At WSCO, we seek to lift up the cultural practices of community ownership centered in BIPOC stories to inform the future of equitable development on the West Side.
In years past, we held the Action To Equity series (learn more here). This year, we welcome you to an ongoing learning space called Visions for Our Collective Future, which features free public workshops throughout 2023. Together, we’ll learn about solidarity economies, community land trusts, community ownership, and cooperative economic approaches to housing and economic development.
What is community ownership?
Community Ownership is about sharing power and control of land use decisions with our neighbors. It’s about getting together to meet our needs and to collectively provide choices that keeps the wealth generated on the West Side within our community and protects us from exclusionary development practices that have historically taken resources away from us and have harmed our collective wellbeing.
Session one, “The Grounding”
The first workshop in the series, “The Grounding, “ was held in October 2022 and featured keynote speaker Ricardo Levins Morales, a renowned activist and artist. Check out photos from the workshop here.
Session two, “A Deeper Dive”
What would it look like if renters organized to collectively own their building? What housing coop and land trust models can we learn from, both locally and nationally? What other visions for community ownership can we imagine in our neighborhood? How can this contribute to racial and economic justice in our neighborhood? The second workshop will take place in January 2023, and we’ll take a deeper dive into these questions while learning from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) cooperatives and community land trusts.
Special guests include Mikeya Griffin from the Rondo Community Land Trust, and Roberto de la Riva from InquilinXs UnidXs Por la Justicia (Renters United for Justice).
What are the economic and environmental ecosystems necessary to nurture cooperative practice and tenant owned economic models? What does community ownership do to protect us from displacement? What tools can we use to expand community ownership within our plans for equitable development? Our conversations in this series will speak to these questions so we can learn together.
Check our calendar for additional workshops coming up in 2023.
Pictured, above: WSCO Equitable Development Director Kai Andersen, left, speaking with artist and activist Ricardo Levins Morales at the first workshop in 2022.
How does the knowledge gained from this series provide a focus for our West Side 10 Year Community Plan?
One way to actualize change on the West Side from a community ownership lens involves acquiring properties and converting land and buildings. Removing these spaces from the speculative real estate market and into tenant-owned spaces can provide permanent, deeply affordable, and culturally dignified economic and housing opportunities. We work closely with West Side tenant leaders, community organizers, and partner organizations who provide the expertise to transform neglected properties into community-owned spaces.
Through collective success stories and sharing power locally, nationally, and internationally, WSCO is on a path towards understanding how community ownership can play an important role in rethinking equitable development on the West Side of Saint Paul. The long term goal of “Visions for Our Collective Future,” is to act on opportunities to expand collective on the West Side.
For example, we are looking at land uses along Robert Street from Plato Boulevard to César Chávez Street, including green spaces, housing, commercial, and investment properties. There are safety, environmental, and economic disinvestments that are negatively impacting livability for youth, elders, and all West Siders. We want to access underutilized land and vacant lots to transform land uses into more accessible, dignified, deeply affordable development opportunities that are rooted in democratic processes shaped by those most impacted by inequitable development.
The exploratory input that we’ll learn from “Visions for Our Collective Future,” will not only inform our Community 10 Year Plan, but it also will help us identify resources, sustain deep and meaningful relationships, and give us the wisdom necessary for equitable development to happen on the West Side. We believe what comes out of the West Side will also positively impact the Twin Cities region and the broader world around us in return.