Cooperative Capital Lets People Invest in their Neighborhoods

By Angel Kristoff 6 Min Read

Even if you aren’t actively involved in your community, it can have an impact on how you think and how you view the world. In Detroit, some communities have managed to work together to make a “comeback” and improve their area. For others, the process of fixing up their neighborhood is a slow one.

This where Cooperative Capital comes in.

Cooperative Capital is a Detroit-based startup that wants to help neighbors pool their money together, in order to invest in improvements for their community.

The Importance of Community Involvement

Some people have noted that Cooperative Capital’s idea is similar to an already existing idea: taxes.

While taxes do involve people giving some of their money to invest in their community, they aren’t always effective. Residents of a community may have little to no say in how local or state governments use their tax money, and some communities find themselves ignored by tax-funded improvements altogether. By allowing community members themselves to choose how their money is used, Cooperative Capital believes they can make more changes that residents actually want to see.

Cooperative Capital states that its mission is to “to build up communities with the direct participation of the community.” While an outside source may be able to do good for some communities, they may not understand the residents’ interests. When members of a community work together, they can also form a stronger bond with each other, thus strengthening the community.

How it Works

Residents of a community first pool money together and from there Cooperative Capital helps to set up a community committee. This committee helps to decide what investments should be made with the money. The committee will put together its top five choices, and these choices will be voted on by all community members that pooled together the money. In order to vote, members must pledge a minimum of $1000. Votes happen each month, so community members will always know where their money is going and can decide if they want to change the way it is used.

While this voting can show community interests, Cooperative Capital also understands the need to ensure the likeliness of success for each investment. Each investment choice is reviewed after the vote, and Cooperative Capital makes sure it passes due diligence before the choice is implemented.

There is also some structure in how investments are chosen. In order to avoid investing in one or two main areas and ignoring others, Cooperative Capital has it set up so that some of the money goes towards equity-based and debt-based investments, startups, real estate, and established small and medium-sized businesses.

The Team Behind It

Kwaku Osei is Cooperative Capital’s CEO. He has previous experience with project work and helping communities from his work with Rock Ventures, which is involved in community development for both Detroit and Cleveland, Ohio. He has a Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and he also worked for Deloitte Consulting in Washington D.C. where he focused on improving technology, business processes, and communication for clients.

Camille Johnson works as Cooperative Capital’s managing director, and she has a lot of experience with entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur, she has helped to develop multiple companies and connect people to help them further their career opportunities. She also believes in bettering communities and working with nonprofits to make an impact on people’s lives.

Bryan Barnhill is the chief advisor for Cooperative Capital. He also works as the Chairman of the Detroit Building Authority and is the Chief Talent Officer for the City of Detroit. He brings a lot of experience, as well as public and private sector knowledge to Cooperative Capital.

Chase Cantrell is the director of Detroit Community Capital, and he is focused on further developing and sustaining Cooperative Capital’s program within the Detroit area. He also founded "Building Community Value," a Detroit-based nonprofit involved with real estate development in the neighborhoods of Detroit.

Values and Future Plans

As a company, Cooperative Capital has four main values: accessibility, community, education, entrepreneurship, and inclusion. They want to make sure that everyone has access to adequate funding, and the way their money is spent should best represent their interests. The company is also made up of community-oriented individuals, believing in the importance of local groups and businesses as well as connecting people to new opportunities and connections.

In the future, the company plans to expand to other major cities as well. Ideally, they would like to be available to communities all across the United States. For now, their plans for expansion are focused on cities within Michigan, though they may expand to Cleveland and Chicago.

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