Dear Colleague,

Welcome to our May 2016 newsletter. This spring, The Democracy Collaborative catalyzed more than 30 teach-ins on college campuses across the country. Next System Project teach-ins were recently held at the University of Washington Seattle, the University of California Santa Barbara, and the University of Texas-Arlington. The history of teach-ins and their role in igniting conversations about systemic alternatives was discussed in a Truthout op-ed, written by Next System Project Co-Chair and Democracy Collaborative Co-Founder Gar Alperovitz and Next System Project Director of Special Initiatives Ben Manski. Additionally, Acronym TV and Counterpoint Radio featured interviews with Next System Project Teach-In Coordinator Dana Brown.

The Next System Project also recently announced a national essay competition, calling for proposals on systemic alternatives. Winning essays by college undergraduates, graduate students and non-students are eligible for $5,000 prizes.

In light of President Obama's upcoming visit to Hiroshima, Japan, Democracy Collaborative Co-founder and author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb Gar Alperovitz contributed an article to Salon that unravels the myths behind the United States' decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.

Our staff continue to expand the national conversation about community wealth building and system change at the local level. The work of Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly was highlighted in a Guardian article on incorporating democratic ownership into the design of financial institutions. Manager for Healthcare Engagement David Zuckerman discussed the role health systems can play in addressing inequality in Catholic Health Progress. In The Nation, Next System Project Co-Chair Gus Speth and MIT's J. Phillip Thompson noted the current opportunity to align civil rights and environmental movements to create deep systemic transformation. And Director of Strategy Development and Operations Jessica Bonanno gave a keynote address on community wealth building at the Poughkeepsie Community Wealth-Building Summit in Poughkeepsie, New York.

There have also been a number of exciting developments in the field of worker ownership. Our friends at the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, recently announced that this fall they will launch a worker-owned greenhouse that will provide organic produce to local anchor institutions. Next City published an article about Rochester, New York’s Market Driven Community Cooperatives Initiative, championed by Mayor Lovely Warren. Yes! Magazine published Communications Associate Michelle Stearn’s article on Coopify, a mobile application to scale worker cooperatives and connect low-income workers to the “digital sharing economy.” And one of our partners, the Northwest Area Foundation (NWAF), recently announced that it has invested in Noribachi— a Los Angeles based social enterprise that manufactures custom LED lighting—to help scale their efforts around shared ownership and job creation for low-income community members.

Ted Howard
President & Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative

New from The Democracy Collaborative

Second set of proposals outlining Systemic alternatives

The Next System Project released its second set of papers in the “New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals” series, edited by Co-Chair Gus Speth. “Individually and collectively, these papers challenge the deadly notion that nothing can be done…,” Speth states. Alternative system models explored in the most recent set include the cooperative solidarity commonwealth model, outlined by Jessica Gordon Nembhard; the civic economy model, described by Marvin Brown; the democratic eco-socialist model, detailed by Hans Baer; and the communing model, explained by David Bollier.
Volume 2 of "New Systems: Possibilities & Proposals"

Recommended Videos

What is a participatory workplace? Adapted from the work of Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert

Watch our new animation on participatory workplaces, a key component of the Participatory Economics proposal highlighted in our New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals series.

The Role of Business in Multi-Sector Obesity Solutions: Working Together for Positive Change

Watch Manager of Healthcare Engagement David Zuckerman’s presentation at the National Academy of Sciences’ event The Role of Business in Multi-Sector Obesity Solutions


Recommended Reads

Surdna Foundation Helps Prove the Concept of Worker Ownership

“How can we create more jobs?” asks Philip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation in Ours to Own. The report’s author Sanjay Pinto, researcher of social inequality, social policy, and labor organization, begins to answer this question by highlighting the opportunities offered by worker cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). He describes the extent to which employee-owned companies have fostered wealth building, facilitated greater participation from women and people of color, and increased organizational efficiency. Pinto also offers strategies to scale these efforts and describes how government, philanthropy, incubators, and community can work to build the necessary supportive infrastructure for employee-ownership models.

Cities Build Diverse Commercial Landscapes

Rapidly increasing commercial real estate prices and a dwindling supply of spaces suitable for small format stores are threatening the viability of independent businesses around the country. However, this new report from the Institute for Local Self Reliance reveals that a number of cities are working to combat these challenges by developing new policies to strengthen their independent business sectors and achieve priorities such as job creation and emission reduction. Notable strategies include expanding community ownership of commercial buildings and preferences for locally-owned businesses in spaces leased out or financed by city government. Cities have also used business diversity ordinances and property tax abatements to foster inclusivity. 

Catalyzing Action to Create Health

While the bio-medical definition of health focuses on the absence of disease, when asked what makes them feel healthy, communities often identify many other factors ranging from financial security to nourishing relationships. This new report from the Creating Health Collaborative, a national community of practitioners, puts forth principles for “creating health beyond healthcare” and identifies key drivers shifting the field. Notable principles include embracing complexity, measuring what matters, acknowledging power imbalances, and sustainability. The report is drawn from the Creating Health Collaborative’s July 2015 convening. 

Coordinating Community Health and Housing

This new brief from National Housing Conference explores how affordable housing and community development organizations can partner with healthcare anchors to achieve both health and community development goals. The authors describe collaborations around the country which have helped create ageing-in-place programs for low-income seniors, public housing renovations, and employer assisted housing programs. Examining community health needs assessments (CHNA) is identified as the first step for organizations looking to pursue partnerships with nonprofit hospitals. 


From Our Blog

State Legislatures Attacking Community Wealth Building

Our President Ted Howard and Communications Director John Duda write about how municipal policies for inclusive local hiring shouldn’t be illegal, drawing on several examples of pushback from city governments as community organizations fight for policies that work toward equality.

Can We Build a Movement for Structural Economic Change? We Must

Our Director of Special Projects Steve Dubb describes the need to link community economic development and the new economy movement in this article originally published on the Shelterforce Rooflines blog.


Upcoming Events

ESOP Association Annual Conference & Awards Ceremony
Thursday, May 19, 2016 to 
Friday, May 20, 2016
Washington, DC
The American Public Power Association (APPA) National Conference
Friday, June 10, 2016 to 
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Phoenix, AZ
See all events

Featured Websites

Your Economy
Launched on May 1, 2016 by the University of Wisconsin-Extension, (YE) is an online tool that allows users to track businesses at the community and state level. Using business identifier numbers, YE can track business activity from 1995 to 2013, allowing users to look at trends in their own communities. Learn more at

Rising Foundations
The Rising Foundations’ mission is to break the cycle of black male incarceration in New Orleans, Louisiana. The foundation focuses on increasing access to housing, employment, and financial services, and has plans to incubate worker-owned construction firms to provide job training and pathways for homeownership. The foundation recently acquired its first property, which will be renovated to provide transitional housing for formerly incarcerated adults. Learn more at
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