Current member of: Bonfire Media Collective founding member, been a part since its incubation began in 2016. Mariposa Food Coop since fall 2016. Philadelphia Federal Credit Union since fall 2015
What roles have you served in co-ops, nonprofits, or other membership organizations (Board, staff, etc.)? I have been part of Bonfire since the very first meeting about conceiving a media production cooperative out of Media Mobilizing Project, in spring 2016. Since then, I have been a consistent part of Bonfire’s development, taking part in the PACA 20->20 program, the business planning workshop series, and its further development following those programs. I am now a worker-owner of Bonfire; I do media production as a worker-owner; and I am the administrative staff person coordinating Bonfire’s client intake and bottom-lining many of the processes necessary for our existence as an independent business, such as dealing with finances, administering contracts, and working with our lawyer and accountant to set up the business infrastructure.
Why are cooperatives important to you and to the Philadelphia area? Coops are an amazing avenue for all kinds of people to take ownership of their labor and to build and share skills together. Were it not for the concept of the cooperative, I would likely never have been part of starting a business. I know from my experience, that starting a coop has opened doors for me to meet people all over the city, not just in my industry, but across the cooperative community. Building these networks of camaraderie and support make all of our coops stronger, and in doing so, we strengthen an economy of Philadelphia that directly benefits real people, their families and communities.
The importance of cooperatives and owning my own labor has become increasingly apparent to me over the past year, as I simultaneously worked on building Bonfire while being at the core of a union organizing drive in my other job at a large for-profit, venture-capital-funded publication. I’ve felt myself be systematically disempowered through unilateral decision-making and lack of transparency by the bosses at that company, while also feeling my own power build through my growth as a cooperative owner. Learning how to operate a business with a community of people who share a stake and interest in each other’s success and wellbeing, who are growing together, and are transparently trying their best to do what is right on a human level, is, at the end of the day, a joyful and liberating experience.
Has experience in the following: Group process and decision-making, Meeting facilitation, Public speaking, Writing newsletter articles, Project management, Wiki or website editing, Nonprofit organization experience, Volunteer programs, Business or retail experience
How will your experience, skills or unique perspectives strengthen the PACA Board? Having been part of Bonfire from the very beginning, I’ve experienced the technical assistance PACA has offered through the years from the coop perspective. I can speak to its clear successes, and help identify opportunities for growth.
I also have a background in writing and editing that I can draw on to help make sure the board’s public-facing materials accurately and compellingly convey what’s going on.
I care deeply about transparent and democratic process, in having meetings where everyone’s voice is heard, and where we work together to figure out the solution that meets everyone’s needs as best as we can. I’ve seen unilateral top-down decision-making in action in a lot of different settings, so-called collectives, and I know they can creep in even in the most well-intentioned spaces, because these are the patterns ingrained in many of us from a very early age. I’m committed to working with other members of the board to resist and break those patterns.
Where do you see PACA in 5 years? I see PACA at the center of a flourishing cooperative economy: a widely utilized resource in Philadelphia which entrepreneurs, collectives and existing businesses can seek out for support in developing coops from scratch, for supporting their existing coops, and transforming existing businesses into coops. I see PACA as a resource particularly for immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, women and LGBTQ+ people (and people who occupy multiple of those identities), who may not have access to traditional business schooling and/or who are interested in learning about what’s necessary to operate a business outside a traditional only-driven-by-profit model. To that end, I see PACA with a developed resource library on the steps needed to build the infrastructure of a coop, with information about legal and financial options and requirements specific to Philadelphia and/or Pennsylvania, and a directory of local legal and financial professionals (maybe coops themselves!) who understand coops and their particular needs.
As you think about the three primary board roles—ambassador, advocate, and asker—in which role(s) do you think you will want to be most active? I’m best in an ambassador/advocate role. Having experienced PACA from the coop angle, I can speak firsthand to how important PACA’s support has been to Bonfire’s development, and argue strongly for more support for coops in the region. This will complement my ambassador role I serve in Bonfire, representing at conferences, workshops and other networking events.