Since 2015, The J.M. Kaplan Fund has reached across America to identify and elevate early-stage projects with transformative potential in the fields of social justice, the environment, and heritage conservation. The fourth cycle of the Prize was launched in January 2021—as the country was reeling from a pandemic and grappling with racial and political tensions—and by April received a record 2,826 applications from all fifty states, as well as numerous territories and tribal nations.
The Fund announced the 2021 J.M.K. Innovation Prize awardees, ten exceptionally promising, visionary organizations that are tackling America’s most pressing challenges while building community and collective power. Each will receive up to $175,000 over three years and join a resource collaborative of fellow innovators designed to support their journey as change agents.
We couldn’t be prouder to announce that CO-OP DAYTON was selected as one of the awardees!
Co-op Dayton is boldly showing how collective worker power can transform communities through a “cooperative ecosystem.” As in other cities across the Midwest, majority Black neighborhoods in segregated Dayton have suffered from disinvestment and dwindling access to goods and services such as grocery stores and health care. Amid capital flight and wealth extraction, Co-op Dayton’s incubator program nurtures worker-owned enterprises through assistance with access to capital, business development, and advocacy tools to boost neighborhood resilience. Having mobilized a cooperative grocery store in a former West Dayton food desert that now has 5,000 community member-owners and 25 worker-owners, Co-op Dayton envisions a future when retail co-ops are served by cleaning and delivery co-ops, while real estate investment and construction co-ops redevelop homes in surrounding neighborhoods. Through its work building cooperative businesses, the initiative continuously brings in neighbors—as member-owners, activists, and movement leaders—to gain political and economic power. The upshot is a model for grassroots revitalization in the face of deep urban abandonment that creates jobs, renovates buildings, and—through a culture of ownership—reconnects people with their community.