Our community economic development strategy focuses on building infrastructures to support economic activity that can be owned, operated, and sustained by community residents themselves. Our strategic plan for this work over the next five years includes significant development of new strategies supporting innovative employment and small industry along with consumer empowerment and credit-building at the neighborhood level. Currently operating programs focus on the incubation and growth of worker-owned and -managed co-operatives as an approach to employment "outside the box" of traditional job training strategies. These include:
- A community garden project in Wilmington, launched by resident-participants in our community organizing initiative. Residents identified a usable vacant lot, worked through SBCC with the landlord and City to address lease and zoning issues, and consulted with soil scientists from UC Davis to determine the most productive and healthful approaches to growing crops on the land. The garden is now poised to branch out with plans to develop other small vacant plots throughout the community into a network of "pocket gardens," while a resident co-op provides management and marketing services including establishment of a weekend farmers' market and ultimately a community-supported agriculture "veggie box" subscription and delivery service.
- Streetcraft LA, whose mission is to create an innovative pathway for young people's self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship. Streetcraft LA is a youth arts and design entrepreneurial internship program that brings young artists together as a design and production co-op. Members work together to design, produce, and market original apparel, accessories, and one-of-a-kind fine art objects. Training is provided through both direct instruction by industry professionals and through experiential learning as a member of the Streetcraft LA design co-op. Interns are exposed to the product design process including market research, sales, marketing and promotion, distribution platforms and retail management. Each participant rotates through assignments to these different parts of business operation to round out skills and build the foundation for entrepreneurial success. Streetcraft LA operates a retail store and creative art studio in Santa Monica were interns get to work and produce original products. For further details, have a look at Streetcraft's own website.
The next phase of development projects is already underway, with new pilot inititiaves in Wilmington promoting grassroots community economic activity in areas including:
- Development of New Co-Op Projects--Community Chefs: Our newest development in this area is the Community Chefs project, housed in the café at SBCC's own Wilmington Empowerment Center. SBCC has provided a space and organizational structure for community members who do informal commercial cooking to work as a co-operative, with each community chef selling his or her food--including pupusas, tamales, aguas frescas, menudo, and smoothies--through the café storefront. Chefs take responsibillity in rotation for cleaning, cash register, scheduling, and other daily management tasks. SBCC provides all utensils and general supplies, and all coffee and water sales go directly to support the café. Proceeds from all chef-made items go directly to the chefs themselves. Total revenues for the 14 days in December, 2013, during which the café was open for the pilot phase of the project was more than $2,700. Beginning next year, a small percentage of these sales will be charged to each chef to sustain long-term maintenance and viability of the café.
- Community Lending Circles provides infrastructure and a path to economic self-sufficiency by adapting one of the oldest grassroots economic strategies, the neighbor-to-neighbor loan. SBCC has assembled to Lending Circles with 6 members each. Members make regular monthly payments into their Lending Circle and decide as a group which member will receive the available loan funds for that month. This basic structure (found in a wide variety of ethnic and cultural groups, especially in immigrant communities) is strengthened by SBCC staff, who provide assistance in budgeting, financial literacy, banking access, credit-score building and reporting, etc. We have also partnered with the Family Credit Union in Wilmington in order to link the Lending Circles to formal credit bureau loan reporting. Participants thus build a credit history which can open access to small business loans, personal credit, and even home ownership in a setting of face-to-face community relationships and trust.