Collaborative partners begin first stage of employment creation
SPRINGFIELD – The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has awarded a $200,000 Roadmaps to Health grant to Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc. of Springfield, the lead agency with University of Massachusetts Amherst in a two-year collaborative initiative to build employee-owned companies in Springfield.
The grant will enable first-stage development of the local Wellspring Initiative, whose mission is to create stable, long-term employment and improve the health and living conditions in Springfield neighborhoods. Wellspring will use the two-year grant along with matching local funds to create a first worker-owned company and to establish the infrastructure for a network of additional companies to be located in center city neighborhoods. These businesses will have a cooperative organizational structure and will provide livable wage employment, entry-level jobs, skills training and the opportunity for ownership by employees.
To build demand for new jobs, Wellspring is coordinating with the region’s largest employers to identify key areas where the purchase of goods and services could be shifted to center-city Springfield neighborhoods. Services under consideration include food service, dairy processing, laundry, construction and energy efficiency.
Lead agencies for the initiative are the Center for Public Policy and Administration and the Center for Popular Economics at the University of Massachusetts, working in collaboration with Partners for a Healthier Community. Key partner organizations include the region’s largest employers, educational institutions and nonprofits.
“This initiative grew out of a concern that many of our center-city neighborhoods lack employment opportunities, and many residents are not making a living wage,” said Frank Robinson, PhD, executive director of Partners for a Healthier Community. Lack of employment has a known detrimental effect on health, now and later in life, he noted. This health aspect led Partners for a Healthier Community, whose mission is to address overall health in Springfield, to engage anchor institutions in the concept of neighborhood-based employment.
The Wellspring Initiative is based on a similar model in Cleveland, Ohio, called Evergreen Cooperatives, notes Fred Rose, a consultant from the UMass Center for Public Policy and Administration. That project has pioneered innovative models of job creation, wealth building and sustainability. “The cooperative model of business ownership was selected to help neighborhood residents build equity in their firms as owners, and to promote jobs that allow workers to earn a living wage,” said Rose.
In addition to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, Wellspring has raised a total of $105,000 in matching dollars from funding partners within the initiative, including: Baystate Health, MassMutual Foundation, Providence Health System, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Springfield Technical Community College, United Way of Pioneer Valley and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Other key partners are Western New England University, the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO, Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium, Michael Kane Consulting, Western New England School of Law and Common Capital (formerly the Western Massachusetts Enterprise Fund).
Partners for a Healthier Community was one of 12 community-based organizations nationwide to be funded in the latest Roadmaps to Health awards in November. -end-
Frank Robinson, PhD, Executive Director
Partners for a Healthier Community
c/o Marsha Montori
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