Seeking your advice on masks + 4 things I’ve found helpful

My family and I are finally starting to figure out our mask protocols. One basket has the clean masks, another one has the dirty ones. We wash the dirty ones a couple times per week. Each of us has our preferred mask for when we’re going to be talking to somebody. My wife has to attend worship services with lots of other people, so she wears a KN-95, which is safer, but more expensive and less helpful if you’re having to talk a lot.

 
What have you been learning about your mask preferences? 
I ask sincerely because the core of our work at the Community Purchasing Alliance Co-op is to learn as much as we can from folks we trust and respect, and then try to synthesize and distill it for others.

4 things I’ve found helpful or just learned: 

  1. What makes for an effective non-medical mask?  A 3-pager from Stop the Spread that describes the different dimensions you may want to be thinking about when buying and using cloth masks.
  2. Clear masks can help convey so much more than standard masks obscure. When we met my son’s new teacher this week, he was wearing a clear mask and it made it so much easier to read his facial expressions.
  3. Some masks significantly muffle/mute your voice. Others hardly do. My daughter had been given this really pretty mask that she loved the look of, but when talking to her new teacher yesterday, we all realized how much it muffled her voice, which made us sad because she’s so soft spoken anyway.
  4. There’s so much I still don’t know & am learning. Just these two anecdotes have reminded me how much I still don’t know about how to help my organization and my family stay safe while practically trying to figure out how to go about our work and our lives, given our new circumstances.
I share this in an effort to sincerely share what I’ve been learning.

Are there any recent insights you’ve gleaned that you can share with me that might be helpful to others in similar situations to you?

We work with church and synagogue leaders, school and college administrators, and many other community leaders.
The more you share with me, the more we can help share with others and help aggregate and build market intelligence, so that we all can be more thoughtful as we navigate this unchartered territory together.
If you’re looking to buy masks, wipes, plexiglass, signage, hand sanitizer or other PPE, we’ve been facilitating group bulk purchases these past few months and have learned a lot on how to make the process easy and help you source from Black-owned business, worker-owned co-ops, and suppliers that are offering good products at affordable prices.
My colleague Juan Francisco Hidalgo has been leading up these efforts and has been heroic in how many folks he’s given personalized consultations to — to help them figure out what makes the most sense for them, given that many Chlorox wipes and other products are still expected to be backlogged for a long time.
He’s happy to talk to you (email him at juan@cpa.coop), if you need help, especially if you’re going to submit a meaningfully sized order as part of our bulk PPE co-op purchase — with the deadline of tomorrow, Friday. August 21
That said, we’re not perfect. We’re not experts, we’re just trying to help.
This might be our last co-op PPE bulk purchase.
Submit your order by tomorrow, Friday, August 21, 2020 if there are products on the list that might be helpful.
My personal favorite, and the mask I wear the most often, is made by Carolina Textile District.  (It’s the first item on the left in the 3rd-to-last row on our e-commerce website.)
Carolina Textile District is a group of small NC textile manufacturers that have banned together and saved 60 jobs in the process, thanks in part to more than 45,000 masks CPA Co-op members and partners have sourced from them. You can read their story on their website here and also see the other ethical essentials their Latinx worker-owned coop makes in their Collection line up.
Here’s a picture of me wearing their “Pedestrian Mask”:
IMG_8493
Can you tell I’m trying to smile for you?
It’s the most breathable, easy-to-talk through mask, while being made from an antimicrobial BioSmart Fabric (also used to make scrubs) made by Miliken in South Carolina. It’s a bit of a premium product, but you know you’re sourcing from domestic manufacturers who’ve been paying living wages — and been able to keep their jobs because of our work together.
It truly is a success story that I’m really proud of.
Or skip straight to the ecommerce platform, and add your order to the hundreds of others by buying together to get the group volume discounts.
And, if you’re able, I’m genuinely interested to learn what you’re learning about masks — so don’t hesitate to just respond with a quick couple insights that have emerged from your past couple months of buying, wearing, and figuring out what makes the most sense for your organization and your family.

Cooperative Capital: Re-launching

One of the things I’ve been most interested in supporting is more local direct investment opportunities… especially ones that are open to non-Accredited investors.

Cooperative Capital has an approach to make it work (however they were blocked by the state of Michigan…).

