GOALS & OBJECTIVES
The Forefront Fellowship Worker Cooperatives cohort chose to develop a convening framework in pursuit of three goals: 1) closing the racial wealth gap by democratizing business, 2) promoting innovations for non-extractive financial products, and 3) generating connections between ecosystem actors (future BIPOC worker-owners, would be funders, and mission-aligned public, private and non-profit supporters).
- To accomplish those goals, this Forefront cohort has written and gathered resources for workshops and roundtables that accomplish the following objectives:
- Create a replicable framework for a guided, action-oriented conversation with critical partners in the coop creation/conversion pipeline that often are not brought into the same room.
- Co-develop a model for industry roundtables that provide actionable items for capital providers to execute in the real world.
- Set a standard for convenings that can add value for all participants by a) providing them with monetary compensation for their time, b) expanding their network in a meaningful way, and c) giving them access to ideas that can jumpstart product development, d) creating new mentor-mentee connections.
OUTREACH AND PREPARATION
Achieving representation from a wide range of ecosystem actors requires a long-term commitment to maintaining relationships with these actors, beginning in advance of the convening. The Forefront cohort recommends working with nonprofits who have already formed trust-based relationships with worker-owners-to-be and existing BIPOC worker cooperatives. Financial providers who have expressed curiosity or even hesitance about funding worker cooperatives may also be great candidates for participation.
The NYC Cooperative Business Roundtable Micro-Site should be used as a resource for introducing potential participants to the idea of improving non-extractive financial products for coops, and the website’s contents will ideally build momentum and excitement for a convening. Sharing this resource with non-profit partners can help potential BIPOC worker-owner participants access this information through a trustworthy source and build an initial connection between them and the convening facilitators / sponsors.
In addition to the Micro-Site, agendas (based on the principles of emergent strategy described in our Toolkit) should be circulated beforehand as part of the advertising strategy. This will give participants the opportunity to a) decide in advance if participating in the convening is right for them, and b) bring ideas about how their goals do/ do not align with the flexible agenda and help change it in collaboration with the facilitators.
For Prospective BIPOC Co-ops: Monetary stipends or honoraria. Mentorship and advising for one year with a participating capital provider
For Policymakers and Non-Profits: A clearer understanding of the anticipated challenges of financing worker cooperatives and expanding economic democracy at the Federal, State and City level.
For Capital Providers: The advantage of being the first to deploy a non- or least-extractive financial product that will eventually be profitable. Contribution to CSR goals and a broader network for syndicating capital for their capital stack. Built-in risk assessment of investment opportunities.
The roundtable should be structured around a flexible agenda that can evolve to meet the shared goals of participants in real time. Since the initial agenda will be built on assumptions about those shared goals, built-in opportunities for reassessing goals and reframing will be critical.
The Forefront cohort recommends an Emergent Strategy agenda, which includes:
Land Acknowledgement and Welcome (Convening Entity)
Agenda Review (Facilitator A)
Participant Agreements (Facilitator B)
Opening Discussion/ Check-ins (Multiple Facilitators)
[Optional] Panel / Presentation (Moderator A)
Exploratory Discussion (Multiple Facilitators)
[Optional] Panel / Presentation (Moderator B)
Planning Discussion (Multiple Facilitators)
Group Check-ins (Moderator C)
Decision-Making Discussion (Multiple Facilitators)
Next Steps (Facilitator A)
Appreciation (Convening Entity)
Breaks can happen over the course of a day, or the agenda can be broken into several days. To ensure that participants have ample opportunity to express themselves in a comfortable space, Exploratory Discussions should convene mixed groups of ecosystem actors. Planning and Decision-Making discussions should be broken up by expertise type, with check-ins to get feedback from other groups before entering the final decision-making discussion.
Facilitators should ensure that participants, at the very least, walk away with new relationships and peer-mentorship opportunities within the worker cooperative and finance ecosystem. Either during the decision-making discussions or immediately after the convening, it will be up to the facilitator to steer ideas towards concrete next-steps and inform all participants of how the group will move towards developing the recommended financial products. The convening entity should check in regularly with the group to update them on timeline and progress towards their co-created ideas.