Posted August 2021
In the past year and a half, our world has changed drastically, and Cooperation Humboldt’s staff, board and volunteers have risen to the challenge of meeting a multitude of increasing needs from community members. In response to a variety of crises, all of our programs have experienced significant growth and expansion.
While this growth for our organization is positive and encouraging in many ways, it has also put a strain on our organizational capacity. Nurturing so many responses to immediate needs has taken a toll on the ongoing work we do to address the fundamental causes of these current crises. It’s also reduced the amount of staff time available for fundraising.
In order to continue our important work we are turning in this moment to our Humboldt community. We’ve worked hard and been honored to meet these needs as they arise; now we’re asking for your help meeting the needs of Cooperation Humboldt as an organization to ensure that we are not faced with the difficult decision to cut services or personnel.
Our goal by the end of September 2021 is to raise $10,000 through individual online donations and to enroll 20 new monthly sustaining donors.
Arts & Culture
- We hosted our 4th annual symposium, Artists Dismantling Capitalism. Since the event was entirely online, artists and change-makers from around the world were able to participate. This annual event has made a name for Cooperation Humboldt on the national arts scene and has helped strengthen connections with many other social justice organizations across the country. About 500 folks participated this year.
Care & Wellness
- Using a Human Centered Design approach, our Community Health Worker (CHW) program has grown tremendously.
- Community Unida del Norte Arcata is developing a working partnership with the City of Arcata to build a Community Center in Valley West.
- New Rising Hmong Association is on its way to becoming an independent nonprofit organization, separate from Cooperation Humboldt. Currently they are primarily working on Covid-19 information, fire response, and mental health services. They aspire to be a center for cultural restoration as well.
- Both of those programs are run by people from the community. We mentor and advise those community members to build their projects using Human Centered Design and cooperative leadership, and help them seek funding for their projects. We start by asking the community about their unmet needs, and what they think are solutions. Then, we find people who are inspired to organize, and put in the time to develop goals, strategies and tactics. It starts out as volunteer work, with the intention of becoming a source of income for those community leaders who create and run the program.
- We are also exploring replicating this model with Two Feathers, the Wiyot Tribe, and Native American Pathways.
- We’ve just filanized our first contract with DHHS for over $400,000. This will be for a street outreach program based on Human Centered Design and the Community Health Worker model (employing folks from the impacted community – in this case the unhoused to provide care for their peers).
- We helped to draft and pass the groundbreaking CA law to allow the creation of 10 local and regional Public Banks. This year we have been working directly with the state to promulgate the rules associated with that law.
- During its first 14 months of existence Worker Owned Humboldt, our Cooperative Development project in collaboration with the North Coast Small Business Development Center, has achieved the following results:
- Approximately 250 people have completed our Worker Owned Academy, with a focus on local cooperative business ideas but with attendance from a national audience.
- Our first cooperative has incorporated and launched, with a record 3 month process – the pedal-powered compost collection service Full Cycle Compost.
- We’ve advised 25 cooperative development teams in fields including housing, regenerative ocean farming, childcare, self-publishing, bakery, community market, and edible landscaping to name a few.
- There are currently 6-10 active development teams in our Worker Owned Incubator, with several really strong candidates for incorporation within the 6-18 months.
- We’ve initiated the Cooperative Cannabis Economy project with industry stakeholders and researchers to offer business advising and support for the legal cannabis industry.
- Our advisor team has grown from one person to a vibrant team of five, and the interest in our services keep growing, leaving us constantly working at or above capacity to meet the demand.
- Worker Owned Humboldt is fully funded through the SBDC. As the first SBDC funded worker-ownership incubator of its kind, it can serve as an example to other geographic areas. We are working with the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives to help connect other local cooperatives and developers to their local SBDC office.
- We are working closely with the Participatory Budgeting Project in their national coalition Democracy Beyond Elections to bring local control to the distribution of American Rescue Plan funds.
- During the pandemic we’ve seen a tremendous demand for our study groups. We’ve now facilitated 23 12-week small-group cohorts where participants collectively grapple with the interrelated concepts of white supremacy, settler-colonialism, hetero-patriarchy and capitalism. Over 120 people have completed a Cooperation Humboldt study group.
- We also offer book clubs on Speculative Fiction, Sacred Economics and Ecological Grief.
- We collaborated with HSU to convene the second Post-Capitalism Conference, which took place over 4 days with over 28 sessions. Over 700 folks participated.
- Earlier this year, Cooperation Humboldt and Centro del Pueblo took over stewardship of the community garden at 11th & F Streets in Arcata. With strong direction from Centro del Pueblo, it has been dedicated as a Sanctuary garden where all are welcome and safe.
- Our approach to mini gardens has shifted this year in response to participant feedback – we are focussing on quality and relationships over quantity, and implementing new elements to provide the ongoing support and coaching that folks need to truly become gardeners. (These include more frequent check-ins, plant giveaways, workshops and more.)
- We’re also relying more on leveraging our relationships with community partners to get mini gardens to the members of our community who need them most. We’ve done garden installation events this year with Two Feathers Native American Family Service, the Loleta Family Resource Center, and the Fortuna Family Resource Center.
- Our first publication of the Humboldt & Del Norte Community Food Guide (formerly the Local Food Guide by Locally Delicious) was a huge success, and has brought a deeper understanding of the intersections of food access with racism and oppression (both historic and current day) to a much wider audience.
