C-W Interviews

C-W.org Interviews with Community Builders

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.

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.

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.

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...

Paul Hazen

In this edition, Paul Hazen, Executive Director of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council, discusses his passion for co-ops, his time and achievements during his tenure at NCBA, and the possibilities for the cooperative movement in 2012, the International Year of the Cooperative, and beyond.

Carla Javits

In this edition, Carla Javits, President of the San Francisco-based social enterprise accelerator REDF, discusses the impact of REDF’s national Social Innovation Fund award, the organization’s efforts to expand its scale and begin to operate throughout California, and the history and present state of the social enterprise movement in this wide-ranging Community-Wealth.org interview.

Bernie Mazyck

Bernie Mazyck, Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Community Development Corporations and Chair of the Board of the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA), discusses the history and present state of the community development movement in this wide-ranging Community-Wealth.org Interview. Among the topics covered: the challenges of CDC organizing in the South, changes in the focus of the CDC movement toward more comprehensive community development, and how movement leaders are responding to the impending threat of federal cutbacks. Read more about Bernie Mazyck...

John Emmeus Davis

John Emmeus Davis, Founding Principal of Burlington Associates and dean of the Academy of the National Community Land Trust Network discusses the history and present state of the community land trust movement in this wide-ranging C-W.org Interview. Among the topics covered: the origins of the movement in civil rights activism, the sector’s rapid growth, innovation within the community land trust, and the challenges of remaining true to the movement’s community roots as governments take on a larger role in promoting community land trusts across the country and beyond.

Lisa Hagerman

Lisa Hagerman of More for Mission talks about the growing movement within philanthropy to engage in mission-related investing, which involves tapping into the corpus of endowments and making sure that foundation investments align with the mission of their grant-funded work.

John Taylor

This edition, John Taylor, founding president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), talks about the history of the Community Reinvestment Act, prospects for its expansion, and a wide range of issues concerning wealth building and preservation efforts in the nation's low-income communities.

Melissa Hoover

Melissa Hoover, Founding Executive Director of the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives, discusses the state of the worker cooperative movement in this wide-ranging C-W.org Interview. Among the topics covered: the challenges of building a member-financed trade association, the growing diversity within the movement, the search for ways to fill capital gaps, and the challenges of developing democratic workplaces in an economy dominated by non-democratic ownership forms.

Brenda Palms Barber

Brenda Palms Barber is Founding Executive Director (since 1999) and CEO of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), a workforce development nonprofit agency that focuses on helping former offenders reintegrate to the workplace. In 2004, NLEN launched a social enterprise called Sweet Beginnings, an urban honey farming and natural skin care manufacturing business that trains and employs former offenders and others with significant barriers to employment. The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is four percent, compared to the national average of 65 percent. In this C-W.org Interview. Barber discusses the community impact of North Lawndale's large former offender population, the development of the social enterprise, the promise of green jobs, and the challenge of spreading the model to other cities.

Hilary Abell

Hilary Abell has served at Executive Director of Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES), an incubator of green housecleaning worker co-ops in the San Francisco Bay Area, since 2003. At present, the WAGES network includes five worker co-ops that provide living wages and business ownership for their largely Latina workforce of 85 worker-owners. WAGES is also working to expand the model beyond the Bay Area. In this C-W.org Interview, Abell discusses the challenges of putting the principles of worker ownership into practice and efforts underway to expand the WAGES model beyond its northern California base. Read more about Hilary Abell...

Steven McCullough

The twelfth interview in our continuing series of conversations with community wealth-building leaders, this edition we feature Steven McCullough, CEO of Bethel New Life, one of the nation's leading community development corporations, based in the West Garfield neighborhood of Chicago. In this interview, McCullough talks about community development corporations, transit-oriented development, green building, and the challenges facing community wealth builders in the current economic recession. Read more about Steven McCullough...

Dan Kildee

Dan Kildee has been Treasurer of Genesee County of Michigan since 1997. He is the Founder and CEO of the Genesee Land Bank - Michigan's first land bank - and is President of the Genesee Institute, a research and training institute focusing on smart growth, urban land reform, and land banking. In this C-W.org Interview, Kildees discusses the state of the economy in his hometown of Flint, the state of land banking in the United States, land banking policy objectives, and current challenges faced by reclamation activists operating in the context of the nation's record wave of foreclosures. Read more about Dan Kildee...

Mark Pinksy

Mark Pinsky is CEO of Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) a position he has held since 1995. OFN is the nation's leading trade association of community development financial institutions. Through 2007, OFN members had originated more than $19.8 billion in financing in underserved urban, rural, and Native communities. In this C-W.org Interview, Pinsky discusses the state of community development finance, the movement's vision and policy initiatives, and current challenges faced by CDFIs in this period of economic crisis. Read more about Mark Pinksy...

Ramón León

Ramón León is the founding Executive Director of Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), a nonprofit organization serving the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. The group was founded by Latino community development leaders and is dedicated to creating economic opportunity for Latinos. Prior to joining LEDC, Mr. León was the founding President of Mercado Central, which today is a thriving marketplace with 47 businesses, with the market itself owned by the vendors as a cooperative. In this C-W.org Interview, León discusses the group's business development model as well as broader issues facing asset builders in the nation's growing Latino community. Read more about Ramón León...

Rodney North

Rodney North has been a worker-owner of Equal Exchange for over a dozen years, where he serves as "the Answer Man" responsible for public relations and Vice Chair of its Board of Directors. The Massachusetts-based cooperative has 80 worker-owners and $34 million in annual sales, making it among the nation's leading worker co-ops. In this C-W.org Interview, North discusses the group's unusual funding model, its relations with consumer and agricultural co-ops, and current challenges faced by worker co-ops in the United States. Read more about Rodney North...

John Logue

John Logue is Founder and Executive Director of the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, based at Kent State University. Over its first 20 years has helped more than 81 companies became partly or wholly employee owned, creating 14,685 new employee owners. Follow-up research on data through 2003 for 49 of these firms found that they had created $349 million in equity for their employee owners. interview-logue.doc Read more about John Logue...

Eric Weaver

Executive Director of Lenders for Community Development (soon to be Opportunity Fund), a community development financial institution based in San Jose, California. Since its formation in 1993, Lenders for Community Development has disbursed over $5.6 million to more than 2,300 savers through its individual development account (IDA) program, the nation's largest. The group has also made over 600 loans worth over $8 million to support local microenterprise and has directed over $115 million in community investment into affordable housing and community facilities. Read more about Eric Weaver...

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.

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.

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...

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...

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...