Category Archives: Adult Employment Program

Our Presentation in Connecticut

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life

A few months ago we were invited to visit Wililmantic, Connecticut to discuss the story of our cooperative development project. This is a short video from that day:

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Filed under Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Sunset Park Alliance Celebrates Adult Literacy Week

Last week was National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week, an initiative that seeks to raise awareness and foster discussion about issues related to reading, numeracy, and English language learning. To celebrate the event, the Sunset Park Alliance, a coalition of community agencies, held an event to showcase the work of its members in providing innovative ESL and adult education services. As part of the event, participants from Alliance programs shared the impact these services had on their lives. Among those who spoke were members of the Center-supported cooperatives who are currently participating in ESL courses to improve their work-related language skills and earning potential.

Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott presents the mayor's proclamation to Alliance Director Stacie Sanchez. Photo: Laina Yoswein, SPA

Attendees at the event included Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott, Fatima Shama, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs, along with other city officials from the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, the Office of Adult and Continuing Education of the NYC Department of Education and the New York City Workforce Investment Board.

The Sunset Park Alliance is a collaboration of six agencies, including Fifth Avenue Committee, Center for Family Life, Lutheran Family Health Center, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, Turning Point and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corp. The Alliance provides comprehensive case management services, engaging youth in training programs and social services to help them achieve their educational and career goals.

Below is a slide show of pictures from the event. For more photos, check out the Alliance’s Facebook page.

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Filed under Center for Family Life, Community Development, Education, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project, Youth Development

Si Se Puede! in the Brooklyn Rail

In its September issue, the Brooklyn Rail magazine profiles the Si Se Puede! Women’s Cooperative. In recent years, the coop has been an outstanding success: it has provided its members with a steady source of income and drawn attention by the media and community groups seeking to replicate its model. With growth, however, members have come to face new challenges as they deliberate how to meet the ever-increasing demand for their services:

Like all coops, membership in Si Se Puede! requires participation in the day-to-day management of the business and there is work to be done beyond the payment of dues. For one, members must spend three hours a month promoting the coop to potential clients. This might mean staffing a table at a summer street fair or handing out Si Se Puede! literature in upscale Brooklyn neighborhoods.

This old-fashioned, grassroots outreach has paid off; the coop now has more than 1,300 people in its database—from one-time users to weekly clients. What’s more, they’ve scored work not only from individuals but also from yoga studios, stores, and a Fort Greene bed & breakfast.

In addition to doing outreach, members are also required to attend weekly meetings where business decisions are hashed out. (…) Current hot topics include how fast Si Se Puede! should grow. Should membership be capped, so that the coop remains small, or should it be opened to new members? If they choose to expand, will increased numbers inhibit participatory democracy? Can they avoid a more traditional hierarchical structure if they double or triple in size?

Not easy questions, these, but Si Se Puede! members and CFL staff agree that change is inevitable if the coop is to continue to thrive, and all are confident that the business is strong enough to weather growth spurts and challenges. In fact, [Cooperative Coordinator Vanessa] Bransburg says that interest in the Si Se Puede! model is burgeoning and groups like Make the Road New York and Catholic Charities are looking to CFL for help in establishing similar projects in other parts of the city.

Read the entire article here.

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Filed under Fair Work, Worker Cooperative Project

Color Me! Cooperative Launches

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Coordinator at Center for Family Life

In March, fourteen immigrant women from Sunset Park came together to start a worker-owned interior painting business. They began a 10-week cooperative orientation and training to prepare for the launch of their business.  As the Cooperative Coordinator, I designed the curriculum and helped recruit the founding members, but what I did not expect was the high intensity of enthusiasm and focus from the members.

During these first 10 weeks before the launch, we covered the fundamental principles of the cooperative movement, communication skills for group work, decision-making strategies, the infrastructure development of the business and of course- interior painting basics. Week after week, the members expanded their set of skills, including practice painting sessions decorating several rooms at the offices of Center for Family Life. This not only provided them with the opportunity to develop their painting skills but also to learn how to work effectively as a team.

