October 23rd will go in the books as CPA Day. The sessions provided a great opportunity for reflection, connection, identifying potential obstacles, and a path forward. One of the most valuable lessons or reminders is that we are currently seeing the end product of CPA, but there was a process that took years to get to this point. I also enjoyed seeing some of you in person. I must say, Felipe was right. There is an effective way to use Zoom to facilitate connections.
I had many takeaways from the CPA visit. Some of those highlights of my reflections include:
Start Small, Build Up – Being realistic with our capacity and the number of members needed to actually start the cooperative is going to be the key to success. Felipe reminded me to consider the minimum viable product (MVP). What is the minimum “CPA” offering that still meets the needs of members? What is the hook for further engagement? I am looking forward to further discussing these questions with Paul and Michelle to identify a realistic goal for what we want to accomplish.
It’s ALL About Relationships – The key to success really is relationships and trust. I know that we have covered this constantly, but when I was thinking about the most important task to accomplish right now, the answer was ‘build relationships’ When I was trying to distill what it is that makes CPA successful, I realized that it has been Felipe and the team building strong relationships with vendors, members, and each other. I also realize that because relationships are the value proposition, we will need to make an intentional effort to constantly build and maintain relationships. Relationships are the greatest CPA asset. I am invited to think of how we build a network of trust and how we can create a practical vehicle for collaboration without losing sight of our values.
Power of Reflection – I had a great conversation with Merald Holloway regarding Durham CPA. The conversation started with Merald sharing about how critical it is to keep disadvantaged businesses in mind when developing CPA. He shared that in Durham, a minuscule amount of government contracts actually go to businesses owned by African Americans. I asked him what his greatest learning experience had been to date with starting a CPA in Durham, NC. He shared that the most valuable skill has been starting and maintaining a practice of reflection throughout the process. He admitted that at first, he thought it was a waste of time. “I don’t have time to reflect,” he thought. Despite his resistance, he did it. Having learned a lot about the process has really helped Merald look back and pivot as needed. Given my experiences in the last three months, I realize that I need to make this a formal practice.
Strong Board = Strong CPA – In a conversation with Ellen Agler, President of CPA’s board, she shared her excitement for the potential expansion of CPA to other parts of the country. Just like Felipe, she was eager to share all that she could. Ellen even offered to come to Denver and connect with others if it helps to get CPA off the ground. At the moment, I realized just how powerful the members can be in sharing the message. I am invited to think about what we can do to foster relationships with those who will become our disciples in this journey.
Overall, the day was great. I am still in DC meeting with other organizations, but when I back I will think about what it takes to bring a national model with local adaptations to ensure that it meets our needs. I would also like to start doing a quick assessment to see what our current business capacity is in the main industries (identified by CPA). Identifying a few vendors will help us start and provide support with what members need at the moment. Taking this approach will help build trust. This, along with our relational interviews, will be a good starting point for the creation of the mini-business plan.
I personally feel very supported in the process knowing that collectively, we have a wealth of knowledge, information, and expertise that we can share with each other. Thank you all for being part of this journey!
I want to express my gratitude to Felipe and the CPA team for inviting us to be a part of this journey. The last week helped me see the importance of building replicable models. It also highlighted the need to develop leaders who can adapt models to get the most benefit out of them.
It’s been a few days since CPA Day. More than ever, I am committed to go deeper and build more trust. I will build meaningful relationships to co-create something that members can be proud of. I also want to connect with supporters that can connect me to decision-makers. One of those key connections will be with Dr. Rev. Tyler. His passion for social justice makes him the perfect thought partner and potential CPA member.
CPA definitely intersects with my personal interest in bringing economic opportunities to disenfranchised communities. While I am incredibly passionate about this, I know that there are others who also share my passion. My additional task is to continue to identify those movement builders and invite them to help me co-create this cooperative. At this point, we have not decided who will lead this effort. However, just like with everything else I do, I want to build the capacity so that the success of the project does not rely on one individual. My dream is to co-create something sustainable so that I leave without disrupting the movement.