What have we been up to this year? In addition to surviving a pandemic and resisting the deep erosion of democratic structures in this country (no small feat), we’ve continued our work in growing the cooperative economy. Here are some highlights:
Cooperative Business Development and Education
This year, PACA offered consultation to more than 50 groups seeking guidance, resources, or other technical assistance on developing their ideas and plans for cooperative enterprises.
In addition, through our Cooperative Leadership Institute, we:
- Welcomed 21 cooperators of color into the Cohort Intensive, our signature leadership development program, and
- Hosted myriad virtual workshops, on topics ranging from the connection between mutual aid and cooperative economics, to the practice of democracy in our daily lives.
When the pandemic hit, PACA convened our member co-ops over the course of three community check-ins, both to hear about the needs and pivots of our community, and to explore how we may support one another.
Ultimately, this led us to raising funds and distributing $20,000 in mutual aid to eight cooperative enterprises over the spring and summer.
Moreover, PACA continued our joint membership program with the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, as well as training and facilitative support for our member co-ops. This ranged from designing and facilitating a workshop for Childspace employees on understanding worker-ownership, to holding bi-monthly convenings for our region’s food co-ops, and more.
We know we can’t do the work of growing the cooperative economy in the Philadelphia region alone. That’s why we’ve been training up and working alongside our 2020 Co-op Development Fellows: Miguel Andrade, Lauren Horner, Michaela Pommells, and Jay Scott.
In addition, this year, PACA supported nonprofit institutions such as The Food Trust, Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha, and FINANTA — both through workshops and fee-for-service consultative work — in understanding cooperative structures that may be relevant to their constituencies.
We joined with partners both in and beyond the Philadelphia region in raising awareness of cooperative economics — such as on All Things Co-op and the Madre Tierra radio show, at this year’s Up and Coming food co-op conference and Virtual Pan African Solidarity Conference and Black Cooperatives Week, and more.
And because we recognize that all of our work is impacted by broader policies and systems, we re-launched our Policy and Advocacy Committee this year with 11 dedicated volunteers. We gave testimony on the City of Philadelphia’s budgeting process, encouraging our leaders to #DefundThePolice and invest in our communities. PACA led the planning effort for the Take Back the Budget! Teach-in and facilitated a town hall on the possibility of a public bank for Philadelphia, which has the potential for addressing systemic issues in financing cooperative development.
It’s been a year. 2020 has both tested us and reminded us of the necessity of living and working in accordance with our values — of self-determination and cooperation, community owned wealth and democracy, and solidarity and care. With these values as our north stars, we carry on.