Cooperative Capital and Community Investing: An Interview with Kwaku Osei.
Gone are the days where fundraising and making connections was limited to your workspace, religious affiliations and a hundred mile radius. There is an influx of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding being funneled all the time, where people can help their neighbor pay her vet bill or help a new solar panel project get off the ground. People are increasingly relying on social media, online marketing, and home businesses to generate their own profit. However, up until recently, this did not apply to investing. Kwaku Osei, CEO at Cooperative Capital saw this first hand when he took a job in Detroit. “ Detroit has tremendous redevelopment potential. However, a majority of people feel they don’t have enough resources to do it on their own.” He drew inspiration from community banks whose target was not strictly just generating profit, but using the pooled profit to invest back into the communities where the banks were located. “I wanted residents to be able to collectively influence the neighborhood as opposed to the one sidedness of investors we typically see,” Osei said. His plan is straightforward, in order to invest an investor has to start with a minimum of a $1,000 investment. This capital will be pooled in a fund with a number of other resident investors. Their capital will also enable them the ability to vote on projects after an investment committee reviews them. After the investment choice is voted on, Cooperative Capital would do due diligence and make sure that there is a realistic pathway for there to be a return on investment of at least six percent. Detroit will be ground zero for the project that launches in August, “as of right now we have about twenty other communities who have reached out to us who want to do something similar. We are engaging in preliminary discussions with many more.” For Osei and his team, the emphasis is not just on building a profit for these communities. It’s creating a deeper sense of pride and belonging that will bolster local economies, foster community pride, as well as combat gentrification. There have been countless studies on how owning assets in a community makes communities less vulnerable to being pushed out once bigger business start investing in them. Cooperative Capital will not just be adding to the commerce of the communities they work with, they will be giving residents the soil they need to plant their feet firmly in the ground and stay. The world of investing is changing and Cooperative Capital is at the forefront of making sure that the people who do the investing are not just the most wealthy and the most powerful. What makes a community is the people who are in it. What makes a community stronger is those same people being able to see themselves making it better. As the world grows smaller, with social media connecting people from Bangladesh with people in Wyoming and business models looking at ways to use new advancements to create profit, Cooperative Capital is combining ethics, people, and in a way that makes the world closer, smaller, and stronger.