Endorsed by Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Epes, Alabama
1. Please tell us about the experience you have that you feel is relevant to serving on the Shared Capital Cooperative Board of Directors.
For over 10 years, I have had the privilege of serving as a Cooperative Business Development Specialist, based at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF’s Rural Training and Research Center in Epes, Alabama. My primary responsibilities include providing direct assistance to the cooperative membership of the Federation’s state associations of cooperatives made up of: agricultural marketing cooperatives; community development credit unions; community development organizations; and recently the development of worker-owned cooperative enterprises to enhance job opportunities for distressed people in the rural South.
These technical assistance activities include: assistance in drafting articles of incorporation, by-laws, and operating procedures that are consistent with cooperative principles; exploring marketing outlets for value-added products; resource development for start-ups; and facilitating education and training plans to assist cooperative members to function as a cooperatives.
I feel that with my years of experience, geographic position in the rural South; and in my current role as the Director of the Federation’s USDA-Rural Cooperative Development Program, I can utilize my skills, coupled with my educational background in Business Administration, and Agricultural and Resource Economics, to help strengthen the work of Shared Capital’s strategic goals to be a nationally recognized CDFI loan fund; and leverage resources and partnerships with other organizations, educational institutions and loan funds. Also, in the past three years as a board member, and serving on the loan committee, I now understand, and support the strategic direction of Shared Capital.
2. Why would you like to serve on the Shared Capital Cooperative Board?
My overall goal in the work that I do, is to help rural, marginalized communities and people to find self-help solutions to economic development, in an effort to help themselves come out of the grasp of generational poverty. Furthermore, our goal at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/LAF is to demonstrate that grassroots people can organize businesses that are sensitive to and successful in establishing a “triple bottom line” of business profits, concern for the environment/sustainable land management, and that value community growth and development. As Shared Capital Cooperative continues to strategically address both social and economic justice issues, and to expand its efforts and strengthen its presence in the South, I feel that my presence on the Board of Directors can help to facilitate these goals.
Through the work that the Federation/LAF has done for five decades, in the South, and the relationships that the Federation/LAF has developed, we can continue to work to identify potential cooperatives and social investors that can benefit from being a member of Shared Capital Cooperative. Finally, being on the Board of Directors of Shared Capital will continue to broaden my exposure to tools and strategies used by other cooperative enterprises in the Northwest, Midwest, etc.
3. What are the primary challenges and opportunities you see for Shared Capital Cooperative in the future? With those in mind, how do you see yourself contributing to addressing those issues?
Shared Capital Cooperative, as a CDFI loan fund that is cooperatively owned, has a unique position in being able to weather some of the challenges that may cause other types of CDFI’s to fold in the event of unfavorable financial circumstances. Furthermore, Shared Capital is also in a climate and time where people are continuously looking for, and developing alternative forms of businesses outside of the traditional mainstream business model. Some of these communities are in the South, where the Federation/LAF is working with low-income, underserved, minority groups, to help develop Cooperative enterprises. However, these communities face unique challenges and require increased technical assistance to become economically viable projects to access Shared Capital’s products. Therefore, there remains a need to increase the funding and support that will be needed to provide the required technical assistance to help some of the communities that the Fund plans to reach out to.
As a member of the Board, and with my experience in helping economically challenged, limited resource communities, I hope to work with others to leverage additional resources, and develop approaches and products that are inclusive and appropriate to meet the needs of people in the South. For these communities, adopting economic development models such as cooperatives, is a vital step in moving forward, both individually and as a community.