Creating a Life Together (this book is a classic) – https://www.newsociety.com/Books/C/Creating-a-Life-Together
NASCO (North American Students of Cooperation) – https://www.nasco.coop/ – specifically check out page 22 of the 2018 report for a list of “struggles” from the survey that we here at Bitternut Collective inthe NWS, and others in the NASCO network, participated in last year – https://www.nasco.coop/news/all-member-survey-report-2144

5-Part Employee Ownership Free Webinar Series

NOTE: I have been sending these emails open on the cc: line to encourage communication and engagement so we all know who is participating so far in the CSA (Cooperation Syracuse Alliance).  If you would prefer to have your email on the bcc: line please just let me know.

I’m excited to announce the Pathways To Ownership webinar series that I have organized and am facilitating through my position at the Onondaga SBDC.  Visit the webpage for registration links – http://www.onondagasbdc.org/pathways-to-ownership.html
I’m potentially interested in listening parties for a group webinar experience, where we gather together as a group, participate in the webinar, and then have a small group in-person discussion immediately following.  Any partners out there who would host at your site?   Aside from that, I hope you will all share the series and registration link with your networks.  Education is always stage one with growing the cooperative business and solidarity economy ecosystem as we have to learn and relearn these concepts together in many cases, and ensure we all have a strong and correct baseline of understanding of the concepts to work together from.
Sincerely ~ Frank
PATHWAYS TO OWNERSHIP.jpg

Cooperation Syracuse Update June 14, 2018: Sharing from NYCNoWC Conference in Queens, NYC

I’m happy to share that this past weekend’s trip to LIC, Queens for the NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives Conference was worth the time.  I renewed acquaintances with a number of friends and colleagues in the cooperative business development sector, and came away with a number of possibilities for helping strengthen our work in CNY (photos from the conference shared in this album: https://www.facebook. com/pg/nycworker/photos/?tab= album&album_id= 1735451086540054)

35239397_1735452359873260_7532362005609447424_o.jpg

I was able to speak briefly to Jamaal Bailey, Senator for the 36th District of New York, who is the sponsor of Bill S6794 -https://www.nysenate.gov/ legislation/bills/2017/s6794 – signed into law by Governor Cuomo which amends the education law in relation to employer specific skill training grant programs to include employee-owned enterprises.   This effectively means that the skills necessary to manage and operate a business as an employee-owned enterprise are now recognized as workforce development alongside specific skill sets for producing products and services and will be eligible for resource support.  This is extremely important as one of the keys to employee-owned enterprise success is knowledge and understanding of cooperative culture and business models for all worker-owners. (*see the post-script below for schedule of upcoming Pathways to Ownership training webinar series).

I met and spoke with two worker-owners of New Deal Construction – https://www.newdeal.coop/, one of only two worker-owned constriction cooperatives in NYC, which is certified as an MWBE.  Although they focus on residential construction and remodeling, the MWBE Construction worker- cooperative model that they are undertaking is the one I hope we will closely continue to explore in order to assist city resident workers in banding together to successfully obtain government contracts.

Also perhaps of interest to us were multiple sessions relating to cooperatives and unionization, and how the two can work together to mutual benefit.  More on that tom come another time.

The day ended with a performance of “The Black Conference: A History of Co-Ops in the Black Community”, by the FalconWorks Theater Company, based upon the seminal research work “Collective Courage” by Jessica Gordon Nembhard.  Set in 1939, the play brought together conference attendees and guests face-to-face with black intellectuals and civil rights leaders including W.E.B. Dubois, Ella Baker, Bayard Rustin, Walter White and more to discuss cooperative economics as a viable alternative to black economic empowerment.

This week I have some individual follow-up meetings with interested parties who have not made it to our first two meetings, and hope they can attend or I can provide some updates about the further development of their participation in the Alliance at our next meeting scheduled for Thursday June 28, 2 PM, at CoWorks , 201 East Jefferson St, Syracuse.

I have also completed updating the MVGO document based upon the comments and feedback from our last meeting.  Take a look at:
https://docs.google.com/ document/d/1C8QNnprkLpT0fGNx_ ZMM6EjEPfxljf8rKpwbycgn4wE/ edit?usp=sharing

NOTE: Green highlighting indicates additions or changes from previous version.

Lastly, to clean up the email chains, I have taken the notes and news from the past messages in the thread and will be archiving them at an online journal that you can access in chronological order at any time, visit:
https://cooperationsyracuse. wordpress.com/

Sincerely ~ Frank

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Frank Cetera, Onondaga Small Business Development Center
NYS Business Advisor, 800 N. Salina St, 2nd FloorSyracuse, NY 13208, 315.308.1372

p.s. Save The Dates: PATHWAYS TO OWNERSHIP WEBINAR TRAINING SERIES PRODUCED BY THE SBDC:

Employee ownership is a growing area of interest for small businesses. This series of webinars for SBDC clients and the general public will give you the practical information you need to understand employee ownership options, and work with an SBDC adviser in starting or transitioning a business to one of the employee ownership models.

