Dear Colleague,

Increasingly, people around the country and the world are realizing that the series of intersecting crises we face are not by chance, but by design. From staggering wealth inequality, to the looming threat of climate change and irreversible damage to our ecosystem, to surging xenophobia, racism, and authoritarianism, these crises are generated by an economy structured to concentrate ownership and power. And yet, many of the solutions being put forward focus on merely regulating or reforming the existing institutions that make up this extractive economy. The time has passed for simply tinkering at the edges of this system. Instead, we need to develop the architecture of a more democratic and just economy, and we need to do it fast.
In this essay for the Transnational Institute, Executive Vice President and Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly expands on this idea, and makes the case that to actually address the crises we face, must focus on displacing the dominant form of enterprise in our current economy: the profit-maximizing, shareholder-controlled corporation. Instead of this “monoculture of design,” we need forms of enterprise that shift ownership and power to workers and communities. The building blocks of this next generation of enterprise are already emerging, seen in developments like the growth of worker ownership and campaigns for re-municipalization across the globe. Our task at hand is to continue to scale these approaches while always innovating new models.  
To that end, I am excited to announce the launch of a new project in partnership with the UK-based think tank Common Wealth, focused on advancing forms of democratic public ownership in critical sectors of our economy. The research will explore the areas of digital infrastructure; data and platforms; intellectual property and R&D; and land and natural resources, pulling together policy playbooks and legal briefings for both the US and UK in each area. Watch the launch video here and read more about the project below.
We have also launched a new collaboration with Cooperative Energy Futures focused on leveraging the Green New Deal to expand energy democracy. The series will bring together policy proposals that can ensure public investment in climate resiliency benefits communities, not corporate interests. By focusing on advancing energy democracy, the Green New Deal can help expand access, ownership, and control over the economy. We recently published the first set of proposals, which include the creation of a Community Ownership Power Administration, debt cancellation for rural cooperatives, and the development of a Green Investment Bank. Read more here.
Another critical element of our work is rewiring economic development so that the flow of resources benefits local residents, not corporate bottom lines. Part of this strategy is working with anchor institutions to leverage their core business practices to build community wealth and keep resources circulating locally. Our new Anchor Mission Communications Toolkit brings together best practices for advancing the anchor approach and tools for putting forward a new narrative around what is possible. Read more below. 
Lastly, I am excited to share the launch of our newly redesigned website. I invite you to explore the webpages and learn more about The Democracy Collaborative’s different bodies of work.

Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative

TDC & CWB in the News

  • Bloomberg Businessweek recently published an article on the growth of worker ownership, noting that co-op conversions are projected to become more common as baby boomers retire.
  • The Fifty by Fifty blog continues to highlight innovative developments in the field of employee ownership: the blog recently featured an article on the launch of Brightly®, a cleaning franchise that is the first worker cooperative franchise in the US, as well as a new contribution to the Last Call series on the concept of an indivisible reserve, or permanent co-op capital that can help to ensure longevity even amidst lucrative offers from private buyers.
  • The satirical website ClickHole was recently acquired by Cards Against Humanity, which brings the company into employee ownership. Editorial Manager for the Next System Project Isaiah J. Poole published an article in Common Dreams explaining the significance of this shift and the role that employee ownership could play in mitigating the negative impact of the private equity business model on media enterprises. 
  • Modern Healthcare ran a series highlighting how members of the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) have been leveraging their business practices to address the economic and social determinants of health.
  • “What is happening in Australia should be seen as a cautionary tale for the United States,” writes Carla Skandier, Co-Manager of TDC’s Climate & Energy Program, for In These Times. Carla outlines the case for taking over the fossil fuel industry to halt production and prevent the scale of devastation seen in the recent fires in Australia.
  • Chief Financial Officer and Director of Employee Ownership Programs Jessica Rose was recently interviewed for an article published in Mendoza Business Magazine on the alignment between employee ownership and Catholic teachings around social justice. Read further commentary on Fifty by Fifty’s blog.

New from The Democracy Collaborative

Ownership Futures: Towards Democratic Public Ownership in the 21st Century

Public ownership of railways, roads, natural resources, utilities, banking and postal services helped build the infrastructure, institutions, and technologies of the mid-twentieth century. Today, public ownership once again has a key role to play in laying the foundations for a more just and sustainable economy. The Democracy Collaborative is launching a new year-long project with Common Wealth to outline democratic public ownership for the 21st century, focusing on critical sectors: digital infrastructure; data; intellectual property; and land and natural resources. For each area, we will develop a policy playbook and legal briefings that outline how we can translate ideas into institutional reality in both the US and the UK. Read more in the launch essay from Democracy Collaborative Research Director Thomas Hanna and Common Wealth Director Mathew Lawrence.

Read More

Anchor Communications Toolkit

Hospitals and health systems and other anchor institutions from across the country are adopting an “anchor mission” to tackle the underlying economic and social determinants of community health outcomes and community well being. But how can both the what and the why of this new transformative approach be effectively communicated, inside and outside your institution? This toolkit provides communications tips, tools and examples from Rush University Medical Center (Rush) along with other members of the Healthcare Anchor Network (HAN) and higher education anchor institutions, to help with the work of communicating an anchor mission approach.  

Read More

Jobs in CWB

Featured Video & Audio

“Job Guarantee Now!”
This episode of the Next System Podcast features Sarah Treuhaft, Managing director of PolicyLink and Darrick Hamilton, Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, in conversation about proposals for a federal jobs guarantee. Listen here

Democratic Public Ownership
This new video announces the launch of a new project from Common Wealth and The Democracy Collaborative to reimagine what democratic public ownership can look like in the 21st century. Watch more here

Recommended Reads

Transforming Persistent Poverty in America

Of the nearly 400 counties that are in persistent poverty (defined as geographies where the poverty rate has eclipsed 20 percent for three decades in a row), 80% are rural, and 60% of people in these counties are people in color. Authored by Partners for Rural Transformation, a collaboration of six CDFIs located in and serving regions with a high prevalence of persistent poverty, this new report outlines recommendations to address this regional and racial inequity. The report focuses on four areas: unemployment, access to banking services, access to quality affordable housing, and access to safe drinking water, and includes recommendations for federal action to improve outcomes. Read more here.  

What will you do to illuminate the past and light the future?

“Understanding a people’s history isn’t just about knowing the dates or being able to rattle off trivia at a cocktail party,” writes The Democracy Collaborative Board Member Tamara Copeland in a recent blogpost on Black History Month. Beginning the post by linking to a quiz on Black history, Tamara encourages readers to go deeper and explore the meaning and layers of historical events, both to understand the diversity of experiences in the black community and how these events contribute to “the fabric of the bigger.”  Read more here.

Featured Website

The Democracy Collaborative’s Website Re-Launch

The Democracy Collaborative has redesigned our organization’s website to better capture the scope of work underway. New sections highlight our growing work in areas such as climate and energy, anchor institution strategies, and racial equity and the democratic economy. Explore the website here
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