Weavers Way Joins Co-op Community Fund

Lynne Brown, New Economy Incubator Committee

We did it! Through the leadership of Weavers Way Board president and New Economy Committee member Chris Hill, our Co-op has been accepted into the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation Co-op Community Fund program. More than 40 food cooperatives around the country participate in CCF. Some funds are small, in the $20,000-$30,000 range, while others exceed $400,000.

What we get from Twin Pines

Twin Pines will match Weavers Way’s initial donation to the fund, with the help of co-ops like Frontier Teas and Equal Exchange. In the future, we’ll have additional opportunities to establish matching-fund opportunities through Twin Pines. In addition, Twin Pines invests and manages our money for us. Big bonus: Twin Pines only invests in cooperative startups and expansions in the Unites States, so even before we spend a dime of our endowment locally, we’re supporting the development of co-ops around the country — and earning money for doing it.

How Weavers Way’s fund is different from other co-op community funds

When we applied for our fund and matching support, we took a risk and decided to focus our fund on supporting the development of a broader co-op economy in Northwest Philadelphia. All other funds act as more typical community endowments, supporting community nonprofits that do work aligned with co-op values. But Weavers Way has been doing that for decades already through our various community-support programs. We wanted to do the tough work of identifying and supporting other co-op startups in our area. And one thing we find, again and again, is that our members are really excited by the idea of having more co-op choices: a co-op bike shop, bakery or brewery; access to seafood supplied by a co-op fishing collective; or a day care run by a worker co-op. In this way, we multiply and strengthen each other. One of the key principles of cooperatives internationally is that they support each other.

One of the provisions of the fund is that we can’t give money directly to a startup or business, so we’ll be working with other area organizations, such as the Philadelphia Area Co-operative Alliance, to support co-op startups by paying for training and technical support, which is often the key to success for new co-op ventures. 

Won’t more co-ops mean more competition? 

There are many different types of co-ops for many different types of goods and services. There are artist co-ops, child-care co-ops, film-society co-ops, energy co-ops, tool-sharing co-ops, you name it. Anytime people join together for the economic benefit of the group, that can be made into a cooperative business. 

How do more co-ops help the communities we serve?

Take Weavers Way as an example. I’m sure you recognize a big benefit of being a member of a democratically run business — you get a voice. But you also benefit economically through buying power. You also know that the money you spend is helping the local economy and the neighborhood. Just imagine the corner of Carpenter and Greene without Weavers Way as an anchor!

Developing more cooperative entities in Northwest Philadelphia will help with economic development that is democratic and rooted in the neighborhood and will keep our dollars circulating locally. 

Our membership has always strongly supported the development of a more robust cooperative economy in our region. By building the Weavers Way CCF endowment, we will be able to expand our ability to grow the cooperative economy. We can educate people on the benefits of running a cooperative business, train them in the nuts and bolts of starting one and give them the technical support to get their co-op off the ground. 

What you can do right now

The establishment of the Weavers Way Co-op Community Fund is in its very early stages, and we have lots of work to do before we’re ready to give grants to prospective co-ops. But there’s something you can do to help almost immediately.

On July 10, the Co-op’s monthly “Giving Twosday” fundraiser will benefit the Weavers Way Co-op Community Fund. When the cashier asks, “Would you like to donate $2 to the CCF?” please say “Yes!” By saying yes you are saying: I want a new economy in Northwest Philadelphia, one based on the cooperative principles of democracy, concern for community and local control of our economy. 

If you want to be more involved in helping us grow and promote the fund (and eventually help select and vet recipients), consider joining the endowment fund subcommittee of the Weavers Way New Economy Incubator Committee. For more information, please contact Lynne Brown at lynneebrown@verizon.net