Boston Immigrant Cooperative Alliance
Boston Immigrant Cooperative Alliance (BICA) is a partnership among ENB,
the Center for Cooperative Development and Solidarity (CCDS), the Mayor’s
Office for Immigrant Advancement, and East Boston Harborside Community
School, funded by Massachusetts General’s Hospital through its Determination of
Need (DoN) process. BICA will enable residents to strengthen English skills and
fully participate in the solidarity economy CCDS is building in East Boston,
where the city’s highest share of Latinx residents reside.
CCDS, now with 300 member families, has since 2016 been building a cooperative
economy through education, organizing and business development. The work
grew exponentially during the pandemic.
Some 60 CCDS members either own or are in the process of launching workers-owned cooperatives, some formed out of dire necessity during the pandemic, as residents were left without work or a safety net. Puntada Cooperative began sewing masks; Sazón Internacional Cooperative is feeding families; others include Eplam Cooperative, a cooperative consulting group; Renacer Cooperative for eldercare, Green Clean, a cleaning Cooperative, and Tabor Kids, a recreational Cooperative for children, youth, and families.
As part of ENB’s economic recovery strategies, BICA classes are based on ENB’s English for Immigrant Entrepreneurs Curriculum, covering business planning, budgeting, marketing, customer service and safety. Students also are learning Google Classroom, Zoom, and other platforms to communicate with others in the cooperatives.
Harborside Community School is working with ENB to customize and deliver the course – students discuss “cooperative” earnings rather than “business” earnings. Each student receives a Chromebook and stipend. The City’s Immigrant Advancement office is working to expand opportunities for immigrant-led cooperatives. BICA also spawned another low-level English for Entrepreneurs course through a related East Boston Resiliency Project, under the State’s Urban Agenda Program, to help co-ops get products and services to market. In total, 53 co-op members are now enrolled in English classes.
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