The goal of the Capital Access Project is to mobilize and direct multiple forms of capital that will result in increased access to credit for worker cooperative development, with special attention to the capital needs and barriers of low-income and low-asset worker-owners. We start with access to capital because we believe that inadequate capital is the most significant barrier to cooperative development, and likely the root of several other challenges in the field, including long-term dependency on cooperative developers, inadequate feasibility planning, and underdeveloped thinking about scale. In our financing access survey of 2012, current worker cooperatives, coop developers and prospective cooperative entrepreneurs all identified lack of startup and growth capital as the key barrier to further worker cooperative development.
Through advocacy work with Small Business Administration (SBA), education and relationship-building for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), we help these institutions think creatively about how to reach a worker cooperative market and develop worker coop-specific products. Our innovative partnerships, like our Trustee relationship with Kiva Zip, help make more unconventional sources of capital available to worker cooperatives. We also support the other side of the process with intensive borrower education and technical assistance. Our plans for this project in the coming year include:
- Build relationships with existing funders and cooperative financial institutions and those already lending to worker cooperatives, to pilot worker cooperative-specific products.
- Develop relationships with lenders not currently lending to worker cooperatives to understand why they are not lending and what they need to do so.
- Educate funders about investing worker cooperatives, specifically in a development fund that matches investments from worker cooperatives themselves with foundation money.
- Develop projects and products that address specific worker cooperative capital needs (lines of credit, cooperative mortgages, constrained outside investment, etc)
- Develop products and materials specifically for low-income and asset-poor worker-owners at all scales (lending circles, high-risk startup capital pool, federal and city-financed tax incentives)
- Borrower education, technical assistance and support – develop materials and trainings to educate startup and existing cooperatives to become better borrowers