Innovation Profile: Green Worker-Owned Cooperatives
Selected in 2010
Email Hilary | Visit Hilary's Web site
UPDATE May 2011:
Hilary Abell announced that her last day as executive director of WAGES would be May 31st, also marking her departure as CFED Innovator-in-Residence. "Under her leadership, WAGES has grown steadily, successfully launching two of our four worker-owned green housecleaning businesses, as well as laying the groundwork for start-up of the fifth this year and continued growth into the future," say Loren Rodgers and Maria Soria, WAGES board representatives.
"These years at WAGES have been the most gratifying of my career," says Abell in her announcement. "I have cherished the opportunity to work directly with our members these eight years and to learn from their professionalism, their strength and resilience, their growth and their pride. WAGES socias have inspired others across the country to pursue the cooperative dream, and I know they will continue to do so."
Abell is planning to take a short sabbatical before finding new ways to pursue her commitment to women's entrepreneurship and cooperative worker ownership. CFED extends our very best wishes to her and to WAGES.
UPDATE: March 2011
During Hilary's virtual residency period, beginning in 2011, CFED is excited to work with her to extend the benefits of worker ownership to reach national impact. During this period, WAGES is embarking on a carefully considered expansion to double its network from four coops to eight and lay the groundwork for continued future growth. Three of the new coops are planned for the San Francisco Bay Area while the fourth will respond to the growing interest in WAGES' work from other parts of the country.
As a CFED Innovator-in-Residence, Hilary will work with CFED to develop a strategy for WAGES' model to achieve national influence and impact. This 'national influencing strategy' will seek to incorporate learning from WAGES' high-impact work into elements such as public policy, advocacy, private markets, effective practice identification and communications - and CFED's capabilities in those areas - to leverage and magnify WAGES work.
In February, she was a featured speaker in a New York City panel called Secrets to Creating High-Impact Strategic Partnerships. Hilary and WAGES' corporate partner, Seventh Generation, represented by Chris Miller, SG's corporate consciousness manager, were joined by presenters from American Express, Moody''s, AMD, and Ernst & Young among others. One of many elements of WAGES model that will be examined during the residency is the role of corporate partnership. Other elements that we will be looking at with Hilary include the use of matched savings accounts like IDAs in a shared business context, asset building through saving and other means for the workers and their children, and shared ownership policies and practices.
Update: Looking Back on 2010
In the summer of 2010, innovation@cfed selected Hilary Abell, Executive Director of Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security (WAGES), from a group of over 50 applicants to establish a virtual residency with CFED to expand development of green business cooperatives that create healthy and stable jobs for low-income immigrant women. Watch this recent documentary short to learn more about WAGES.
In September 2010, Hilary spoke at CFED’s Assets Learning Conference and presented an innovation station in the conference’s Innovation Marketplace. Hilary was one of six CFED innovators that spoke briefly about their assets moment during the Opening Plenary. She was also a presenter at the Worker-Owned Cooperatives conference session where she spoke about her work in leading the expansion of WAGES’ cooperatives in San Francisco and the East Bay and the creation of a Co-op Network to support growth and sustainability of mature cooperatives.
WAGES celebrated its 15th anniversary in late October 2010 with a reception and dinner that featured testimonials from members of WAGES cooperatives and an announcement of WAGES’ expansion plan for 2011 – 2013. To watch a video testimonial of the impact WAGES has had on the life of one co-op worker-owner, click here.
About the Innovation
WAGES, Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security, builds worker-owned green businesses that create healthy, dignified jobs and build assets for low-income women. WAGES is working to magnify impact by incubating new worker-owned cooperative businesses and by leveraging two key innovations: a partnership with Seventh Generation, a natural products company; and the development of Individual Development Accounts in a shared business ownership context. The innovation takes a holistic approach to asset development by infusing wealth and asset creation along with the development of core skills and the opening of green job opportunities for women.
About the Innovator
As Executive Director of WAGES since 2003, Hilary has led the expansion of WAGES’ programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and the creation of a network model to support growth and sustainability of mature cooperatives. She is currently leading the organization through implementation of a three-year expansion strategy to increase the organization’s impact throughout the Bay Area and the development of a plan to take WAGES’ work beyond the Bay Area. Prior to joining WAGES, Hilary worked to increase equity and social justice in areas including fair trade, environmental health, women’s health and immigrant rights. Her visits with fair trade farmers in Latin America provided her with a first-hand understanding of the economic and social impact of cooperative models, environmental sustainability, and collective endeavors that give us space to dream.