A quick overview:
Worcester Roots is working towards an economy that works for everyone, one based in worker co-operatives and community ownership. Our post-industrial mid-sized city is strategically poised to have an upswell of mission-based, creative co-op enterprises to fill old factory buildings, empty lots and community needs. Worcester Roots is ready to give this movement the boost it needs to achieve a critical mass of co-ops that can support each other and be sustainable. We have already worked with two worker co-ops that are close to achieving their independence: Diggers Landscaping Co-op and Future Focus Media Co-op; and we're ready to partner with initiatives that will go to scale and form union alliances.
Specifically with your support we will:
- Organize a second Worcester Co-op Academy to train start up worker co-ops
- Hold public events and media campaigns to promote co-operative education
- Support worker co-ops in ongoing business development needs
Instead of a top-down development or cookie-cutter model transplanting, Worcester Roots takes a grassroots approach that organizes with, supports, trains, and connects co-opertunistas and other solidarity economy projects. Because we take this bottom up path, your pitching into this campaign is essential to making it all possible.
Worcester Roots is moving forward in an exciting, transformative direction!
We are building on our experience in environmental and social justice organizing work to address root causes of the issues we care about. We are digging deeper in order to rebuild from the roots.
We can determine the direction of our own lives. This is our community,our economy, the peoples’ economy—We Own It!
Worcester Roots currently supports a solidarity and green economy alliance, three youth cooperatives, a worker-owned landscaping company, a mutual-aide energy efficiency group, and an urban community farm/CSA. We see a solidarity economy and worker-owned cooperatives in particular as a way to advance and expand our social and environmental justice mission. Worker-owned businesses can create living-wage jobs that respond to community needs and build wealth that stays in the community. By organizing around and building a co-op economy, we are creating democratic, community economies through solidarity and local control.
The We Own It worker-co-op campaign is community driven—community voices, community interests, community needs. We need your contributions to build critical organizational capacity for this transformative work. To this end, Worcester Roots is holding quarterly general assemblies—come get involved in planning, share your ideas, and help organize the economy you’ve been waiting for.
We also need your financial support. If we reach our $8,000 goal, we will be able to put on a second Co-op Academy training and provide essential support for the We Own It campaign to incubate worker-owned cooperatives and continue to build the co-op economy. Funds raised by this campaign will be used for strategic organizing, to ensure access for more groups to attend the next co-op academy and to provide ongoing support for co-ops that continue to need incubation. Please consider contributing what you can—small (and large) donations are very appreciated and add up quickly.
Doubling down on building a cooperative economyIn 2013, Worcester Roots partnered with Boston Center for Community Ownership and Cooperative Development Institute to develop curriculum and launch a Co-op Academy: Concept to Co-op. During the spring and summer, Worcester Roots conducted five co-op info sessions targeting low income communities, communities of color, and immigrant groups; to spark interest in gaining the knowledge, resources, mentorship, and connections needed to realize their own entrepreneurial vision. Eight startup cooperatives took the 12-week training and made significant progress toward financial independence in a social justice context.
The Co-op Academy model pairs groups with appropriate mentors who have experience developing and working within worker-owned businesses. Worcester Roots is offering follow-up workshops focused on issues that participants said they needed more concentrated training on.
Worcester Roots and partners created curriculum specific to youth and spanish-speaking communities.
Your support for the We Own It Campaign will enable Worcester Roots Project to organize the next CoOp Academy and ensure access for more groups by covering transportation and interpreter costs. Worcester Roots will continue to educate the public about co-operative businesses by holding information sessions and media events.
Where we are coming from: Some Background InfoWorcester Roots started in 2001 as an environmental justice organization doing popular education and direct action around soil contamination. Through this work, Worcester Roots has become nationally recognized as a model program for youth leadership development in environmental, social, and economic justice organizing. The several youth groups that help to constitute Worcester Roots all practice a cooperative, consensus-based governance structure, positioning every youth participant to assume decision-making, administrative, and project-specific responsibilities. Worcester Roots supports numerous Worcester-based campaigns and initiatives, provides free or reduced cost community trainings, and serves as fiscal sponsor and support structure for valued local grassroots initiatives.
In 2009, Worcester Roots and Toxic Soil Busters launched Youth In Charge, a youth program tackling community-identified issues in Worcester’s Bell Hill and Lower Lincoln neighborhoods. In 2010, Worcester Roots formed Future Focus Media, a media production program that also trains youth in audio-visual storytelling.
Worcester Roots serves as fiscal sponsor for the Worcester Energy Barnraisers, a volunteer group that strives to promote environmental sustainability as well as social and economic justice through collaborative home energy efficiency projects, the Diggers Landscaping Cooperative, which aims to provide permaculture-based landscaping services, Nuestro Huerto, an urban community farm and CSA, and the Solidarity and Green Economy Alliance, a group of individuals and organizations that has convened several conferences and is currently deciding on one or more campaigns inspired by the most recent conference.