By the end of the 10-week period, members developed a good rapport with each other and gained confidence as newly minted business owners. During the last two sessions, members met with Maria Parodi, a marketing specialist from from a consulting agency, Vidal Partnership, to learn about branding and marketing. Ms. Parodi also helped them develop their business name and positioning. These trainings were filled with energy and geared the members towards a more focused path, getting a better sense of who their target audience would be and the best ways to approach them.

On April 28th, we held a graduation ceremony for the Color Me! Cooperative. The room was filled with family members, friends and CFL staff, all of whom felt proud of the members for having come such a long way to start their very own business enterprise. As a symbolic acknowledgement of this big moment, each coop member received a certificate. We also celebrated the event with delicious food.

The Cooperative is now offering Sunset Park residents and friends of the Center a promotional offer to paint your home or apartment at a 50% discount. The promotion is for a limited time only, so give us a call today for an estimate. You can reach us at (718) 633-4823.

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Filed under Center for Family Life, Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Help Us Win Ashoka’s Changemakers Competition!

Center for Family Life needs your support! We are excited to be partiocipating in the Changemakers Competition by Ashoka and Green Mountain Coffee called Revelation to Action. The competition supports innovative ideas that strengthen and improve communities.

The Changemakers Competition is a great opportunity to get the word out about our partnership with immigrant workers to organize cooperative businesses that create opportunities for safe work at a fair wage.

You can increase our chances by visiting the Changemakers website, adding our project to your favorites and leaving positive feedback. Here’s how:

  1. Visit our project entry here and read about what we do.
  2. Add our project to your favorites and leave us feedback about our entry.
    1. If you do not have a Changemakers account, register on the site. It takes only a minute.
    2. Login at the Changemakers website.
    3. Visit our entry, and click on “Add to Favorites” on the right side of the screen. By leaving positive feedback, you can also help our chances to win.

Please also spread the word to your colleagues and friends! The competition is an open platform where we can share our work with the world, so the more people we can inspire, the better!

Thank you very much for your help!

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Filed under Community Development, Worker Cooperative Project

The Growing NYC Cooperative Network

by Vanessa Bransburg, Cooperative Project Coordinator, Center for Family Life

In the past few months, the Worker Cooperative Project at the Center has fielded numerous inquiries from community-based organizations and individuals about how to develop a worker-owner cooperative in their own communities. We had several meetings to answer their questions and tell them about our story. It soon became clear that these groups and individuals need much more support than these conversations can provide.

Based on these experiences, I began to speak to cooperative worker owners, allies and other developers in New York about the need for support to those interested in developing their own cooperative businesses in low-income immigrant communities around the city. The Center’s annual Fair Work Symposium in December 2009, provided an excellent opportunity for the launch of a city-wide network of worker-owned cooperatives.

The idea behind the NYC Cooperative Network is to provide support, guidance and access to resources to both newly formed cooperatives as well as seasoned ones. By serving as an information clearing house and a forum for advocacy, the network can make a significant impact in the city’s immigrant neighborhoods, promoting economic opportunities through safe and fair work and fostering community development.

The meeting in December was full of energy and inspiration, and a strong desire to build a network that would evolve into an organization working in alliance with the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Since this meeting, the NYC Cooperative Network has created a listserv in order to facilitate communication among the 41 active members.

Our second meeting was held at the Urban Justice Center, coordinated by attorney Ted Barbieri and myself. This meeting helped us refine and express what our goals and interests are. We also had a great time getting to know each other on a more personal level. By the end of the third meeting, held in February at Little Sisters of the Assumption and led by Omar Freilla, Founder of Green Worker Cooperatives and Flor de Maria Eilets, Workforce Coordinator at LSA, members had produced a solid draft of the network’s mission statement.

We still have much work ahead of us, yet it is clear that the NYC Cooperative Network has the potential to become a magnificent space for those who need tools and support as they take on the challenge of developing worker-owned businesses in their own communities.

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Filed under Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project

Cooking East to West Series Off to a Great Start

The Cooking East to West culinary project launched in December with a class featuring three of Émigré Gourmet’s chefs. In February, the series continued with a hands-on Indian cooking class led by Émigré chef Afsari Jahan. Participants learned the secrets of classic foods like tandoori chicken (see recipe below), and took part in a shared meal.

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Filed under Community Development, Fair Work, Immigrants in NYC, Worker Cooperative Project