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Coalition for Women's Economic Development | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Coalition for Women's Economic Development

Historical Note:

The Coalition for Women's Economic Development (CWED) was conceived in early 1987 by a steering committee of women activists who were investigating ways to provide business development support for women. Beginning as a project of the Southern California Center for Nonprofit Management in January 1988, CWED was incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in October of that same year with the mission "to help low-income women achieve self-sufficiency through self-employment." With a focus on small-business owners, CWED was the first microenterprise development organization in Los Angeles and one of the first in the United States.

Utilizing funding from grants and donations, CWED offered Micro-Business Training Programs beginning in 1989 and started issuing small loans through its Solidarity Circle Lending Program in 1990. Using workbooks and class materials developed by staff, CWED's training curriculum expanded over the years and covered topics such as bookkeeping, business start-up and management, market research, and loan management. Beyond educating and providing access to capital, the group aimed to empower and improve the self-confidence of their participants.

The coalition also contributed to policy development surrounding street vending and home-based business ordinances, assisted communities in forming their own microloan programs, and set up relief funds for women-owned businesses that were affected by L.A.'s civil unrest in 1992. Together with other organizations, CWED helped to establish the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) in 1991, the California Association for Microenterprise Opportunity (CAMEO) in 1992, and the Self-Employment Learning Project (SELP) in 1992 which developed evaluation methods for monitoring the progress of microenterprise programs across the United States.

In December 1995, CWED's Board of Directors voted to close its programming operations. The management of their microloan portfolio continued through 1996 and in 1998, after 10 years of incorporation, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Development dissolved. The group reported that while in operation more than 7,000 women and men in the Los Angeles area had attended CWED's Business Orientation Workshop and more than 2,000 individuals had successfully completed one of the training or lending series. Between 1990 and 1995 the Coalition for Women's Economic Development disbursed more than $600,000 in loans to microentrepreneurs across Los Angeles.

Sources: Huemann, Emily, and Jean Wiley. The Challenge of Microenterprise: The CWED Story. Edited by Jan Breidenbach and Mari Riddle. Oakland, CA: National Economic Development & Law Center, 1999.
Note Author: Christine Hertzel

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