Tag Archives: Vanessa Bransburg

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

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

Brooklyn Food Conference: Join Us at the Sunset Park Neighborhood Group

by Vanessa Bransburg

logoIn May 2009 I attended the Brooklyn Food Conference at John Jay High School and PS 321 in Park Slope. The conference was organized by the Brooklyn Food Coalition, a grassroots initiative that aims to increase access  to sustainable, healthy and delicious food for all. With over 2,500 people in attendance, the event was such an incredible success that organizers started thinking and planning for the next steps almost immediately.

In the last few months there has been a large effort to reach out to multiple neighborhoods in Brooklyn to get residents, workers, activists, and others involved in their particular neighborhood groups. Neighborhood groups have been discussing and selecting issues that concern them. Some of the issues that have been chosen by groups include getting healthier lunches in schools, organizing community gardens, food coops, and addressing workers’ rights issues.

In September, we had our first Sunset Park Neighborhood group meeting at the Sunset Park Recreation Center. About 20 people attended, mostly organizers and activists at local organizations. Unfortunately the meeting attendees did not fully represent the diverse demographics of Sunset Park. A few of us made sure to bring this up and made a commitment that we would all recruit more workers and residents from Sunset Park.

The main themes that were brought up by the attendees were workers’ rights issues, access to fresh food, and education around nutrition and various types of foods that are sold at green markets and community gardens.

The next meeting will be on Monday, October 19th at the Adult Employment Center of Center for Family Life (443 39th Street, 3rd Floor), where we will decide which issues we will tackle as the Sunset Park group. Anyone and everyone is welcome to join us for the exciting venture into the food world! For more information about the upcoming event, contact me at (718) 633-4823.

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