1.       Thursday August 2, 10:00 AM:  BUSINESS CONVERSION PROCESS
Joe Marraffino of the Democracy at Work Institute will provide background, practical details, and examples of issues involved in shifting from workers to owners.

2.       Wednesday August 15, 10:00 AM: CASE STUDY WITH WORKER OWNER
Erin Domagal grew up in Central NY and relocated to the Hudson Valley in 2002 to finish a BFA in Painting at SUNY New Paltz. Her love for nature has always connected to her professional life – landscaping, farming, wilderness education, running an herbal apothecary. Currently, Erin is a co-owner and Creative Director of Earth Designs Cooperative, a landscape design and installation company in Rosendale.
3.      Wednesday August 29, 10:00 AM: EMPLOYEE OWNERSHIP ECOSYSTEM
Frank Cetera will speak to his hands-on experience working with cooperatives and the various network and resource organizations that exist to support them plus give a summary of legislation recently passed or in process for facilitating employee ownership development in NY State.  Frank will provide lessons learned as an advisor to help you better prepare for the conversations and issues involved in advising on this topic.

 

4.       Wednesday September 12, 10:00 AM: CASE STUDY WITH SBDC ADVISOR
Andrew Delmonte highlights a case study of a small business that converted to employee ownership with the assistance of the SBDC at SUNY Buffalo State. The founder and owner of Rose Garden Early Childhood Center, a 9-year old childcare business in Buffalo, NY, sold the business to her employees last December. We will look at the steps the business took to complete this conversion, the specialized technical assistance, training, and financing that was needed, and some lessons learned in the process.

5.       Wednesday September 26, 10:00 AM: ESOPs
Pat Dailey from Fust Charles Chambers LLP will present background, practical details, and examples of issues involved in adopting an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) model.

Quick Jots from Today’s Meeting / Thursday June 7 at 2 PM

Great meeting and discussion and direction forward. In attendance were Frank (SBDC), Palmer (Southside TNT Housing Task Force), Jessi (Brady Faith Farm), Ron (Cooperative Federal), Jacob (Crystal City), Sam (CFCU), Kira (UpStart / CenterState CEO), and Ocesa (Greater Syracuse HOPE). We reviewed the MVGO document together, I will update and alert everyone to take a look when ready. We gave updates and news. And we set forth 4 action items:

1) Continue work in a distributed way on the MVGO doc and be ready to complete a final draft at the next meeting.
2) Recruit members for our alliance by talking about our work and putting them in contact with me.
3) Hold our next meeting on Thursday June 28, 2 PM at CoWorks. (3 weeks out)
4) Think on tasks we will start at our next meeting including the beginning of planning of the MoA process and a press event for late summer/early fall.

I’m attaching a pic of the letter of thanks I received from Senator Gillibrand as a good news item. And don’t forget about the Southside TNT collective housing teach-in this Saturday, also attached info.

More soon ~ Frank

TNT SS Housing Task Force Collective Housing flyer

REMINDER Cooperation Syracuse Alliance Meeting / Thursday June 7 at 2 PM

Reminder we are meeting this Thursday June 7, 2:00 PM at the CoWorks on 201 East Jefferson St, 2nd Floor.

Following up on the videos produced by DAWI that I sent in the last email, our latest collaboration has been updating the DAWI conversion handbook for a NYS audience, we edited the intro, the case studies so they were all NY specific, and the ending that indicates resources and contacts within the SBDC, including the Onondaga office for further assistance and advising/consulting from our no-cost/100%-confidential services.

I’ve attached it here, please feel free to share.

Lastly, I’ll ask one favor, please review our email list included here with this message, and help me discover anyone missing that I should contact and invite for Thursday.

See you soon.

Sincerely ~ Frank

Diversity In the Movement and Scheduling Our Next Meeting: Cooperation Syracuse Update May 17, 2018

Hello! Today, I am sending you some resources regards diversity in the movement.

Two great short stories in video of a conversion to worker-ownership of a daycare in Queens NY, recently produced by our partners at DAWI (Democracy at Work Institute): https://youtu.be/v4nm4zR41LA, and a landscaping company near Boston: https://youtu.be/aQYcnaFGG7w

Also, a PDF report summary in partnership with the National Urban League about the program to support a nationwide effort to retain minority-owned legacy businesses by helping them convert to employee ownership. See attachment.
_______

I would now also like us to schedule our next meeting at which we will review the materials that I’ve shared and offer time for questions and discussion; and speak further together about actions we would like to take, and strategize about how to achieve them. Please complete the scheduling poll at:

https://doodle.com/poll/7a5b9x3h986658wk

And if you can, please visit the shared working document and contribute your thoughts at:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1C8QNnprkLpT0fGNx_ZMM6EjEPfxljf8rKpwbycgn4wE/edit?usp=sharing

Sincerely ~ Frank

NOTE: I will be out of the office for staff training on Monday May 21 through Thursday May 24.