Dear Colleague,

As we look ahead to a new decade, it is apparent that our world has reached an inflection point. The old ways of operating simply do not work anymore and we face an uncertain and ever more challenging future. As The Democracy Collaborative’s (TDC) Director of European Programs Sarah McKinley remarked at the recent Meaning Conference in Brighton, England, “we’ve spent too long cleaning up the edges of a system that puts extraordinary power in the hands of a few.”
 
Next year marks the beginning of TDC’s third decade of creating a more equitable, sustainable, and democratic alternative to our current system. While there are undoubtedly still mountains left to climb, I believe that we are beginning to see the outlines of what Sarah calls a “revolution in ownership.” In her speech, Sarah highlights efforts in Cleveland, Ohio, Preston, England, and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota that are already underway to build a more democratic economy. Her remarks provide a powerful reminder of the urgent need for these types of transformational strategies. Watch the full video here.
 
Vice-President for Theory, Research and Policy Joe Guinan recently penned further exploration of these themes in The Case for Community Wealth Building, co-authored with Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of York Martin O’Neill. Highlighting the strategies behind efforts like the Preston Model, the book provides a vision for a more just and democratic economy, and outlines the tools that can get us there. Read more below. We also continue to see new innovations in community wealth building. For instance, a recent article from the Next System Project highlights the emerging “Kigoma Model” in north-western Tanzania, informed by dialogue between city officials in Kigoma and Preston. Read more here.
 
What strikes me about these developments across the globe is that it is clear we are, indeed, in the midst of an extraordinary transformation that is ushering in new political economies based on radically different values and visions. As the magnitude and scale of the economic and ecological crises we face grows, so too does the degree of innovation and bold action. From coalitions calling for public ownership of energy utilities in response to wildfires and corporate mismanagement, to some of the nation’s largest health systems rethinking their business practices in response to widening health disparities, there is increasing recognition that business as usual will simply note cut it. We cannot just clean up the edges.
 
In that spirit, The Democracy Collaborative has just published a special magazine issue to highlight this growing momentum around transformative solutions, and to bring to light these stories from the movement to build a democratic economy. Read more below. We are proud to support many of the efforts highlighted in the issue, from research, to policy development, to network building and technical assistance. I invite you to support The Democracy Collaborative’s work as we celebrate our twentieth anniversary in 2020. Your contribution will help us to continue to advance a vision for an economy grounded in racial equity, broad-based ownership, community control, and environmental sustainability (and, donations of $50 or more will receive our new TDC tote bag produced and screenprinted by two amazing worker cooperatives!) 

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Sincerely,
Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative
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TDC & CWB in the News

  • Carla Santos Skandier, co-manager of TDC’s climate and energy program, contributed an op-ed to Truthout discussing recent legislation in California that legalizes the creation of public banks in the state, making the case that public financial institutions can be a powerful tool to finance a just energy transition.
  • “[As] global capitalism faces an existential crisis, it is becoming clearer that it is employee-owned company structures that hold some of the key to a more sustainable and equitable economy,” writes Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President Marjorie Kelly in a piece for the Fabian Society. Marjorie discusses the need to transition to a more democratic economy and the employee owned enterprises that provide a pathway forward. 
  • In November, Representative Ilhan Omar introduced the Homes for All Act, which calls for a $1 trillion investment in public and permanently affordable housing. With a $200 billion “Community Control and Anti-Displacement Fund,” the legislation incorporates elements of the Homes Guarantee Plan put forward by People’s Action with contributions from Senior Policy Associate Peter Gowan. Read coverage in Next City.
  • Reuters recently published an article highlighting the work of the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) around affordable housing development, highlighting Bon Secours Mercy Health’s support of the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust in Richmond, Virginia. Next City also published an article on the recent announcement of a $700 million investment commitment from 14 health systems that are part of the HAN Network to address the upstream determinants of health.
  • Writing for Red Pepper, Senior Policy Associate Peter Gowan discusses the growing collaboration between activists and policymakers in the UK and the US, noting increased dialogue around the Green New Deal and worker-controlled ownership funds on both sides of the Atlantic.
  • The Labour Party recently unveiled a policy to deliver free broadband internet to all residents and businesses in the United Kingdom via a new, publicly owned provider. In openDemocracy Research Director Thomas Hanna discusses how experiences with local, publicly owned broadband networks in the US demonstrate that this could be a successful, popular, and transformative idea.
  • Fifty by Fifty published a forum reflecting on the end of employee ownership at New Belgium, featuring 14 contributions from across the movement for an employee owned economy. Read the series here

