The news these days is filled with stories about the great challenges facing our economic system: wealth inequality, record levels of poverty, stagnant incomes, persistent unemployment and the erosion of America’s middle class. There is a growing sense in the country - from the front pages of our newspapers to the debates in the halls of Congress and the encampments of Occupy Wall Street - that something is fundamentally broken, and that old solutions can no longer carry the day.
For the past decade, The Democracy Collaborative has worked to develop a practical alternative to the current system, one capable of producing greater benefit for our country’s workers, families, and communities. Our commitment to systemic change expresses itself in many ways:
- In a just published article in Dissent magazine, Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz argues that the current political deadlock in the face of stagnation and financial crisis may be setting the stage for something unexpected: a thoroughgoing long-term "evolutionary reconstruction" of the American economic system.
- In Cleveland, Ohio, the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative continues to expand its network of cooperative businesses with the formal groundbreaking on October 17 of Green City Growers. Situated on 10 acres of land in downtown Cleveland, the greenhouse will produce more than 3 millions heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of fresh herbs each year, and will employ 35 worker-owners. (Download the Green City Growers brochure here).
- For a broader look at Evergreen’s wealth building strategy and business model, see the new report by the Institute for Sustainable Communities.
- On December 15, The Democracy Collaborative will lead a day-long training on community wealth building at the NeighborWorks America Training Institute in Washington, DC. For those of you participating in the PolicyLink Equity Summit 2011 in Detroit next month, Medrick Addison of the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and I are presenting on a panel on local job creation strategies on the afternoon of November 9 at 2:00 p.m. We hope to see you there.
As always, we have added dozens of new links, articles, reports, and other materials to the site. Look for this symbol *NEW* to find the most recent additions. And don't forget to view our regularly updated C-W Blog. You can also follow new developments on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative
NEW & RECOMMENDED:
American Sustainable Business Council Advances Policy Solutions and Makes the Business Case for a Sustainable Economy
In Creating Jobs and Building a Sustainable Economy, the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) outlines a strategic framework and policy agenda that aims to build a healthy and sustainable economy. Elements of this agenda include support for federal legislation that would promote development of cooperative networks like Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives, state legislation to create state banks on the model of the Bank of North Dakota, as well as other measures that would promote domestic manufacturing, clean technology, sustainable business, and health care.
Strong Cultures of Employee Engagement Produce Business Success
In Employees Matter: Maximizing Company Value Through Workforce Engagement, Anne Claire Broughton of the community development venture capital fund, SJF, looks at ten strategies pursued by 24 profiled companies for increasing employee engagement in the areas of human resources practices, culture formation and broad-based involvement, and ownership. The report also examines the business results of companies pursuing these strategies, and how to scale up employee engagement with company growth.
Cuyahoga County Land Bank Charts Innovative Direction
With the number of nuisance properties far exceeding the ability of the city of Cleveland to demolish them, the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation (CCLRC) was founded in in 2009 to address urban blight. Since then, the land bank has acquired more than 1,000 properties. Cleveland State Professor Dennis Keating “embedded” himself with the staff of CCLRC to produce Cuyahoga Land Bank, The Beginning, The Present, and Beyond, which offers a blueprint of how the land trust formed and expanded, its structure and internal operations, its collaboration with Fannie Mae and HUD, and more.
Bottom-Up Approaches Address Economic System Failure
Released just months before the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged throughout nation, How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule provides historical perspective, critical analysis, visionary thinking, and practical steps for Americans to begin addressing the economic challenges and opportunities of the next century. From reconstructing the banking system through community-based financial institutions and reorganizing the Federal Reserve, to creating State Partnership Banks and a Federal Recovery and Reconstruction Bank, this paper by David Korten offers real-world strategies that would create integrity in the financial system.
IN THE NEWS:
Federal Asset-Building Policies Need to Offer More Opportunities for Low- and Moderate-Income Americans
Primarily through tax credits, the federal government subsidizes Americans’ savings to the tune of $519 billion. However, according to The Asset Report 2011, An Assessment of Federal Policies and Proposals to Promote Asset-Building Opportunities, these benefits primarily subsidize the savings of upper class Americans, while the poor receive only limited benefits. This paper by Reid Cramer and Rachel Black of the New America Foundation outlines a set of policies to promote wealth building for all Americans, especially those with lower incomes and fewer resources.
