Tag Archives: Community Development

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

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

The Social Legacies of Joblessness

The Atlantic recently featured an article about the impact of the recession on American society. In How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America, author Don Peck writes that the sustained high rate of unemployment, particularly among men, will have a lasting effect on politics, culture and the character of our society:

If it persists much longer, this era of high joblessness will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults—and quite possibly those of the children behind them as well… It may already be plunging many inner cities into a kind of despair and dysfunction not seen for decades.

The worst effects of pervasive joblessness—on family, politics, society—take time to incubate, and they show themselves only slowly. But ultimately, they leave deep marks that endure long after boom times have returned. Some of these marks are just now becoming visible, and even if the economy magically and fully recovers tomorrow, new ones will continue to appear. The longer our economic slump lasts, the deeper they’ll be.

The author interviewed William Julius Wilson, a Harvard sociologist, whose 1996 book When Work Disappears described the connection between the loss of jobs in urban neighborhoods i n the 1970s and social problems such as crime, family instability and low levels of social organization:

Wilson, age 74, is a careful scholar, who chooses his words precisely and does not seem given to overstatement. But he sounded forlorn when describing the “very bleak” future he sees for the neighborhoods that he’s spent a lifetime studying. There is “no way,” he told me, “that the extremely high jobless rates we’re seeing won’t have profound consequences for the social organization of inner-city neighborhoods.” Neighborhood-specific statistics on drug addiction, family dysfunction, gang violence, and the like take time to compile. But Wilson believes that once we start getting detailed data on the conditions of inner-city life since the crash, “we’re going to see some horror stories”—and in many cases a relapse into the depths of decades past. “The point I want to emphasize,” Wilson said, “is that we should brace ourselves.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

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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.


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

On the Way to Recovery, Look to Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Our commitment to supporting immigrant Sunset Park residents to start small businesses is grounded in a belief that promoting entrepreneurship is a key component in eliminating the economic and social disparities between marginalized communities and New York City’s middle class.  An essay in a book recently published by the Drum Major Institute confirms the potential of immigrant entrepreneurship to spark the city’s economic recovery.

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Fair Work: Symposium on Cooperative Development

On December 18, 2009, we are hosting a symposium on Fair Work: Building and Strengthening Ties within the Worker-Owner Cooperative Community in New York City. Part of Center for Family Life’s Annual Sister Mary Geraldine Symposium series, the event will bring together cooperative members, organizers and others interested in discussing issues related to the growing worker-owned coop movement.

Following a closed morning session for cooperative members and developers, afternoon programs will include presentations on a variety of topics:

  • Keynote speech by Stu Schneider of Cooperative Home Care Associates.
  • The role of expert consultants in helping cooperative businesses succeed in a highly competitive marketplace (Presenter: Michael Melcher, CFL Advisory Board member).
  • The role of cooperatives in advocacy and organizing for workers’, immigrants’ and environmental rights campaigns. (Presenters: members of the Beyond Care Cooperative and representatives of Domestic Workers United).
  • A workshop on decision making, conflict resolution and the social/emotional benefits of participating in a worker-owned coop. (Presenters: members of the We Can Do It! Women’s Cooperative and Unity Cleaners)

The event will be held at the Murphy Institute in Manhattan; attendance is free. Programs open to the public will begin at 12:00 and end by 4:00 pm. Lunch will be served, courtesy of the Emigre Gourmet cooking collective.

If you have questions about the event, don’t hesitate to contact Vanessa Bransburg at vbransburg@cflsp.org or (718) 633 4823. Please RSVP by December 11 so we can reserve a seat for you!

Location: Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies,  25 West 43rd Street, New York, NY.

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Filed under Fair Work, Worker Cooperative Project