New from The Democracy Collaborative

System Change: Building the Democratic Economy

This first edition of System Change brings together stories from the growing movement to build a more democratic economy. The magazine showcases how The Democracy Collaborative has translated system-changing ideas into implementable policy solutions. From democratic public ownership of utilities and pharmaceuticals, to a “right-to-own” policy that would enable workers to buy a company before its sold, the policies put forward aim to broaden ownership and control over the economy. 

The Case for Community Wealth Building

Our broken economic model drives inequality and disempowerment, lining the pockets of corporations while extracting wealth from local communities. How can we reverse this? This new book, authored by Joe Guinan, TDC’s Vice-President for Theory, Research and Policy, and Martin O'Neill, Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of York, offers a pathway forward. Community Wealth Building is a framework for economic development that focuses on democratizing ownership and control by creating a web of collaborative institutions, from worker cooperatives to anchor institutions to community land trusts to public banks, that empower and enrich the many, not the few. Read more and order copies here.

Featured Video & Audio

New two-part podcast with co-op legal pioneer Clark Arrington

This two-episode segment of the Next System Podcast features Clark Arrington, a pioneer in the cooperative movement in both the US and Africa and a leader in the fight for Black economic power. Clark discusses his own trajectory within the cooperative movement, as well as developments in financing for worker cooperatives. Listen to Part One & Part Two.

Building a Democratic Economy: How Do We Create Prosperity for All?

Marjorie Kelly, Democracy Collaborative Executive Vice President, is joined by DC-area community wealth builders for a conversation at The Aspen Institute. Other speakers included Karla Bruce,
Chief Equity Officer of Fairfax County Government, Harold B. Pettigrew Jr, Executive Director of Wacif, and moderator Joyce Klein, Director of the Business Ownership Initiative at Aspen. 

Recommended Reads

Rural Development Hubs Report

This new report from the Community Strategies Group at the Aspen Institute introduces the idea of “Rural Development Hubs,” or place-based organizations working across sectors to build community wealth and increase local ownership and control. The report provides an overview of rural economic development policy to date, highlighting the need to address legacies of federal disinvestment in rural geographies, as well as current and historic racism and discrimination that perpetuate inequality. The report highlights best practices and lessons learned from 43 existing rural development Hubs, and puts forward recommendations to scale this approach and build inclusive and resilient rural economies. Read more here.

Digital Public Assets

“[Questions] of who decides how publicly-held data is used and for what ends have perhaps never been more important,” writes Rosie Collington in this new report for Common Wealth. The report puts forward a framework for “digital public assets,” or the registries, databases, and other information held by public bodies. Reimagining this data as a public asset opens questions related to democratic governance and ensuring that economic value produced from data is used to promote public good. Focused on the UK context, the report includes a proposal for “WeDecide.gov.uk,” which would provide a digital platform to determine priorities related to data collection and use. Read more here.

Featured Website

Athena

Athena is a new coalition of individuals and organizations working to challenge Amazon’s increasing power and to hold Amazon to account for its negative impact on communities, workers, and the environment. The website includes a call to action that outlines the need to “write new rules so that our economy puts people first, our public officials ensure that no corporation is above the law.” Learn more and join here.

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