Solidarity Economy Profile Q & A with CEANYC

Originally published July 28, 2017 at the Cooperative Economics Alliance of New York City (CEANYC) Blog - https://gocoopnyc.com/blog/2017/07/snapshot-frank-cetera/

1. What is your title/organization/job description?

Certified Business Advisor, NY Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College.  The SBDC network is nationwide, with 23 regional centers in New York.  We provide free and confidential business mentoring, advisement, and analysis for the public, funded through the SUNY system and the SBA.  I implemented cooperative business development programming within the SBDC in 2012 with organizing and hosting the first Upstate Cooperative Summit day-long event in Syracuse, followed up with a second in 2013, and then embarked on the creation of the statewide NY Cooperative Network (NYCN) project with a steering committee formed out of the Summit events.
I am fortunate in this employment position to also be a union steward for Professional Administrators on campus as part of the NYSUT OCCFTA Local 1845, plus delegate to the Greater Syracuse Area Labor Council. Unions and cooperatives are a natural mix.  I use my skills and experience to try and better local politics and create a dignified city for everyone too, as a Green Party candidate for City Council office.
2. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got into this work?

I have been connected to the credit union community my whole life, initially as a passenger – my family having an account at Mon Marine Credit Union (currently merged and operating as Frick Tri-Valley Credit Union) through my father’s employment on Monongahela Railroad, later my first professional job working for a state funded watersheds and rivers non-profit I became a member of the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union.  When I moved to Syracuse and joined Cooperative Federal Credit Union I was amazed at how a financial institution could function for social justice.  As I settled down in Syracuse I became more able to involve myself with the larger cooperatives movement that hadn’t been so easy to access in other places I lived from retail to housing to education.

3.What does solidarity economy mean to you?

Coordination and not competition.  Working as a community to determine needs and then implementing ways to fill those needs that creates a dignified life for everyone and every thing. 

4.What are the biggest obstacles or challenges you face in this work?

The feeling of scarcity among everyone in society due to unequal resource allocation, as well as lack of social security, leads to the state of competition and accumulation that prevents more of a cooperative culture from being implemented faster.

5.What gaps in your work do you think could be filled cooperatively?

This is one of the reasons we are working on the NYCN – to fill in gaps, identified by myself, and others on the team, but also by cooperative businesses in our working areas.  The goal is to continually expand the solidarity economy ecosystem to the point where it is possible to fill all gaps with employee ownership companies.

6.Why do you think it is important for cooperatives to help other cooperatives (particularly upstate and NYC cooperation)?

We’re a small family as of yet, comparatively.  Our work is to dispel the boot strap and superman myths.  We do that immensely by helping other cooperatives and being blatant about it.

7.What role, if any, do you think youth can or should play in your work?

Youth can and should be involved in every aspect of the solidarity economy ecosystem and movement. It’s just a matter of, like with any other endeavor, identifying their specific needs, interests, and the resources to support their involvement.  One example is the youth credit union branches that Cooperative Federal Credit Union has developed in three local Syracuse high schools.  Another example is that I’ve always wanted to work with various social service providers in my neighborhood to develop a youth cooperative lemonade stand in the summers.  The idea has received positive feedback, but I haven’t yet found time to kick-start it.

8.What is your ‘theory of change’?

It is local.  99.9% of us will have the most ability, to make the most change, at the local level.  Focus your work there.

9.What social media or news outlets do you follow?
Democracy Now! Syracuse Post-Standard. Grassroots Economic Organizing. Capital Pressroom, Capital Area’s Solidarity Notes, Syracuse Peace Council’s Peace Newsletter, Communities Magazine and the Federation of Intentional Communities, Permaculture Design Magazine. Crowdsourced articles through social media from New York Times, TruthDig, YES Magazine, Portside, In These Times, and others.
10.Where can we find more information about the work you do and are doing in the future?

Our website at https://newyorkcooperativenetwork.wordpress.com/ ;and a Google Group which has been inactive but I hope to re-energize for network wide communications at https://groups.google.com/d/forum/newyorkcooperative

For SBDC related information and programs/services, check out www.onondagasbdc.org and http://www.nyssbdc.org/index.aspx

I’m personally and politically on Facebook too.
11.What is the best way for people to get involved or support your work?
We have a fledgling Slack channel for the NYCN at https://nycooperativenetwork.slack.com if you are interested in the conversation surrounding planning and developing the organization.  For general interest communications, we have a facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/NYCooperativeNetwork/
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