This month our co-op team is excited to feature You Be You Early Learning, a mobile preschool and teacher-led cooperative that is part of the larger cooperative network Cooperative EDU. They recently were honored by the Aurora-South Metro SBDC with the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion award.
Through a partnership with Aurora Housing Authority, You Be You serves 3-5-year-old students in two different marginalized community housing developments. They have 4 teachers who serve 16 children. We spoke to Roya Brown to learn more about her innovative business model.
As an educational entity, you chose to operate as a nonprofit, something the schools and university of Mondragón also chose.
What does it mean to identify also as a teacher-led cooperative?
As a teacher-led cooperative we believe in horizontal leadership and celebrate the diversity of experience and perspectives of our team. You be You Early Learning (YbY) embraces a cooperative governance model that values teachers as professionals and includes the voices of all stakeholders in decision-making.
The stakeholders are parents, students, teachers, and staff; everyone will have their voice heard and valued. We believe there are alternatives that transfer the power of decision-making from individuals (i.e. Principals or Administrators) or a small group of people to teachers and stakeholders. This educational environment will dismantle unnecessary hierarchy and political agendas allowing for student, parent, and organizational needs to be met immediately through local and relevant feedback.
Although, a cooperative is for a profit entity, education is not; therefore, we follow all the principles of cooperative except for the for-profit portion. A nonprofit is a top-down structure, and it is very challenging to fit a cooperative model within a nonprofit structure
What is your vision for a wider network of teacher-led schools? What progress have you made so far?
Many more people are becoming interested in alternative governance models, but only a handful of examples exist in the US educational system. We are here to support and collaborate with everyone interested in joining this movement and working to establish more examples of thriving schools and empowered educator teams.
Under the additional structure of Cooperative EDU, we have formalized a larger official cooperative that will support educators from all sectors to be the best they can be. Cooperative EDU has created an Educational Professional Practice (EPP) to grow a professional collaborative network in support of teachers as the primary contributors to learning success. The EPP encourages the cooperative spirit in educators by sharing in planning, actions, and results to leverage community cultural wealth, promote social-emotional growth, and celebrate students’ uniqueness. We are collectively committed to creating a movement in education that enables the spread of more humanizing, innovative, and learner-centered environments that are rooted in principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, and social justice.
We currently have a small collective of vanguard educational institutions contributing to a robust and innovative holistic professional development program and are developing our capacity to be a shared services provider for organizational, administrative, and human resources needs of schools and educators committed to creating impactful democratic learning communities. We really envision a regional mutual support network for educators that works across all sectors to enable systemic change.
What do you wish other worker cooperatives understood about your model?
We have been in a unique position as a cooperatively run organization that is not run for profit but rather as a social service. There is not yet a specific legal category for such organizations, so although YbY is not officially a cooperative on paper, we are very much a cooperative at heart. Our model has pushed many boundaries, and we have few peers that are both educators and cooperatives or cooperative and nonprofits.
How do you practice Principle 6, cooperation among cooperatives?
We will try and work with other cooperatives as much as possible (ie. banking, construction, grocery stores) and are constantly working to create a robust conversation around cooperative governance and the realities of working together in this way. We are all collectively trailblazing best practice for horizontal leadership in many different sectors and we are happy to contribute what we are learning in our growth.
Press Release: Denver's CCWB Drives Diversity and Equity by Linking Local Entrepreneurs with Institutional Buyers
Denver, CO – October 23, 2023 – Denver's Center for Community Wealth Building (CCWB) is leading a pioneering initiative to bridge the racial wealth gap by forging partnerships between local and minority-owned food businesses and large institutions.
On Tuesday, October 24, CCWB will host "Eat.Local.Food." at the National Western Center, featuring 11 outstanding diverse, local caterers for a food tasting event that will welcome over 200 institutional buyers from some of the largest institutions in Colorado.
The purpose of Eat.Local.Food. is to introduce diverse, local caterers to potential new customers who are committed to leveraging their everyday purchasing to foster economic prosperity and inclusivity in the Denver metropolitan area.
"Our place-based institutions have a significant economic engine that can be leveraged to strengthen our local businesses. CCWB is connecting local, diverse small businesses to these institutions to build mutually beneficial relationships."
"Our place-based institutions have a significant economic engine that can be leveraged to strengthen our local businesses. CCWB is connecting local, diverse small businesses to these institutions to build mutually beneficial relationships.," said Yessica Holguin, executive director at CCWB. "By opening doors for local and minority-owned food businesses and helping institutions make purchasing decisions that align with their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we are driving positive change in Denver's economic landscape."
