Announcing a New Committee for the Co-op

What: Weavers Way New Economy Incubator

First Steps: Organizing FLAG, the Free Loan Association for Germantown.

How to Get Involved: Contact Chris Hill at chris@chrishillmedia.com

A year and a half ago, around 35 people met at Cliveden’s carriage house to watch a film about economist, historian and activist Gar Alperovitz. His vision of democratically organized, community-based economic enterprises provides a big part of the answer to revitalizing neglected urban communities; by the end of the evening, a number of people had committed to a discussion group to explore these ideas and examine possible economic initiatives that would be based in cooperative principles.

Now this group is ready to organize itself formally as an official Weavers Way committee, to be known as the New Economy Incubator. We’re seeking up to five new committee members who want to imagine, research and help to incubate locally based, co-designed, cooperative, collaborative economic enterprises and businesses by identifying and working with community partners who can develop and launch them.

Our first initiative is already under way — the Free Loan Association for Germantown. Based on the idea of Hebrew Free Loan Associations, FLAG will offer interest-free loans to small businesses or new business initiatives in Germantown. These loans will be made available to businesses without the assets or prior business history to apply for regular bank loans. No collateral will be required, but all those seeking FLAG loans must bring a guarantor from the community: an individual representing a business, house of worship or other institution acceptable to FLAG.

The attraction of this model for Weavers Way members and residents of Germantown is that it will provide an outlet for us to financially support growth and development in Germantown in a democratic, locally controlled way. Members of FLAG will invest their donations in a loan pool, and have ownership in the management of this capital. 

The idea is an exciting one, and is being supported by the Germantown United CDC. More information will be available in a future Shuttle.

We have explored many other ideas over the past year, some of which we’d like to pursue further, such as a real-estate development cooperative like one established in Minneapolis a few years ago. Co-op members there invested equity in the co-op, and used the capital to purchase and renovate empty buildings on a declining commercial strip in the community. They then sought tenants for these spaces, including a cooperatively run microbrewery and pub, a bakery and a bike store.

We are looking for high-energy, creative people who can help us explore ideas like these and help bring them to fruition. If you’re interested in joining the committee, please send us an email describing your interest in and reasons for wanting to join. Direct your responses to my email, chris@chrishillmedia.com

We look forward to hearing from you.