Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo is passionate about cooperatives as a community economic development tool and lifestyle strategy. She was a founding board member of the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), where she served for nine years. While on the USFWC board, Ajowa was the first chair of the Democracy at Work Institute, a national nonprofit trade association for worker cooperatives, and an USFWC project. She was trained as a worker cooperative developer for the Democracy at Work Network, and as part of her internship, served as a board member and cooperative educator of Ujamaa Collective in Pittsburgh. While a part of USFWC, Ajowa served as a long-time board member, secretary, historian and adviser of the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, a network of worker cooperatives and democratic ESOPs (employee-owned businesses) in the eastern and southern U.S.
A founding member of the Ella Jo Baker Intentional Community Cooperative for Community Activists in DC, she served as Treasurer and chair of the Finance Committee for 8 years. She was instrumental in obtaining representation of the co-op by the American University Washington School of Law’s Community Economic and Equity Development Law Clinic which handled the co-op’s closing and guided the development of the housing cooperative through many years.
Ajowa has also served on the boards of the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) and the NASCO Development Services, both of which help to develop cooperative housing on college campuses. A former journalist with the Los Angeles Times and The Miami Herald, Ajowa has been a co-editor since 2005 of Grassroots Economic Organizing, an online publication that advocates for and catalyzes cooperatives and the solidarity economy. In 2011, Ajowa traveled to Spain for a week-long seminar and tour of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation.
In 2016, she toured and met with Cuba’s worker cooperatives with the Center for Global Justice.
In 2022, Ajowa served as one of three researchers for the Cooperative Development Foundation’s inaugural “Unsung Heroes” program. This program was designed to recognize unacknowledged past cooperative leaders for induction into the Cooperative Hall of Fame. Her research of Ella Josephine Baker’s cooperative roots resulted in Baker being inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame for her work helping to start and lead the Young Negroes Cooperative League in the 1930s, and her 45 years of subsequent cooperative organizing, including during her civil rights work.
Ajowa earned a Master of Science degree in Community Economic Development and an MBA from SouthernNew Hampshire University. Currently, Ajowa is a master’s degree candidate in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health in Largo, MD. She plans to start a functional nutrition practice, research and write articles for popular nutritional education, and to organize community health cooperatives to improve the health of African Americans and other populations in poor and marginalized communities.
Ajowa enjoys bringing together people to discuss the many ways that cooperatives can serve us.