The event is sponsored by the Colorado Health Foundation, National Western Center, CSU Spur, The SSA Group, Zing Credit Union, Kaiser Permanente, and Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO).
Eat.Local.Food is a Win-Win-Win (Businesses, Economy, Community)
This initiative is not only about boosting local and minority-owned businesses but also promoting economic prosperity for underserved communities. It allows institutions to make a significant impact in these entrepreneurs’ journey, support economic growth, and help create a more equitable and diverse business landscape.
The Feeding Anchors program and Eat.Local.Food. celebration is a testament to the power of collaboration, and it has already shown promising results. CCWB’s institutional partners are committed to leveraging their everyday business decisions to create positive change that benefits the entire community. Catering businesses that have been through the program can see dramatic improvements in their business, such as Taste the Love Cooking, who after many years in business, reached 2023 revenue goals early and has several new catering relationships with institutional businesses.
For more information about CCWB's Feeding Anchors program and their efforts to support local and minority-owned food businesses, please visit https://www.communitywealthbuilding.org/feedling-anchors.html.
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About Center for Community Wealth Building
Center for Community Wealth Building (CCWB) works to transform the current economic development system into a more inclusive and equitable model that prioritizes democratically-owned businesses, emphasizes local procurement, and ensures social, environmental, and institutional sustainability.
Founded in 2017 through the collaborative efforts of local residents, worker ownership advocates, and funders, CCWB’s mission is to mobilize, facilitate, and coordinate community wealth building efforts with the practical objectives of widening community education on economic alternatives, enhancing diverse participation, and fostering viable projects for the creation of just and sustainable jobs and democratically-owned businesses in the Denver Metro region.
CCWB accomplishes this through three community wealth building strategies: democratizing ownership; engaging anchor institutions such as hospitals, universities, and municipalities to focus on local procurement, hiring, and investment; and strengthening local businesses, particularly businesses owned by people of color and businesses located in disinvested communities.
Thanks to the incredible efforts of our community coalition and the support of our generous donors, we are thrilled to announce a major milestone in our efforts to advance economic equity in the Denver region: the official launch of ShopBIPOC!
The ShopBIPOC story is a tangible example of how Center for Community Wealth Building (CCWB) and its community partners are creating a more just and equitable economy. The support of individual donors was instrumental in helping us to take on new projects like this that are driven by the needs and interests of our community partners.
Fostering Racial Equity Through Values-Aligned Spending
ShopBIPOC.com is helping Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)-owned businesses connect to individual and institutional consumers who want to use their regular spending to advance racial equity.
CCWB began building the ShopBIPOC platform following the death of George Floyd. The racial reckoning of that summer led many entities to make statements in support of Black Lives Matter, including their desire to support small Black-owned businesses. Few, however, were able to match their expressions of support with actual changes in their purchasing, often expressing their frustration that they could not identify these businesses in their community.
In response, CCWB assembled a team of community collaborators in the small business support sector to develop a mechanism to connect consumers directly to BIPOC-owned businesses. We finally crossed the finish line and formally launched ShopBIPOC.com on August 31st!
To celebrate, we held a launch party at the People’s Building in Aurora! More than just a party, the gathering was an historic moment for the 450 (and growing!) BIPOC-owned Colorado businesses that are now part of the ShopBIPOC community.
ShopBIPOC can help pave the way toward a more racially equitable economy.
By responding to the interests of both individual and institutional consumers for a way to match their spending with their values, ShopBIPOC is quickly becoming a valuable tool in the work of building a more racially equitable economy. As large and small consumers shift the way they spend their money, they can help BIPOC businesses and the communities in which they are located to build wealth and to grow more resilient.
While systems-level changes will come slowly, the growing focus on values-aligned spending that ShopBIPOC taps into can help both consumers and businesses to see what real progress looks like. This is especially true as large institutional partners like the anchor institutions with which CCWB works begin to reposition how they spend their procurement dollars. Major local institutions from the City of Denver to the University of Colorado, Metropolitan State University of Denver, CSU Spur, National Western Center, and the City of Aurora have all endorsed ShopBIPOC and use the platform to find vendors.
Next Up: ShopBIPOC 2.0!
ShopBIPOC’S official launch, of course, is just beginning. We are already excited about the possibilities for ShopBIPOC 2.0. The next version will enable us to analyze site traffic to determine how consumers use the site and how (and which) businesses are realizing the most customer growth.