Community Wealth Blog

Starting next month, you could have some Cleveland winter lettuce with that sandwich.

That's when Green City Growers Cooperative, a worker-owned business, expects to harvest its first crops from one of the largest urban greenhouses in the country, a 3 1/4-acre hydroponic operation off East 55th Street in the city's Central neighborhood.

A sample assessment of coverage between January and November of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal found ten times more references to caviar than to employee-owned firms, a growing sector of the economy that involves more than $800 billion in assets and 10 million employee-owners—around three million more individuals than are members of unions in the private sector.

While the two major party presidential candidates had many differences, both agreed on the primacy of free enterprise.  Mitt Romney in his speech six weeks ago to the Clinton Global Initiative said, “Free enterprise has done more to bless humanity than any other economic system.” For his part, President Obama, remarked in his closing statement at the second presidential debate, “I believe that the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known.”

Earlier this month, Ira Harkavy and Rita Axelroth Hodges, of the Netter Center of Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, released a Progressive Policy Institute paper calling for one type of anchor institution - universities and colleges - to contribute more to the public good. 

The work of the Cleveland Foundation as a leader of the groundbreaking Evergreen Cooperatives initiative was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The new HUD Secretary's Award for Community Foundations, created in partnership with the Council on Foundations, was created to honor the important work being done across the country as foundations and the public sector find innovative strategies to build a more inclusive and sustainable society.

The OFN Conference provides a platform for CDFI practitioners, board members, funders, investors and policymakers from around the country to get together to learn, share, inspire, and be inspired. Over three and a half days, attendees network, discover successful expansion strategies, learn about innovations in emerging financing sectors, and share the latest financial resources.

An exciting movement towards new cooperative business models and community wealth building strategies is gaining momentum and recognition, and there is a veritable bumper crop of recent documentary films testifying to this new interest in the new economy.  As communities throughout the country innovate and cooperative businesses develop and flourish despite a struggling economy, these films offer a compelling portrait of an alternative vision.

On July 23rd, 2012, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced two bills to support the expansion of employee owned businesses in the US.  The underlying rationale behind the legislation focuses on the increased productivity and stability of businesses in which employees are also owners.  By helping employee ownership and participation in businesses to become more widespread across the United States, the two bills would help preserve jobs and build a stronger economy.

The newly revised PBS documentary “Fixing the Future” by David Brancaccio is being released in theaters later this month. Along with many other wealth building initiatives from around the country, the Evergreen Cooperatives are also profiled. We hope you will be able to attend one of the screenings that will be held in hundreds of cities across the country on July 18th and 19th.

The University of Chicago’s Class of 2012’s gift was truly an investment in the community; after negotiating with administration officials in February about the University’s investment practices, students convinced the University to shift $1 million in deposits to four community banks. Each bank will receive the FDIC insured maximum deposit of $250,000.

In the second installment of the “America’s Tomorrow: Equity in a Changing Nation” series, PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell interviews Ted Howard, executive director of the Democracy Collaborative.  The series is dedicated to “exploring America’s future, the challenges we face, and the people who are making a difference ... [featuring] some of the nation’s most exciting leaders doing their part to blaze the path towards equity.”

Both Louisiana and South Carolina passed benefit corporation legislation in June 2012, becoming the eight and ninth states in the nation to do so, respectively. Perhaps more important to this growing trend is that both states are the first states in the South to do so, significantly expanding the geographic diversity of this movement and illustrating the broad appeal this new type of corporation is having.