Dear Colleague, 

2017 was a challenging year for this nation. It was a year of natural disasters and white supremacy on the march, a year in which much of our federal infrastructure for the common good was targeted, rolled back, or destroyed outright, a year in which our most vulnerable communities saw their suffering deepened and their fears multiplied.
In the face of such systemic failures our mission here at The Democracy Collaborative has never been more clear. We must work for the kind of systemic change that addresses the root causes behind the catastrophes making the headlines—and the demand for these kind of solutions is growing by leaps and bounds. Earlier this month, for instance, at the second official convening of our Healthcare Anchor Network in Chicago, I witnessed how our work around hospitals building community wealth, which was once just a good idea in the pages of our reports, is now the driving frame for a national collaboration of over 30 hospitals and health systems, collectively employing well over a million people. The month before, I visited the UK, where our work alongside the worker-owners of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland ignited the imagination of key policymakers and stakeholders in the city of Preston—leading to the development of a new model for local economic prosperity that is breaking through into both the national press and the policy platform of what is likely to be the next Labour Party-led government.
Meanwhile, our team at the Next System Project has been working to kickstart a new international network on the role banking could play in the face of the climate crisis, outlining new strategies for energy democracy, and exploring system-level interventions to wind down the fossil fuel industry with key players in the climate movement, among many other initiatives. Also in 2017, our Fifty by Fifty team continued to assemble a national movement to dramatically accelerate and scale the transition to employee ownership. Our advisory team worked with local stakeholders in Rochester, Miami, Houston, Tacoma, and elsewhere to advance community wealth building. Simultaneously, our higher education work grew from a pathbreaking cohort of 6 universities piloting key metrics on community impact to a growing national-level collaboration with the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities. Our co-founder Gar Alperovitz released a new handbook on systemic change and we distributed 4,000 copies to reading groups around the country. We also continued to facilitate collaborative networks of community wealth builders, including with the Native-led organizations in our Learning/Action Lab and a national circle of engaged community foundations. On top of all this, we published numerous reports from key system change thought leaders and engaged practitioners, established our first European outpost, launched a new website and podcast, and grew our team of committed and talented staff and board members.

This acceleration and deepening impact of our work in 2017 testifies to the urgency of our mission: if anything gives me hope in these difficult times, it is the degree to which system-changing visions and alternatives grounded in a democratic economy are moving from the margins to the vital center of a growing national and international conversation. With your support we will be able to continue to play a key role in this growing movement.

Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative

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Community Wealth Building in the News

  • Partnerships between anchor institutions and local communities are highlighted prominently in the recently published Fourth Regional Plan from the Regional Planning Association. The plan recommends action in many areas of concern to The Democracy Collaborative: local hiring and workforce development, inclusive and local purchasing, and place-based impact investing. 
  •, a respected resource for real estate professionals, recently published an article highlighting the benefits of cooperative housing. The profiled property was converted from rental units to a limited equity co-op, allowing tenants to ensure affordability for the long term.
  • The Next System Project published an article on the role that health systems and hospitals can play in catalyzing investment in cooperative, renewable energy systems, and the benefits this can have on community health and well-being.
  • Next City published an article highlighting the work of PUSH Buffalo to drive reinvestment without displacement in Buffalo, New York, through the development of a community land trust.

2017 Highlights from The Democracy Collaborative

Featured Video & Audio 

On this episode of the Next System Podcast, Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice and the co-director of Caring Across Generations, discusses the future of care work and the intersections between caring, gender, and labor rights. Listen here
Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President Marjorie Kelly was interviewed on Rootstock Radio about alternative models of ownership and strategies to build a more generative economy. Listen here.

Recommended Reads

Partnering to Scale the Impact of Community Economic Development

This new book by community development leaders Robert Zdenek and Dee Walsh describes how the field of community development has evolved over the past 50 years, highlighting how organizations can build and grow their impact through strategic partnerships. The book features 7 case studies from across the sector, outlining how focusing on the core competencies of each organization can drive successful collaborations. Purchase the book here.


The Workers to Owners 2017 Annual Impact Report

Published by the Democracy at Work Institute, this new report discusses the accomplishments of the first year of the Workers to Owners Collaborative, launched in 2016 to catalyze business conversions to cooperative ownership. Participating organizations collectively created 215 opportunities for new worker-owners and facilitated the transfer of over $8 million in business assets from retiring owners to employees. Read more here.

Featured Website

EPI Preemption Map

A project of the Economic Policy Institute, this new map visualizes state legislative efforts to strike down local provisions to protect workers’ rights, such as paid leave, minimum wage provisions, and fair scheduling. The interactive map keeps track of the growing use of these preemption laws, currently in effect in 26 states. Find out more


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