Funder Perspectives: Studying Co-op Strategies for Communities

Over the past two years, Minnesota’s largest funding organization, the McKnight Foundation in Minneapolis, Minn., partnered with CDS on behalf of the Northeast Investment Cooperative (NEIC) with a grant of $25,000 to support the cooperative’s second proposed property development, and to research replicating the investment co-op model for other communities.

Eric Muschler is program officer for the McKnight Foundation’s Region and Communities Program, which specifically funds regional sustainable development, affordable housing and economically vibrant neighborhoods.  He said the foundation’s goal is to support innovative “smart growth” developments that offer economic opportunities for low income areas.

“This is a case of a local community coming together to take control and guide key sites and corridors in their neighborhood,” Muschler said. “They achieved their first project with completely local investment capital. That was a collective effort that caught our attention.” Although the grant provided some working capital for NEIC’s next project, Muschler said the McKnight Foundation thinks of it primarily as a “learning grant” providing fuel for a future test model. “It was added value to us to work with CDS because of their experience and longevity in the cooperative world. We saw it as a win-win.”