The Center was inaugurated in December 2019 and, with funding support from One Foundation, it delivers educational programs, fellowships and collaborative action research in support of social, economic and environmental justice.
Director, Bradley Wilson, explains “there is an emphasis on learning through experience about how to live resiliently, working patiently, addressing the root causes of injustices and finding ways to work with others to build alternatives.”
“Community economies thinking has influenced what we take on and what we do.”
One of the Center’s first initiatives was FIRSTHAND Cooperative a fair trade and worker-owned coffee company that connects producers in the mountain communities of Nicaragua with consumers in the mountain communities of Appalachia.
Solidarity is enacted through a fair share guarantee which means that 20 per cent of the profits are directed to communities experiencing economic crisis. One of the recipients of funding is The Working World’s field office in Nicaragua, which has received over US$20,000 in five years to offset administrative costs and enable them to finance cooperative organizations in Nicaraguan communities.
Other initiatives include Turnrow Appalachian Farm Collective that works with family-owned and independent farms to connect their produce into larger markets. They have also worked closely with West Virginia Agrarian Commons, an agricultural land trust, and have an emerging relationship with Resolve Financial Services Coop, a consortium of accounting and finance professionals that has a focus on providing services to underserved communities.
These practical endeavours are complemented by educational initiatives such as an online Food and Race Reading Group, which most recently read Indigenous Food Sovereignty in the United States, edited by Devon A. Mihesuah and Elizabeth Hoover and with a Foreword by Winona LaDuke.
Other books that have been the focus of the reading group include Black Food Geographies by Ashanté M. Reese.
Another initiative of the Center is The Listening Project: Stories of Resilience in West Virginia, which is collecting stories of strength, struggle and solidarity as people in West Virginia navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic and health crises that has deeply unequally impacts on communities, families, women, and children in the region.
Underpinning the work of the Center is a commitment to a more just, democratic, ecologically sound, and caring society where people may live with dignity and have opportunities to develop the fullness of their potential and to share their gifts.