[Editor’s note: This article was written by Kim Pate, vice president of external relations for the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a network partner for the Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World that Works competition.]
The Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) was founded more than 30 years ago on the promise that microenterprise held for generating jobs and income for vulnerable populations. Today, that work is embodied by an investment in entrepreneurship. Business ownership is second only to homeownership as a source of household wealth in the United States. CFED sees support for entrepreneurs, especially disadvantaged ones, as a key strategy for individual asset-building and as a critical component of a healthy local economy. The Entrepreneurship Program at CFED focuses on social innovations that support entrepreneurship in new and targeted ways.
Two important entrepreneurship and job creation strategies at CFED focus on worker-owners of business cooperatives and Native American entrepreneurs.
Women's Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES), a CFED partner, grows green housecleaning cooperatives in San Francisco and the East Bay and leads the creation of a Co-op Network to support growth and sustainability of mature worker-owned cooperatives. For more than fifteen years, this program has resulted in significant differences in income, benefits and assets for the worker-owners in the cooperatives compared to that earned through their previous jobs. The cooperatives work to enable members to develop valuable business management skills. Below is a brief video in which program participants speak about how the WAGES model and, more broadly, how economic opportunity and financial security pave the way for healthy lives and futures.
Another of CFED’s partners, Four Bands Community Fund, is leading the charge to promote entrepreneurship among Native populations. As one of the nation’s leading Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Four Bands set out to challenge the entire Cheyenne River Indian Reservation community to engage in learning and promoting key tenets of financial literacy and entrepreneurship through the launch of its Making Waves Campaign. The campaign is a major initiative to create economic opportunity and spur business development for the current and future generations of the Lakota Sioux Tribe.
Four Bands works with schools and community organizations on the reservation to actively promote and teach members of the Tribe, especially children and youth, the guiding principles, or the “ABCs,” of financial literacy and entrepreneurship. In its work with the schools, Four Bands created the Making Waves Teacher Tool Kits for primary and secondary school teachers with lessons on financial literacy and entrepreneurship designed to build the teachers’ own financial literacy skills as well as complement the four core subjects of the school curriculum (math, science, language arts/reading, and social studies).
WAGES and the Making Waves Campaign are exemplary models of enterprise development and the institution’s “think-do-invest” approach. For the past 32 years, CFED has been working to prove that entrepreneurship is not only a viable option for job creation, but also a critical element for many Americans in their efforts to secure their financial futures. As we look to the future, it is clear that entrepreneurship will continue to be an important part of job creation, and CFED truly appreciates the work of organizations like Ashoka that are developing creative ways to expand economic opportunity.
For more information about WAGES or CFED’s Innovation Program, contact Anne Li, CFED’s director of innovation, at [email protected]. For more information about the Making Waves Teacher Tool Kits or Making Waves trainer, Mark Peacock’s upcoming book, contact Tanya Fiddler, executive director, at [email protected].