Building an Equitable and Inclusive Local Co-op Ecosystem in Washington, DC


Washington, DC (like many other urban geographies) faces multiple issues including gentrification, displacement, the closure of small businesses, food access, lack of affordable housing and ongoing geographic segregation. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating many of these trends, as small businesses rapidly close and potential evictions loom. Historically marginalized communities—particularly Black communities in Wards 7 and 8—have been disproportionately and negatively impacted. The District has a long history of food, worker and housing cooperatives. It is from these that public officials, NGOs, activists and funders are increasingly looking for lessons, solutions and inspiration. They aim to build an integrated co-op ecosystem centered on social justice and racial equity. They are reviving the co-op movement in the District to help meet pressing needs for employment, services, food and housing. These diverse actors are also building on the recent momentum generated by local advocates of limited equity housing and the recent growth of area purchasing co-ops. Accordingly, panelists will highlight the progress of the DC Limited Equity Housing Task Force, multiple initiatives and grants that promote common goals of building food and worker cooperative ecosystems, and finally they will lift up purchasing cooperatives and detail how these co-ops are helping black-owned businesses grow. Finally, panelists will raise co-op conversion as an effective strategy to preserve existing minority-owned businesses that service long-term residents and are part of the social fabric of their neighborhoods.

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