Washington, DC’s childcare market is eternally under-served, and the services that are being provided often fail to recognize unfulfilled needs of the community. While that could be said about a vast swathe of markets in this and other cities, especially when it comes to lower income and immigrant communities, I am writing about child care in this, our Capital, because I can attest to something being done about it.
A diverse group of certified child care providers and early child hood education/ development professionals in North West DC, mostly bilingual immigrants from all over South and Central America, have joined together to start their own child care and early childhood education service, choosing for the cooperative business model as the most suitable model for their entrepreneurial endeavor. When Republicans and Democrats alike speak of “Main Street” and the small business as the “engine of American growth,” this is what they are talking about. As a cooperative, the child care center will have a multi-layered and exponential positive impact on the community, increasing its economic and social welfare.
Individually, the members of the cooperative are limited in their ability to grow their business, by a lack of resources, inadequate certification or education, insufficient capacity (some have higher degrees in childhood education and run their own child cares, but are restricted by law in the number of children they can serve in their homes), while others are caught in low paying positions in existing businesses. Together, however, they have the capacity and can mobilize the resources to grow their business, combining their education, talents and experiences to offer a variety of services to suit any client’s need, and guaranteeing full ownership, more economic security, and a good wage for all the owners/ members.
Besides empowering the members of the coop themselves, leaders in their own circles, the business will also have a positive impact on the community. As a cooperative, the child care is owned by a range of community members, not by an outside entity or single business person, ensuring that the services provided are a reflection of that community’s real needs. Since the business is motivated not by profit but by the services it provides (as the members are the child care workers, the coop will provide good jobs and the ability to control the philosophy of the child care), quality and attention to the market’s needs will not be sacrificed in the name of extra profit.
The coop initiative, receiving training and technical assistance from the Latino Economic Development Corporation, is in the currently preforming a market analysis and constructing a business plan. The steering committee, nominated and elected by the entire group, will present their findings and propose a business plan at the first general meeting this April.