C-W Interview

Elandria Williams

Interview of Elandria Williams,

Education Team member, Highlander Center and Co-editor of Beautiful Solutions

Interviewed by Steve Dubb, Director of Special Projects, The Democracy Collaborative

July 2016 Read more about Elandria Williams...

Aaron Tanaka

Aaron Tanaka is Co-Founder of the Center for Economic Democracy and Senior Advisor of the Boston Impact Initiative. Aaron comes to this work as a community organizer and economic development professional based in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. Aaron was the first Managing Director of the Boston Impact Initiative and was the founding executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance, where Aaron helped build a nationally recognized non-profit that combined grassroots policy advocacy with cooperative business development in Boston’s low-income communities of color. Aaron is also a co-chair of the Asian American Resource Workshop and the New Economy Coalition and is a Fellow with the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).

Michael Shuman

Michael Shuman is an economist, attorney, and globally recognized expert on community economics. He is one of the architects of the crowdfunding reforms that became the JOBS Act, signed into law in April 2012. He is the author of nine books, including Local Dollars: Local Sense, The Small-Mart Revolution, and Going Local. In 2015, Shuman’s newest book, The Local Economy Solution, was published by Chelsea Green. It presents the stories of 28 “pollinator” enterprises that are nurturing local businesses in self-financing ways. Additionally, Shuman is a fellow at Cutting Edge Capital and the Post-Carbon Institute and is a founding board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). Shuman has also advised countless communities on strategies to increase local economic multipliers, and just completed (with Gwen Hallsmith) a handbook on local investment opportunities in Vermont.

Emily Kawano

Emily Kawano is Co-Director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, which is seeking to create an engine for new, community-based job creation in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses located in the inner city that will provide job training and entry-level jobs to unemployed and underemployed residents through worker-owned cooperatives. Kawano also serves as Coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network. An economist by training, Kawano served as the Director of the Center for Popular Economics from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, Kawano taught economics at Smith College, worked as the National Economic Justice Representative for the American Friends Service Committee and, in Northern Ireland, founded a popular economics program with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Ed Whitfield

Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Ed’s political activism started with attending Little Rock Central High School and beginning to do anti-war work as a teenager. Ed has lived in Greensboro, North Carolina since 1970. In 2007, with Marnie Thompson, he helped co-found the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC), a private foundation that aims to promote economic democracy and cooperative economics in the U.S. South. F4DC has pledged to spend down its endowment by 2020. Among its leading efforts are launching the Southern Grassroots Economies Project and supporting the development of the Renaissance Community Co-op in a food desert neighborhood in Greensboro. Ed also participates on numerous boards, including the New Economy Coalition and the Highlander Research and Education Center.

José Corona

José Corona is Chief Executive Officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA), a position he has held since 2004. ICA is a nonprofit technical assistance group that helps build sustainable and responsible businesses that create quality jobs, reinvest in the community, and contribute to building a strong and vibrant local economy. Since its founding, ICA has helped to create and retain over 7,000 jobs in the Bay Area, creating or retaining 2,717 jobs in 2013 alone that pay an average hourly wage of $14.50 and generate over $68 million in total wealth for the local community.

Ai-jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo has been organizing immigrant women workers since 1996. In 2000 she co-founded Domestic Workers United, the New York organization that spearheaded the successful passage of the state’s historic Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in 2010. In 2007, DWU helped organize the first national domestic workers convening, where the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) was formed. Ai-jen has served as Director of NDWA since 2009 and works on elevating women of color and domestic workers rights issues at a national level.

Rey España

This month we interview Rey España, Director of Community Development at the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), one of the largest and most successful urban Native American centers in the nation. In the past decade at NAYA, España has helped launch a number of projects, including an individual development account program, an affordable housing portfolio, a private high school serving Portland’s Native American community, and two social enterprises. NAYA is now looking to develop a Community Development Financial Institution to provide loan assistance for NAYA’s microenterprises.

Reverend Barry Randolph

This month we interview Reverend Barry Randolph, pastor of the Detroit-based Church of the Messiah. Reverend Randolph discusses the church’s involvement in Detroit revitalization work as well as its entrepreneurial social enterprises, including: Basic Black, a t-shirt manufacturer; Lawn King, a landscaping business; Repeat Boutique, a second hand store; and Nikki’s Ginger Tea. These businesses have provided jobs training for single parents, convicted felons, and artists and have encouraged a spirit of self-reliance.

Kate Sofis

This month we interview Kate Sofis, founding Executive Director of SFMade, a non-profit organization launched in 2010 to support the building of a local manufacturing base in San Francisco. By building strong local manufacturing companies, SFMade aims to sustain and create job opportunities for the City’s low-income communities and individuals with less typical education, experience, or skills. In this interview, Sofis discusses key elements that make SFMade’s approach unique, the state of manufacturing in San Francisco and the challenges of working with the manufacturing sector, overlaps with environmental sustainability and cooperative models, and whether and how this model could be adopted in Rust Belt cities.

