TESA Assists in the Development of a Bilingual Worker Cooperative

TESA member, Andrew Stachiw, with members of Manos Unidas cooperative at a local cafe

Manos Unidas is a multicultural cooperative organization that aims to support and empower low-income, immigrant, youth, and differently-abled communities. Using bilingual resources and popular education, Manos Unidas creates civic engagement and workforce readiness in Western Massachusetts. They have helped incubate the Fronteras Comunes (Common Borders) Bilingual Zine, The Up Collective discussion and storytelling group, and the Woman Weaving Worlds Collective.

TESA worked with Manos in 2016 to begin moving Fronteras Comunes Bilingual Zine from a volunteer membership to a financially sustainable collective.

THE CHALLENGE

It is difficult for any organization to transition from volunteer run to financially sustainable, and even more so for bilingual and low income communities. The membership at Fronteras Comunes is comprised of hard-working individuals, many of whom already have multiple jobs, struggle with health issues, or have other important commitments to nurture, let alone the struggle against systemic racism and oppression. This can make building a successful co-op challenging, and this is often how new initiatives are diffused. TESA’s role in this project has been to holistically support the successful transition of Fronteras Comunes into a worker cooperative over time, while understanding deeply the concerns and needs of its members.

THE COLLABORATION

One of TESA Collective’s strengths is developing materials for mixed literacy and English language learners, which has been quite useful in our work with Fronteras Comunes. The focus of the co-op has been to elevate underheard people, and so our role supporting this project needed to reflect that. Facilitating members to lead at all times with others who are bilingual was crucial, as the zine is bilingual and rooted in the immigrant community of the Berkshires.

More specifically, TESA has been working with members to develop a phased marketing plan for Fronteras that includes strategies for developing revenues from subscriptions, advertisements, distribution and/or sponsorship. The marketing plan also identifies needs for business planning, social media marketing, and organizational development.

TESA is also working with Fronteras Comunes to support web design and upkeep in 2017, and to develop an internal training Mentorship Program. The program will ensure all collective members understand the different jobs and tasks associated with running the zine and is designed to offer workers new opportunities, while mitigating challenges experienced in the past. By building off of the organizational foundation we’ve developed together, the goal is for the new co-op to not only be established, but financially supporting members by Fall of 2017.

A NOTE FROM TESA

We have been honored and excited to be a part of something that has increased access and practices for those who want cooperative ownership. Manos Unidas is a courageous alliance of compassionate and hard working people. We’ve learned so much together about building collective power and look forward to working with them for years to come!

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