Ohio’s Business Tax Subsidies Undermine Smart Growth
This study of Good Jobs First examines how economic development subsidies affect land use patterns in Ohio. Paid to Sprawl: Subsidized Job Flight from Cleveland to Cincinnati analyzes how tax breaks assisted 164 small- and medium-sized businesses with an estimated 14,500 employees to relocate within metro Cleveland and Cincinnati, shifting jobs away from areas with higher rates of poverty and people of color to areas that are wealthier and less racially diverse. The report also highlights policy alternatives that could end this pattern.
Rust Belt Cities Develop Innovative Revitalization Strategies
Population loss in many cities in what was once the U.S. industrial heartland is a challenge that current urban policy is often ill-suited to address. Drawing on examples from from Youngstown, OH; Baltimore, Cleveland, and Detroit, Reinventing America’s Legacy Cities, Strategies for Cities Losing Population, identifies creative land use, financing, and communities strategies to improve conditions in America’s “Rust Belt” cities.
Rural Communities Benefit from Impact Investing
Impact investing aspires to benefit communities and the environment while providing reliable returns to investors. In Impact Investing for Rural Wealth Creation, Marjorie Kelly and Jessica Norwood look at the big picture of socially-responsible investing. The authors discuss targeted investments to mission-driven businesses by investors such as foundations and community development financial institutions (CDFIs). They also suggest how to improve relationships between impact investors and rural enterprises.
Study Puts Information to Work for the Green Economy
Sizing the Clean Economy, A National and Regional Green Jobs Assessment examines green job development in every U.S. county from 2003 to 2010. It identifies clean economy companies and establishments, measures and tracks the clean economy in metropolitan areas, and offers strategies such as improving market access to catalyze stronger demand for goods and services; addressing financing gaps; accelerating technological development; and promoting regional, “bottom up” green jobs development.
C-W INTERVIEWS WITH COMMUNITY BUILDERS:
Interviews with Community Wealth Builders
In this edition, Carla Javits, President of the San Francisco-based social enterprise accelerator REDF, discusses the impact of REDF’s national Social Innovation Fund award, the organization’s efforts to expand its scale and begin to operate throughout California, and the history and present state of the social enterprise movement in this wide-ranging Community-Wealth.org interview.
The twenty-fifth in our continuing series of profiles of Community Wealth Cities: Columbus, Ohio
Our newest community wealth building city, Columbus, Ohio, is home to a number of innovative community wealth building efforts, including a large network of community development corporations, innovative university-community partnerships, and employee-owned companies.
North American Co-op Educators Plan for International Year of Cooperatives
The Association of Cooperative Educators, an association of co-op educators in Canada, the United States, and Puerto Rico, gathered in Winnipeg, Manitoba from July 27 through July 29 to examine new forms of cooperative enterprise, with an eye towards the United Nations-designation of 2012 as the International Year of the Cooperative, only the second time in UN history that such a designation has been bestowed upon an economic model.
Worker Co-op Conference Addresses Challenges of Growth
More than 200 worker co-op member-owners and technical assistance providers came together for the fifth biennial conference of the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy, held in Baltimore, Maryland from July 8th through July 10th. The conference, which attracted participants from across the eastern United States, sought to address some of the new challenges that are arising from the worker co-op movement’s growing prominence and diversity.
The Co-operative News - The Global News Hub
In September, The Co-operative News celebrated it’s 140th year of continuous publication, making it the oldest Co-operative newspaper in the world. Their multi-lingual website compiles news and information from around the world as it pertains to co-ops, societal issues, and local economies. With daily updates, a global view, and multi-media resources, www.thenews.coop is an easily-navigable aggregation of co-op-related news.
The Curriculum on Cooperatives for Graduate Schools
The Curriculum on Cooperatives is designed for students in professional graduate schools (though the material could easily be adapted to other venues) as well as educators. This site includes an overview of cooperatives, differentiates them from other types of organizations, gives students tools to find jobs with cooperatives, and provides a brief treatment of how to start a cooperative with other cooperators.
Wealth Creation in Rural Communities
Wealth Creation in Rural Communities is a joint effort of Yellow Wood Associates and the Rural Policy Research Institute’s Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, devoted to the improvement of rural livelihoods by building community wealth. This site features examples of sustainable rural wealth projects in action, news and conferences regarding rural wealth creation, the principles of the Wealth Creation approach, and links to additional tools and resources.
Incorporated in 1995, Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment is a non-profit group that was formed to redevelop and improve the low-income communities around Ohio State University. Supported by a $28 million investment from Ohio State University’s endowment, they have developed the South Campus Gateway, a revitalized neighborhood in a low-income area under Columbus’ Empowerment Zone, which has helped to create 700 jobs, rehabilitate more than 1,000 units of subsidized housing, and develop a retail district with 35 businesses and 88,000 square feet of office space.