- We are currently working to build a project to address food insecurity in Inland Humboldt. We’re working with two Hupa women who want to grow more of their own food but can’t because of widespread soil contamination in the area (due to centuries of extractive practices such as timber and mining). We’re bringing together representatives from the Hoopa Tribe, HSU faculty/students, and grassroots remediators to design a project to test and then remediate soil at these two properties. We hope this will serve as a pilot project for expanding remediation activities in the region in the future.
Disaster Response and Community Resilience
- Cooperation Humboldt was able to create a new program area focused on integrating emergency preparedness efforts into the work of our organization. Last year, we put a great deal of energy into wildfire relief, supporting our community through volunteer mobilization and management that allowed for community members to participate in response efforts such as delivering meals to sheltering evacuees that were displaced from their homes due to the fires. After identifying that Cooperation Humboldt plays a crucial role during times of emergencies, our organization decided to dedicate an entire program area to disaster response and community resilience projects.
- With the development of the Disaster Response and Community Resilience program area, Cooperation Humboldt has been able to bring forward new projects designed to build resilience as a form of preparedness. We are in the process of exploring the development of resilient hubs in collaboration with Humboldt Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, the Arcata Playhouse, North Coast Rep Theatre and others, to build capacity to offer community support in future disasters.
- We are also working to create new avenues for community members to get involved with emergency preparedness and response work based on their particular interests, such as youth and childcare. In collaboration with the American Red Cross, we have been working to support community members in getting involved with their volunteer opportunities. This team has also been developing a relationship with the new COAD to ensure we can be a part of their network. Through various workshops and public events, we have been able to educate the community on disaster response and community resilience, as well as advocate for more groups and individuals to get involved in being a part of this work in ways best suited for them.
- One of the most groundbreaking and impactful projects with which we are currently involved is Dishgamu Humboldt. Cooperation Humboldt, in close partnership with (and receiving direction from) the Wiyot Tribe is creating a first-of-its kind community land trust that will empower us to meet our community’s most pressing needs while taking property off the speculative market and restoring land to local Indigenous control.
- Initial projects include the Dishgamu Innovation Center, a 40 unit affordable housing unit using sustainable Mass-Timber, and Ecovillages.
- This project has national implications, and David and Michelle Vassell (Wiyot Tribal administrator and Cooperation Humboldt Board Member) are frequently invited to present workshops at national gatherings. These have included Power Shift, Transition US, New Economy Coalition, Resist & Build, and many others.
Our expanding work has stretched us to our breaking point.
Both David and Tamara (co-founders of Cooperation Humboldt) have invested hundreds of hours to date on Dishgamu Humboldt, and we are confident that money will begin to flow into these projects, but it hasn’t yet. This has put a tremendous strain on our budget.
We expected the DHHS street outreach project to finalize earlier this year. This will cover a portion of salaries for several of our existing employees and take some pressure off our budget, but since it’s now six months past when we initially expected it to finalize, we are feeling that strain as well. The contract operates on a reimbursement basis, meaning that CH has to pay for the expenses and wait to be reimbursed. Since the contract has taken 6 months longer to finalize than expected, we fronted over $30,000 in direct costs and are still awaiting reimbursement.
Our food team has been negatively impacted by the unexpected discontinuation of a federal grant that was being administered by a local agency. Around the end of 2020, we were happy to receive approval to hire two part-time garden installers whose salaries would be paid through a federal back-to-work grant through March 2022. These two employees have done wonderful work and allowed us to grow the impacts of our food team significantly this year. At the end of June we were informed that the local agency would no longer be working with the county to administer this grant. At that time, county personnel assured us that a new system was being put in place to administer the federal funds, and they encouraged us to pay these two employees from our own funds for a month while the transition took place. To our great disappointment, after paying these two phenomenal employees ourselves for two months, we’ve just been informed that the funds will not be available after all, and we’ve had to give them notice.
We’ve also recently taken a significant hit on our insurance cost due to expansion of our projects (most notably the community garden and street outreach), resulting in a $6,000/year unanticipated increase to our expenses.
We desperately need to hire a full-time fundraiser. Over the past two years we’ve had two part time fundraisers come and go. We’ve also tried handling fundraising collaboratively as a staff collective and it’s simply not working. Each of our existing staff is at maximum capacity. One of the three staffers who has been helping to carry at least the bare minimum of this work (Ruthi) is needing to step back and due to our current cash crunch we don’t feel able to backfill her position. The other two staffers who have worked most on fundraising are David and Tamara, and they are both busier than ever with the exciting work of Dishgamu Humboldt.
We are asking for contributions from community members and grantmaking agencies to meet Cooperation Humboldt’s immediate and long-term needs.
If you are in a position to commit to a monthly sustaining donation, these are especially helpful in providing us the ongoing funding we need to plan for the future.
Our goals for individual donors by the end of September 2021 include:
- $10,000 raised online from individual donors, and
- 20 new monthly sustaining donors enrolled.
You can donate online or mail your donation to CH at PO Box 7248, Eureka, CA 95502.
A gift (or combination of gifts) of $30,000 would ensure the uninterrupted continuation of our existing programs and projects through the end of 2021.
A gift (or combination of gifts) of $70,000 would allow us to continue our existing programs and to also hire a full-time fundraiser.
If you would like any further details (financial reports, etc.) please do not hesitate to reach out.
Thank you for your consideration.