The challenges they’ve come up against and the ways regulators have thwarted their efforts highlights how our current regulatory regime around capital is designed around screening out bad actors (and is racist in that it continues to perpetuate (& exacerbate) racial wealth inequality). We need a new (state and federal) regulatory regime to unleash community capital.

Cooperative Capital describes themselves as “a cooperative private equity fund that empowers citizens to pool their money to make promising investments within their community.”

Kwaku Osei, in his founding role, has been at the frontlines of this movement. Here is a 90 second video overview of what they originally set out to do: https://youtu.be/oek6riTVdnY

Cooperative Capital is formally re-launching http://www.cooperativecap.com – they will be having a virtual “party” today at 630-730p EST if you’re able to join! https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIpd-usqDoiGdVQlJ9yLdnAATchjEsWKicQ

1 min intro from Kwaku:

For more on the broader movement, here’s the National Coalition for Community Capital (NC3): https://comcapcoalition.org/

​I Sold My Entire Investment Portfolio One Hour Ago​

Okay, actually I didn’t…. yet. But this guy Tim Denning said he just did. 

As I read his post, I remembered how I felt when I was in  one of Marco Vangelisti’s workshops. The feeling of desperation to have my money be working for a more livable future.

So, I’m writing this post here to give myself the push to divest from the stock market and reinvest as much as I reasonably can before the end of September (giving me enough time to talk with my partner and others about it… :).

I’ve been thinking about and wanting to take my money out of the stock market for a few years (mostly for ethical reasons).

I started to get more serious when my smartest wealth management friend Jack told me he exited the stock market because he felt it was “frothy”. He instead decided to start buying down and paying off his mortgage.

I’ve taken about 1/2 of what I had in index funds out… (like Vanguard’s S&P 500 index fund — which is what my smartest friends told me I should do 3, 5, 10 15 years ago when I first started thinking about this when an employer made me put away retirement money…)

but now, I’m considering going all the way and taking a bunch more out of the S&P 500 and the stock market.
I’m probably not going to go to all cash like this guy suggests — but rather split the rest between a few places I really believe in:
  1. Kachuwa Impact Fund — founded by Blake Jones — one of the top co-op entrepreneurs of our time. He started Namaste Solar — a worker-owned co-op that has done phenomenally well. Amicus Solar — a purchasing co-op. A Clean Energy Credit Union — and now he leads (on a volunteer basis) Kachuwa Impact fund — which is invested about half in real estate and the other half in cooperatives or perpetual trusts — or social impact focused ventures —  https://www.kachuwaimpactfund.com/about   (Side note, they just agreed to a $15,000 investment in CPA Co-op which pays  5% interest for 10 years).   Because I’ve been talking to Blake, I know he’s raising money right now — let me know if you’re interested.
  2. CNotehttps://mycnote.com/ — 2.5% –  this invests in community development and women-led & women-owned enterprises.
  3. RSF Social finance – 1% – https://rsfsocialfinance.org/
  4. Other start-up co-ops and social enterprises that have big chances to change the world…
Here’s the post that prompted me to write this:

I Sold My Entire Investment Portfolio One Hour Ago​ by Tim Denning

Do you agree with Tim’s analysis about the stress it causes?

Usually I don’t think about it, so I don’t feel stressed. But when I do look at it and think about it — I feel intense turmoil (as I wrote about in My investing Turmoil).

What are you thinking?

What have you invested in recently that felt much more aligned with your values?

Am I crazy? If so, I’d love to hear.

Have you been thinking about masks?

If you’ve been thinking about how to buy masks, disinfectant supplies, PPE…
Perhaps our co-op effort to find suppliers that can deliver may be of help…

 

  1. Curious how others are thinking through re-opening and estimating PPE supply needs?
  2. Curious what co-op pricing looks like for masks?   Or “no contact” thermometers? (coop price: $50… vs $85)
  3. Worried about making sure you get what you need on time?
  4. Interested in buying from a worker-owned coop?     A local NC person-of-color-owned manufacturer?
If one of these 4 questions resonates with you, read on…
 
Our Process 
  1. Complete this interest form  (takes 2 minutes — simply estimate what you think you might need)
  2. Review initial Pricing, Terms, potential Suppliers — Q&A on May 26 at 9am ET & Update Call on June 2 at 10am
  3. Make your order with pre-negotiated terms, pricing & more — June 3-10
Deadline to Submit 2-min Interest Form: Sunday, May 24, 2020 

 

What do folks say about working with CPA? 
 
