Columinate is proud to welcome Vernon Oakes as a new consultant. Vernon is a passionate advocate of the cooperative business model and brings a lifetime of diverse experiences to the Columinate network. Vernon has led marketing for a Fortune 500 company, coordinated the MBA program at Howard University, and ran a property management business for 27 years. Most recently, he is the founder and host of the national radio program, Everything Co-Op – a show dedicated to increasing awareness about co-ops and their power, particularly for marginalized communities, to respond to economic inequities among other issues.
Despite being a dedicated proponent of co-ops in all forms, Vernon didn’t know about co-ops until later in his career. “In all of my formal education – two master’s degrees and an undergraduate degree – I never heard of co-ops. I knew nothing about them! It wasn’t until I was running a property management business that I learned about [co-ops], “ shared Vernon. Once he did, there was no turning back. Vernon appreciates the opportunity and dignity that the cooperative business model affords its members. “Americans have a love affair with capitalism,” he explains. “But, co-ops stand in contrast to that individual model by focusing on the group. In the cooperative model, everyone rises when the tide rises. This is a great way for a lot of people to increase their wealth, dignity, and respect. I think it’s the answer for black, brown, and indigenous people.”
As President of the National Association of Housing Co-ops (NHAC), Vernon learned that most people – community members, local leaders, and even UN officials – didn’t know much about co-ops, especially housing co-ops. Recognizing co-ops had a marketing problem, Vernon established an initiative at NHAC and began his radio show, Everything Co-Op. As people became interested in the idea of co-ops, developing training and education for those interested was a natural next step for Vernon. “I love adult education. [The] students want the knowledge and can immediately apply what they learn to make great decisions in their everyday lives and businesses. Training and information is a principle of cooperation, and high-quality training is adult education in its best form. In a co-op that’s successful, there’s a lot of training that happens.”
As a Columinate consultant, Vernon is excited about using his experience and knowledge to build out training materials and resources for individuals looking to create or improve housing co-ops. “I’ve worked with [Columinate Manager] Mark Goehring in my capacity as a project management consultant for Common Good Management, and I’ve always thought Columinate had a lot of integrity,” explains Vernon. “I want to lead training for housing co-op members and their boards… We need to create a training curriculum [and resources] for housing co-ops within Columinate that mirrors the curriculum we have established for food co-ops.”
The cooperative model is not for everybody, recognizes Vernon. “But, for the people who love this model and have that passion, it’s a wonderful way to pull up everyone in a community. Now, you didn’t ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I’ll tell you. My passion and purpose: to promote and develop co-ops. Period.”
We think you’re in the right place, Vernon. Welcome to our community – we’re lucky to have you.
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