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Grant Highlight: CLSI Alumni, Iwona Matczuk Reflects on Program Experience


The Cooperative Leaders and Scholars Institute (CLSI) is an opportunity for co-op employees, board members, or post-secondary students to participate in a national cooperative conference and gain exposure to co-op industry and thought leaders, policymakers, and other key stakeholders. Applications for the 2020 cohort are due July 2, 2020.

2019 CLSI cohort member Iwona Matczuk, Social Enterprise Consultant, ICA Group, talked to The Buzz about the value of the program to her career.

Why were you interested in CLSI, and what were you hoping to take away from the experience?

I was invited to participate in the CLSI Scholarship program the same week that I was hired at the ICA Group as a Social Enterprise Consultant on the home care team. ICA works closely with CDF on the National Home Care Initiative, and I was excited to learn about trends and issues at a significant industry event and to deepen my understanding of the cooperative model.

What were your actual takeaways, and have they been helpful to you since?

The CLSI program allowed me to attend the IMPACT Conference, learn directly from faculty at St. Mary's University, and network with other cooperators. I built essential relationships with key stakeholders and learned about best practices and innovations in the cooperative field. The CLSI program helped me learn about the nuances and flexibility of the cooperative model. A housing cooperative, grocery cooperative, credit union, worker-owned firm, and purchasing cooperative can all have similar missions, but with unique strategies and operations—developing a comprehensive understanding of the cooperative mission has helped me to be more creative in my work.

What are you up to post CLSI?

Here at the ICA Group, we are currently working to help guide our home care cooperatives through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Home care workers are on the front lines of the crisis, taking care of our country's most vulnerable populations and keeping them safe at home. We're working diligently to identify economic relief opportunities in the form of grants and loans, connecting coops to opportunities for sourcing PPE, and staying up-to-date with emerging news that can affect our hard-working cooperative caregivers.

We are additionally continuing to prove the cooperative difference in home care. In conjunction with our annual conference, monthly peer-exchange calls, and direct technical assistance to home care cooperatives, our 2019 Home Care Benchmarking Survey demonstrated that home care cooperatives grossly outperform the larger industry with a 38% turnover rate compared to the industry's 82%. The broader home care industry is highly regulated and quickly consolidating, leaving caregivers and clients with little to no power over rates, wages, and care plans. The ICA home care team is actively working to combat this growing trend by promoting the conversion of home care agencies to the employee ownership model. This maintains an agency owner's legacy, keeps jobs in the community, and provides better care to a community's most vulnerable populations. Anyone interested in learning more about the employee ownership model can contact me at imatczuk@icagroup.org.

What advice would you give to prospective CLSI'ers?

Apply! I was genuinely amazed to learn about the myriad of ways that people are working to strengthen the cooperative sector and to meet scholars with different backgrounds and involvement in the cooperative field. Meeting a cohort of peers at a conference means that there is always a friendly face in whichever room you enter. That's personally my favorite way to experience a large multi-industry conference!

CLSI will be held on October 5 - 9, 2020 in Washington DC. All applications must include a letter of recommendation. Contact Greg Irving for more information, or to sponsor a participant.

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