We're hiring a WNC Purchasing Alliance General Manager!
This is a big moment. After determining in summer 2020 that a cooperative purchasing initiative (read more below) was a key project that could help nurture the emergence of a regional mutual aid network throughout 22 counties of western NC, we've been developing it concretely with our existing staff, and are now ready to hire a General Manager to focus entirely on this project.
The WNC Cooperative Purchasing Alliance
Since my introduction through cooperative scholar and organizer Nathan Schneider to Felipe Witchger and the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA, which Felipe helped found) in June 2020, our team has been incubating a purchasing coop as a powerful multi-functional strategy for growing our mutual aid network.
If, after reading this little introduction, you have a business or organization that might benefit from being a member of the Purchasing Alliance, OR a secure facility anywhere in WNC that could serve as an aggregation/distribution point for purchasing coop deliveries, please briefly respond in this form.
Many of you have probably participated in bulk purchasing programs, for food or other materials or goods, and probably some have participated in cooperative versions. The basic insight is that by getting together enough people and/or organizations who need the same things, we get to a scale where we have negotiating power to bring down costs from producers (and save producers trouble in seeking out and marketing to lots of tiny buyers). We can save substantial money by doing this, from 15-50% off retail cost depending on the good. We can also sometimes obtain goods that simply cannot be obtained in small quantities. But just as importantly, as CPA has shown, we can create a shaping force for a regional economy, directing sales to value-aligned businesses, such as businesses based in cooperative principles, regenerative practices, renewable energy sources and socially transformative practices, and/or Black, Brown and women-owned businesses.
The Community Purchasing Alliance coordinated approximately $20 million in purchases in 2020 for its alliance of around 120 charter schools and places of worship in the Washington, D.C. area, ultimately saving those organizations around $2 million and directing 60% of purchases to Black, Brown and women-owned businesses. For all of these purchases, CPA then received 5-10% of sales revenue to fund its own staff who are also carrying out education and cooperative organizing programs, in addition to the operation of the purchasing coop itself.
So, Co-operate WNC is establishing the WNC Purchasing Alliance to accomplish the following things: 1) Save money for households and organizations who are members of our network (membership enrollment coming very soon); 2) Obtain and create demand for specialized goods and services that our members determine they need, which cannot be obtained at retail scale; 3) Support value-aligned businesses, including incubation of new businesses; 4) Develop momentum for mutual aid hubs via distribution of purchasing coop goods from mutual aid hub sites; 5) Provide a steady revenue stream to support maintenance and growth of staff and other costs for Co-operate WNC's other programs and member benefits, such as community savings pool trainings, regenerative agroforestry, and cooperative healthcare and dying care initiatives.
In November 2020, at the request of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, we completed our first bulk purchase, an $83,000 order for 240 commercial-grade outdoor heaters to help restaurants, breweries, churches and other community gathering spaces to safely stay open through the winter. We learned alot through this process, and it was successful by all measures, giving us an indication that this idea has practical viability.
Now, we're in the midst of creating the legal entity and framework for the Purchasing Alliance, and hiring the first staff people to get it off the ground. Although we might be engaging in the near-term in some bulk PPE purchasing at the urgent request of several regional healthcare organizations, our focus is on developing purchases around goods and services which support our mission of growing a regenerative and cooperative economy that transforms dynamics of power and wealth in our region while providing the basis for collective climate adaptation.
Examples of these purchases could include solar energy equipment, certain kinds of food bought in large lots from local farmers and from allies in other regions, ecologically responsible cleaning supplies, farming supplies and tools, and bulk negotiated services like cell phone plans and health insurance.
There will be much more to come on this and how you and your community can get involved, but in the meantime, if you have either a business or organization that might benefit from being a member of the purchasing coop, OR a secure facility anywhere in WNC that could serve as an aggregation/distribution point for purchasing coop deliveries, please briefly respond in this form.
Co-operate WNC is growing!
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