Rob Witherell

This month we interviewed Rob Witherell, representative for the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In addition to working on contract negotiations, benefits analysis, research and organizing, Witherell has also led the United Steelworkers’ efforts on developing union co-ops and is the union’s lead liaison with the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation. In this interview, Witherell discusses what elevated co-op organizing to the top of the Steelworker agenda, commonalities between labor unions and cooperatives, how the union co-op model will work, what its challenges will be, and key accomplishments of the movement to date.

Blake Jones

In this edition, we interview Blake Jones, Co-Founder, President and CEO of Namasté Solar. Beginning his career in the oil industry, Jones co-founded Namasté Solar in late 2004, which later became an employee-owned cooperative in 2011. In this interview, Jones discusses what he learned in the oil and gas industry, the early stages of Namasté’s development, the future of the solar industry and the green economy, and the details of how Namasté functions as a worker-owned cooperative.

Raquel Pinderhughes

In this edition, Raquel Pinderhughes, Founder and Executive Director of the Environmental Literacy Curriculum Project, which manages Roots of Success, discusses her journey to develop an educational program that offers hard to employ youth and adults the training and support they need to access careers in the green economy. Her priority going forward is to continue to scale up, accessing more programs and people that have been failed by the education system to provide them with opportunities to access jobs and improve their communities.

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union

In August 2012, a delegation of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union toured co-ops in Cleveland, Ohio; Iowa; and Washington, D.C. (where this interview was conducted). Founded in 1965 as a buying club by 200 housewives in Tokyo, today the Seikatsu (“lifestyle” or “living”) co-ops have over 340,000 members. Together, network enterprises have an annual turnover of US $1 billion. Today, over 600 worker co-ops employ over 17,000 people in such businesses as food distribution, food preparation, catering, recycling, childcare and education.

Ron Phillips

For nearly 30 years, Ron Phillips has been CEO of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a Maine-based community development corporation (CDC) and community development financial institution (CDFI). Founded in 1977, CEI provides financing and technical assistance to job-creating small businesses, natural resources industries, community facilities, and affordable housing. CEI's primary market is Maine, but, in recent years, it has expanded several programs to northern New England, upstate New York, and beyond. C-W.org interviews Phillips to get his perspective on CDCs, CDFIs, and overall trends affecting community wealth building nationwide. Read more about Ron Phillips...

Rosalind Greenstein

Rosalind Greenstein is Senior Fellow and Chair of the Department of Economic and Community Development at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, based in Cambridge, MA. Founded in 1974, Lincoln focuses its educational work on land policy and land-related taxation. Through its Community Lots initiative (www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/CL/) Lincoln provides technical assistance to a number of community groups—including the growing community land trust (CLT) movement. C-W.org interviews Greenstein to learn her perspective on current issues facing community land trusts, as well as the movement's future prospects. Read more about Rosalind Greenstein...

Caroline Murray

In this edition, Caroline Murray, Organizing Director of Rebuild the Dream and former Executive Director of Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) in Springfield, Massachusetts, discusses ADP's work combining community organizing with community development of housing, food, and worker cooperatives. Murray also explains efforts at Rebuild the Dream to expand these new economy innovations from the grassroots level to the mainstream. Read more about Caroline Murray...

Seema Agnani

Seema Agnani is founder and Executive Director of Chhaya Community Development Corporation, based in the Queens borough of New York City. Founded in 2000 to serve New York City's rapidly growing South Asian community, high land prices have forced Chhaya to innovate in its affordable housing strategy. Rather than developing new housing, the CDC has worked with City officials, architects, and homeowners to improve and legalize New York City's growing market (which now numbers over 100,000 units citywide) of “in-law” or “informal” housing. C-W.org interviews Agnani to get her perspective on current issues facing CDCs and the South Asian community, both in New York City and nationally. Read more about Seema Agnani...

Tony Brown

Founded in 2003 as an alliance of the University of Cincinnati, three nonprofit health care organizations, and the city zoo, the Uptown Consortium has employed a mixed-use (commercial, retail, and residential) approach to community development in the Uptown neighborhoods where the anchors are located. To date, the University of Cincinnati alone has allocated $100 million from its $1 billion endowment to support the effort, helping leverage over $400 million for community revitalization work.

Maggie DeSantis

The Warren-Conner Development Corporation is a community-based organization that has been working for more than two decades on Detroit's Eastside. Founded in 1984, Warren-Conner has undertaken a number of initiatives, including youth development, community organizing, business development, and affordable housing. Over the past two decades, the group's work has helped create 200 jobs and generate nearly $20 million in private investment.