Owned by six independent social enterprises led by Latina and indigenous doulas and community health workers, Roots4Change Cooperative (Raíces para el Cambio) is the first immigrant marketing cooperative (co-op) in Dane County focusing on health.
Traditionally, co-ops have formed across the world as an economic and organizing alternative to work around to the status quo that perpetuates oppression including sexism, capitalism, expansionism, and lack of job opportunities due to urban drain, among others. They have been born from the roots of inequities, not from the business incubator idea of organizing. Furthermore, co-ops are a great example how multi-holder involvement is key in achieving financial well-being and social change: ideas are brought in by those mostly affected by economic and social issues and the partnership with external or internal content practitioners (accountants, marketers, attorneys, developers, etc.) help shape the foundations of a business. Based on this, R4C and Centro have embraced co-op development as a tool for community (ies) empowerment, from the community to the community.
When thinking of cooperative development efforts in communities of color, one needs to leave behind existent templates and/or mechanisms in how to support the creation of coops that have been used predominantly to support the “idealistic image of what is a coop.” It is important to understand when starting any business, communities of color usually do not start with the same baseline of resources, connections, and system’s support as do White people. It is well known that entrepreneurship is hard and requires highly motivated individuals, who are willing to risk a lot and dedicate large amounts of resources and time to pursue a business dream. In communities, where financial access, cultural and linguistic dissonance, documentation barriers, lack of role models, and structural racism embedded in all anchor systems, even highly motivated individuals are faced with extra amounts of challenges and encounter large quantities of detrimental messages (external and internalized) about their own capacity to achieve financial stability.