“The process was exceptionally transparent and well-run. Thank you for the hard work and dedication to providing an optimum result for everyone.”
Bill Casson, Building & Grounds Team Chair, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church-Bethesda
 
“Pricing for some items was 30-40% lower with CPA.”
~DC School Administrator who purchased $50,000 of masks and thermometers with CPA last week
Want to stay in the loop? 
Just fill out the 2-min interest form (ideally before Sunday) and we’ll keep you posted.
Feel free to share this with others & spread the word far and wide: https://bit.ly/coop4ppe
We’ll be in touch with more soon.
How do I estimate how much I might need? 
Here is a profile of a school we worked with & how they thought about estimating their needs.

Who are our suppliers? 

  • We’ve been in conversations with 23 suppliers over the past 8 weeks and my colleague Juan Francisco Hidalgo is in the process of pre-qualifying more. We plan to release an RFP and so we expect to have a wide range of options.
  • We’ve executed a few transactions with 5 primary companies that we’ve found to be very reliable and so we’ll likely have a variety of options to suit different needs.
  • One of our favorite suppliers is Carolina Textile District PPE — Take 10 seconds to check out their website right now.  – “In response to COVID-19, a consortium of 60 American manufacturers, The Carolina Textile District has come together to help produce medical supplies in response to a request from local healthcare providers.”
  • Read this story about how the group of US manufacturers (including worker-owned co-op — Opportunity Threads) came together in response to the pandemic: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/masks-mutual-aid-and-our-broken-supply-chains-a-north-carolina-story/

Who is CPA?

Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) is a social-purpose cooperative that leverages the buying power of community institutions to help lower operating costs, while also making investments in sustainability, worker equity, and community organizing. As a cooperative, CPA is wholly owned by its members, creating a business that serves their needs first. Through aggregation and group procurement of services, CPA helps its members save money and get better service, while also holding vendors to high standards in terms of environmental and worker practices.

In 2019 CPA worked with over 120 organizations across 10 product/services areas to facilitate $17 million in purchasing. CPA offers expertise and competitive group procurement for services including energy (electricity and gas supply), waste pick-up, HVAC maintenance, solar development, janitorial, security, copier, and landscaping.

Check out CPA’s latest videos, including this member testimonial.

Trust and Co-ops

Five years ago, I started the Community Purchasing Alliance Cooperative with a Steering Team of church leaders, a community organizer, and a few generous lawyers.

Today, we are 75 member-owner community institutions. We collaborate on $15,000,000+ in contracts each year. Yet the most important thing we’ve created doesn’t show up in the numbers.

It’s trust.

We’ve built an incredible amount of trust with our members. What’s surprising to me about this is that most of the trust-building has happened not because of anything the staff did, but because of the conversations we facilitated between members. When decision-makers are talking to peer decision-makers about a similar challenge, the value they create and insight they’re able to offer builds something special

Nathan Schneider talks about this same phenomenon in his most recent article for the Coop Biz Journal - Winter_2018_Journal_CoverNational Cooperative Business Association. Nathan starts:

“I’ve noticed some patterns that may become more common in the co-ops to come.”

He’s reflecting on his experience as a reporter:

“They will create value not just with the services they offer to members, but with the connections they enable among members—and the efficiencies members discover together.

This rings true for my experience. For example, at the founding meeting of our co-op in 2014, I remember sitting next to Troy Watson and her telling the room of 50 founding and prospective members and others gathered, “While the savings are helpful, it’s the connections I value most.”

I think this continues to be the experience many of our members have. While we help them manage risk and reduce cost in some of their contracts, it’s the personal connections we’re able to help them make with peers that they value most.

Nathan continues:

“Their specialty will be in fostering trust on trustless networks…”

As I think about where we grow next — whether through building out an online platform for users to co-create value and connection building on something like MARVL.org or whether through developing a new co-op using a similar model in another region — Nathan reminds me that the focus of our work must be in fostering trust.

That’s the specialty of what a co-op can offer and offer with great integrity.