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Students support worker-owned coop, gain hands-on experience

In a neighborhood near our university that was experiencing high rates of unemployment, Xavier University professors worked with a local organization, Interfaith Business Builders (IBB). One of IBB’s projects was a worker-owned cooperative coffee shop, Community Blend, that opened in May 2014 near our campus, which is in Cincinnati, OH. The Catholic bishops' Catholic Campaign for Human Development helped fund the shop's opening. Since then, we have continued to build on this relationship by providing  assistance to an important community effort, while also providing valuable hands-on experience to students. For example, as part of a capstone course for seniors studying communications, students created a strategic communications plan for the new business.  Sustainability professors also created a new capstone course that met in the community and integrated Community Blend workers into the course work. For their projects, students assisted cooperative initiatives, including Community Blend, with market research, understanding the customer base, and developing marketing strategies. This involvement provided opportunities for important classroom discussion about Catholic social teaching, race, class, African-American economic history, and local-global connections.