Back in 2018 the Kendeda Fund, a philanthropic foundation based in Atlanta, decided to make a series of big bets in areas that were both critical and timely. One of those areas was employee ownership and the investment made by Kendeda was historic. Over 5 years a total of $24 million dollars was provided to 4 employee owner support organizations. Those organizations include The Evergreen Cooperatives Fund for Employee Ownership, ICA Group, Nexus Community Partners, and Project Equity. The investment was made with four broad goals in mind – grow the number of employee-owned businesses, use patient capital to leverage investments, strengthen core elements of the employee ownership ecosystem, and amplify media coverage of employee ownership. Upon entering the 5th year of the grant, Kendeda contracted with the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to carry out a reflection process that looked back on what these four organizations where able to achieve, assess what they learned, and identify future actions that would further develop and expand employee ownership in the US. The reflection process relied on numerous forms of data collection including in-person meetings, long form one on one interviews with grantees, selling owners, and new employee owners, analysis of transition data, and comparisons of the four grantees models for transitioning companies to employee ownership. The culmination of our findings was then published in a narrative report that drew on the insights of all stakeholders involved, which we encourage you to read. However, like all reports, we could not include every bit of information we gathered. But we strongly felt it necessary to provide grantee organizations with the space to explain, in their own words, how and why they do the work they do, how Kendeda’s investment helped them expand their impact, and where they see their work going in the future. So, this interview with Christina Nicholson and Paty Viafara of Nexus Community Partners, is one in a series of interviews we carried out with organization that received support from the Kendeda Fund.
Patty joined Nexus to lead the Worker Owner Initiative (WOI), which is part of Nexus’ Community Wealth Building Strategy. She helps companies assess employee ownership as a model for stronger businesses and create employee and community wealth. Our vision is to raise awareness of these models so that business ownership, quality jobs, and community self-determination are accessible to all of us. Patty has been working with small businesses and non-profits for over 14 years in a variety of roles, primarily focused on the people side of operational change. She's worked with over 30 companies at various stages in their journey to employee-ownership and takes pride and joy in helping groups envision and implement their future.
Christina serves as the Cooperative Finance Developer for the Worker Owner Initiative (WOI), which is part of Nexus’ Community Wealth Building Strategy. In that role, she provides technical assistance to both start-ups and existing businesses to create an understanding of the role that Worker Ownership can play in successful cooperative transition strategies. These strategies include succession planning as well as improved workplace culture and stability for employees through worker ownership. With solid technical assistance and organizational support, Worker Owner Cooperatives can grow and perpetuate community wealth by expanding opportunities for local business ownership. About: Christina has been working in cooperatives in Minnesota for 25 years in a wide range of roles, from front of house retail to construction to cooperative consulting. In all of those endeavors, the thread has been working to connect communities to each other through common cause. This has been framed for her as a shared economy that questions the normative culture of the unequal exploitation of labor. Rather than focus on what is wrong, cooperatives look to inspire a shared sense of success and equity among community members within the cooperative. When done well, cooperatives celebrate the unique contributions of individuals while challenging assumptions about how we perpetuate destructive myths around gender, race, and class.
The Owners at Work Podcast is a continuation of the biannual Owners at Work Newsletter which ran for 19 years (1990-2019). We are hoping to continue the same conversations and focus on providing updates on everything employee ownership. We plan to interview practitioners with expertise in different facets of employee ownership, academics doing new and interesting research, and most importantly, individuals who have a personal experience with employee ownership, including current and former employee-owners, mid-level to C suite management, and selling owners.
We want to produce a show that engages with relevant questions and provides practical lessons and information. We want this podcast to include the voices of those who practice employee-ownership each and every day. To that end we want to hear from you! We want to highlight what you are doing, whether you are an employee-owned company, a practitioner, or researcher.
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