Gaining momentum through The Bunya Fund: Zane Alcorn’s experience

The Bunya Fund’s pivotal role in Earthworker Construction Cooperative's early success.

Interview by Antony McMullen
Photography by Photo by David Gilbertson on Unsplash

Recently Antony McMullen of Co-operative Bonds and Bunya Fund developer and Zane Alcorn the transformative impact a Bunya package of support had on the Earthworker Construction Cooperative (ECC).

Zane brings a wealth of experience to the table as a founding member of ECC, a worker-owned co-operative committed to high-quality construction and part of the Earthworker network of co-ops. A qualified carpenter with a bachelor's degree in architectural science and a Certificate IV in building and construction, Zane has been involved in grassroots activism for years. He's campaigned on climate and energy issues and has been a union member since 2015. His multifaceted background makes him an essential member of ECC, which aims to make a significant social impact.

The challenge of starting a co-operative

Like any start-up, ECC faced initial financial hurdles. Zane admitted that ECC was "running on the smell of an oily rag" with "a very tiny amount of working capital." Before success with The Bunya Fund, they considered various fundraising activities like crowdfunding campaigns, gigs and sausage sizzles to raise the essential starting capital, a process Zane believes could have taken years.

The Bunya Fund’s pivotal role

The Bunya Fund played a pivotal role in ECC's early success. Zane estimates that without the Fund, it "would have taken three to five years to build up to where we are now." The services and support to the value of of $15,000 enabled ECC to focus on setting up critical infrastructure rather than diverting their limited resources to raising money. In Zane's words, "The funding was just — I cannot overstate how useful it was to us."

"The funding was just — I cannot overstate how useful it was to us."
Zane Alcorn

Flexibility and responsiveness of the fund

What stood out in Zane's experience was the flexibility The Bunya Fund offered. Initially, ECC allocated part of the grant for a quality toolkit worth about $5,000. However, they soon realised that their immediate needs were different. After successful discussions with the Bunya team, ECC redirected the funds towards other crucial aspects like building a business website and purchasing a portable scaffold for safety in construction work.

This ability to adapt to ECC's evolving needs didn't just streamline their operations but enhanced worker safety. Zane emphasised that in the high-risk construction industry, equipment like a portable scaffold is not just a luxury but a critical need. "Work safety is so important," he added, emphasising that the flexibility of the The Bunya Fund allowed them to make essential purchases that they hadn't initially considered.

Additional Bunya benefits

Zane further illustrated how The Bunya Fund's community could offer more than just financial support. When ECC needed public liability insurance, Antony McMullen advised them to consult with Capricorn Mutual, a broker within the co-operative and mutual network (and member of the BCCM) that could offer a better deal. Following the advice, ECC secured the insurance for half the price they had initially been quoted, freeing up additional resources.

The value of The Bunya Fund

Zane's story highlights the transformative power of strategic philanthropic supports like those from The Bunya Fund. Not only did it accelerate ECC's operational setup, but it also offered them the flexibility to adapt and the community support to optimise resources. The Bunya Fund didn't just give them financial leeway; it gave them time, focus, and the ability to direct their energies where they mattered most. As Zane concluded, thanks to Bunya's "flexibility and responsiveness, we were able to really spend that grant money in the most effective way possible."

ECC workers on scaffolding with a banner reading Thank you Bunya Fund Coops helping coops, This is what solidarity looks like, with the ECC logo at the top and the Bunya Fund and BCCM logos at the bottom

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