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Alumna a Finalist in Forbes Competition
Heather Concannon (MDiv '13) co-founder of UU Community Cooperatives

The  Rev. Heather Concannon (MDiv '13), 27, and the Rev. Elizabeth Nguyen, 28, both Boston-area Unitarian Universalist ministers, are finalists in the prestigious Forbes Under 30 $1 Million Change the World Competition. As finalists, the Revs. Concannon and Nguyen are guaranteed at least $100,000; they compete this Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the two-day Forbes Under 30 Conference in Philadelphia against five other finalists. The grand prize winner receives a half-million dollars. More than 2,500 young adults from around the world entered the competition.

The competition, which was open to both for-profit and nonprofit companies, sought “entrepreneurs with disruptive and scalable ideas with the potential to change the world.” Rev. Nguyen and Rev. Concannon submitted their work with the Unitarian Universalist Community Cooperatives (UUCC), a Boston-based nonprofit that “grows cooperative housing communities of spiritual practice, sustainability, and social change.” UUCC maintains the Lucy Stone Cooperative in Roxbury and is a week away from closing on its second house, the Margaret Moseley Cooperative, also in Roxbury.

“Housing coops provide affordable housing and a built-in supportive community -- both things that are needed in our world today,” said Rev. Concannon. To ensure affordability, UUCC uses a group equity model, which means that UUCC houses are owned by the organization's members, who are also the residents. Any excess money from rent is used for upkeep or to further the organization's mission, ie buy more houses.

Since starting in 2011, the Lucy Stone Coop, an 11-bedroom Victorian near Dudley Square, has had a vacancy rate under 1 percent, with more than 80 people applying for the seven or eight openings. “We know the demand for this type of living arrangement far, far outstrips the supply,” said Rev. Nguyen. Residents of Lucy Stone range in age from 12 to 70.

UUCC also uses an innovative funding strategy to grow its organization. “We recognize that our community extends beyond the walls of this house,” said Nguyen. “Many people want to invest with their values but don't know how. We offer them a place to do that.” UUCC has raised more than $240,000 in low-interest investments from supporters -- many of whom are Unitarian Universalists or members of the coop community -- to purchase their second house.

Summing up her feelings on the award, Rev. Nguyen said: “More than a win for UUCC, this is a win for what we believe will change the world: cooperative housing, alternative institutions, values-based investing, and people of faith building strong communities of love and justice together. “

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