For low-income communities and BIPOC residents who already faced disproportionate environmental, public health and economic challenges, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic often expanded these crippling disparities. As NYC pursues economic recovery, it must do so in a way that advances both climate justice and economic democracy for its most disenfranchised residents and workers. Cooperative worker ownership is a critical tool to empower BIPOC workers by democratizing economic resources. But this pathway towards closing the racial wealth gap and reducing the corresponding environmental and health disparities is not being pursued widely.

Our team coalesced around tackling barriers to coop growth, and after extensive stakeholder outreach, we identified that a foundational burden for coop creation and expansion among BIPOC businesses is finance.

While these businesses should be poised to secure a significant percentage of imminent “green jobs” such as retrofit contracts through Local Law 97, the lack of accessible capital has created an unequal and exclusive market for such cooperatives to compete. Planners, architects, and policymakers have a role to play in accelerating new ways of thinking around equitable and non-extractive financial products for new and emerging BIPOC-majority cooperatives. Our perspective as non-experts and Forefront Fellows affords us the unique position to:

  1. Demystify both cooperatives and finance, to understand why they have not traditionally mixed, and
  2. Connect mission-aligned capital providers and cooperatives to co-create financial products, specific to the needs of coops - The Cooperative Roundtable.