There's a movement afoot to build a more equitable, democratic economy in the United States. It's a movement led by community-based activists who, each in their own way, are building new institutions to support social and economic justice, rooted in community-controlled land and enterprises. This movement has a name: it's called community wealth building.
Rochester’s Market Driven Community Cooperatives Corporation: A Feasibility Analysis & Implementation Plan
The City of Rochester's Office of Innovation, under the leadership of Mayor Lovely Warren, has been coordinating a project to develop worker-owned cooperative businesses as part of a comprehensive wealth building strategy for Rochester, New York.
In 2015 the City engaged The Democracy Collaborative, a group with extensive expertise from similar work in Cleveland Ohio in connection with the Evergreen Cooperatives and the Greater University Circle Initiative. The Democracy Collaborative completed a study in February 2016 that documented incredible potential for the project, a high degree of community support including local Anchor Institution buy-in, as well as several potential business niches for future worker-owned businesses. The report also includes an implementation plan to move the project forward in two additional phases, the first of which was approved to proceed by the Rochester City Council on March 22nd, 2016.
In her report for the Democracy Collaborative, Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale, Project Equity's Hilary Abell identified the conversion of successful existing businesses to democratic ownership as a key strategic path to a larger worker cooperative sector in the United States. Now, her colleague and Project Equity co-founder Alison Lingane, together with Shannon Rieger, provides a powerful collection of case studies aimed at helping owners, employees, and practitioners navigate the practical issues around worker cooperative conversions.
A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth
It was in 2005 that the highly regarded Monitor Institute report declared that the field of community foundations was “On the Brink of New Promise,” and in the decade since, there have been countless working groups and initiatives to introduce innovative approaches to the field. At the same time, largely beneath the radar, a small but growing group has begun pursuing the innovative path we explore here. Mostly in small steps—but sometimes in larger ways—they are adopting elements of what could emerge as a new anchor mission to deploy all resources to build community wealth.
Fostering resilient communities and building wealth in today’s local economies is necessary to achieve individual, regional, and national economic security. A community wealth building strategy employs a range of forms of community ownership and asset building strategies to build wealth in low-income communities. In so doing, community wealth building bolsters the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, expand the provision of public services, and ensure local economic stability.
Public interest in cooperatives has surged since the global financial crisis, as people cry out for an alternative to business-as-usual. In spite of their many benefits for individuals, businesses, and society, however, cooperatives are not well understood in the United States. The field of worker co-op development is just beginning to create the infrastructure and knowledge base needed to increase its scale and impact.
Democracy Collaborative Research Director Steve Dubb along with Executive Director Ted Howard and Research Associate Sarah McKinley contributed the chapter “Economic Democracy” to the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability, now available courtesy of Gale Publishing. They outline the history of the economic democracy movement, highlighting community wealth building strategies such as community development finance institutions and cooperatives.
The Democracy Collaborative's new white paper "The Anchor Dashboard" helps hospitals and universities measure the impact of their programs, initiatives, and economic activity on the well-being of low-income children, families, and communities. Made possible by support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, our report draws on over 75 in-depth interviews with leaders of anchor institutions, national nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and community organizations.
Download the report and learn more about our work to help anchors measure their impact on community wealth.
This new report from The Democracy Collaborative and the Responsible Endowments Coalition seeks to connect struggling communities to local institutional wealth through engaging student activism. The report profiles three administration-led initiatives and three student-led initiatives, as well as five potential future partnerships, where institutional investments are directed into local communities in a way that empowers low-income residents, develops small businesses, and generates sustainable economic development.