Evergreen Cooperatives is a family of worker-owned cooperatives that includes the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and Green City Growers. Evergreen Cooperatives focuses on creating economic development within specific neighborhoods in Cleveland, making it their mission to build up the people and communities around them. As Cleveland Foundation’s President/CEO and Evergreen Board Chairman, Ronn Richard, says: “Our goal is equitable wealth creation at scale.”
Learn more about Evergreen Cooperatives and the
employees that work there in this video
Creating Jobs and Opportunities
The initiative was designed to create an economic breakthrough in Cleveland. Rather than a trickle-down strategy, it focuses on economic inclusion and building a local economy from the ground up. Rather than offering public subsidy to induce corporations to bring what are often low-wage jobs into the city, the Evergreen strategy calls for catalyzing new businesses, owned by their employees. Rather than concentrate on workforce training for employment opportunities that are largely unavailable to low-skill and low-income workers, the Evergreen Initiative first creates the jobs, and then recruits and trains local residents to fill them.
“We harvest lettuce here, and we kind of harvest better people. I’ve got a guy now that never had a job a day in his life. He lived in the streets. Works with us now, and now he’s my shipping manager. We harvested him into that type of employee. We’re not just growing lettuce here, we’re growing jobs.“
~ Ernest Graham, Harvest Manager
An Opportunity To Build Wealth
Giving ownership of the business was a critical first step in changing the lives of Evergreen’s employees—many of whom were formerly incarcerated. Evergreen is working to revitalize the communities and neighborhoods around them by investing in people who are often neglected a second chance. As Wynett Bryant, Manager of Culture and Wealth Building said, “society often rejects individuals based on their past.” Employee ownership provided a way to lift up the community around Cleveland by increasing asset ownership among individuals within the community. 90% of the business is owned by the employees. Over the course of a year, workers who come to Evergreen have an ownership stake in the business and share in the profits of the company.
Teaching Employees How The Business Generates Cash
The challenge was that many of those employees didn’t fully understand or appreciate how their organization made money and generated cash. As a way to solve this problem, Evergreen Cooperatives decided to embrace the principles of The Great Game of Business® (GGOB). With the help of coach Anne-Claire Broughton, they started teaching employees financial and business literacy skills as well as how to think and act like owners of the business. This helped to bridge the gap in the employees understanding of the business — shifting the mindset from just working for a business that provides an ownership stake, to understanding how to influence the performance of that business as a means to generate wealth for yourself.
These kinds of cultural changes have long-term positive results—including reduced turnover rate and creating a culture where employees feel invested in and valued. “Employees are beginning to understand the impact that their actions and behaviors have on the numbers,” says Wynette Bryant. “Behaviors and attitudes have taken a 180-degree turn. Employees are more engaged. They are not only showing that they understand, but also proving it with their involvement. We see the results of collaboration and communication. We see that we are all working toward a common goal. Everyone wants to win!”
Testimonials From The Employees
“The Great Game of Business is fun, challenging, and informational. It helps you as a team to strategize for improvement to succeeding your goals for improvement.”
~ Shrondra Hawkins, Receptionist ECLC
“I believe The Great Game of Business has been essential in building teamwork that is important for us to serve our customers. Employees are learning how important it is to help our company become a leader in the industry as well as the community.”
~ Dan Kesterson, Production Manager
“We all have roles to play so we work as a team. I have also invested in a small business and I applied the ‘cash is king’ slogan into my everyday financial practices.”
~ Ramone Williams, Production worker