Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative

 Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Fordham Road is the third largest retail corridor in New York City while the Bronx remains the poorest urban county in the country. Photo by Yorman Nunez.

Fordham Road and Webster Avenue in the Bronx. Fordham Road is the third largest retail corridor in New York City while the Bronx remains the poorest urban county in the country. Photo by Yorman Nunez.

Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative

The Bronx Community Enterprise Network started with a question: If community members collectively owned and governed key assets in the Bronx, could we create an economy that invests in human dignity, fosters community well-being, and supports a larger movement for self-determination?

In 2011, with CoLab's support, grassroots organizations began convening under the banner of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) to answer this question, encouraged by the fact that the Bronx already boasts incredible assets — it houses some of the region’s top hospitals and universities, which collectively purchase over $9 billion in goods and services each year; New York City's third largest commercial corridor; and the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the largest food distribution center in the world. Not to mention the Bronx is home to some of the country’s most sophisticated community-based organizations. These organizations have fought disinvestment and secured critical policy wins for communities for over 40 years.

Despite this, the Bronx remains the poorest urban county in the US, a fact that reveals a structural failure of coordination. BCDI believes the Bronx already has many of the resources it needs to address its greatest challenges, and that people of color and women — who are the majority in the Bronx — can and should lead the change.

In order to better coordinate Bronx resources to build wealth and ownership for low-income people of color, BCDI invited into partnership Bronx-based institutions, elected officials, labor leaders, and finance partners. CoLab served as a technical support partner. Through years of planning and studying similar models, including the Mondragon Cooperatives in Spain, BCDI developed a borough-wide, multi-stakeholder strategy for economic development that is integrally connected to the broader movement for economic democracy. We developed the concept of the Bronx Community Enterprise Network, and in 2014, CoLab helped launch CommonWise Education to lead its implementation.

The are six core elements of the Community Enterprise Network:

  1. The BronXchange is a marketplace that connects Bronx institutions and nonprofits with high-road, local businesses in order to localize purchasing and build community wealth.
  2. The Bronx Innovation Factory is an advanced manufacturing center, education institute, and business incubator focused on shared-wealth enterprises.
  3. The Economic Democracy Learning Center prepares current and future partners to participate in and lead the network, cultivates a culture rooted in principles of economic democracy, and advances the collective understanding and knowledge of economic democracy based on experiences in the Bronx and from around the world.
  4. The Policy and Planning Lab, the “brain” of the Network, works alongside community leaders to create and maintain the long-term strategy for equitable development and supportive public policy in the Bronx.
  5. The Bronx Fund will aggregate, manage, and deploy financial capital to support the long term success, sustainability, and scalability of the Bronx Community Enterprise Network.
  6. The Civic Action Hub will coordinate and support the advocacy efforts of member-led organizations across the borough to amplify grassroots campaigns and enable local coalitions to more consistently connect to and lead city, state, and national efforts

These six projects coordinate the broad set of economic actors in the Bronx and shift the ownership and governance of key assets. All together, the Bronx Community Enterprise Network is a transformative model for urban economic development that can serve as an example for other communities across the US and the world.

 

Contact: 

Yorman Nuñez
yorman@mit.edu