Welcome to our February newsletter. The year of 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for community wealth building. Last month The Democracy Collaborative, in partnership with the CUNY School of Law and the Surdna Foundation, hosted the Cities Building Community Wealth gathering, which brought together mayors, leaders of city economic development departments, philanthropy, and community advocates for a discussion on creating more inclusive cities. In other news:

Next month, the Next System Project will host its first Teach-Ins in Madison, Wisconsin (March 3-6) and New York City (March 10-12). Other teach-ins will be held in more than a dozen locations across the country throughout the spring. Watch a video about the upcoming events, RSVP to attend, and learn how you can organize a teach-in.
“The Sanders insurgency, the polling data, and the growing experimentation with a range of alternatives all suggest that we may be on the brink of a new era,” writes Democracy Collaborative Co-Founder & Co-Chair of the Next System Project Gar Alperovitz in The Nation. In the article, Gar discusses how interesting experiments around democratized ownership and regionalism can be scaled up to build a new political economic system.
Anchor institutions are in the news. After significant grassroots organizing, Yale University agreed to hire 1,000 New Haven residents, focusing on neighborhoods with the highest rates of unemployment and poverty. Meanwhile, students of the Roosevelt Institute network released a new report which calls for the University of Michigan to leverage its purchasing power to revitalize the regional economy, and the 2016 Winter Meeting of the Mayor’s Innovation Project focused on how city governments can do the same. Executive Vice President & Senior Fellow Marjorie Kelly recently spoke about the increasing adoption of these and other community wealth building strategies at an Aspen Institute panel.
Community wealth building is continuing to gain traction around the world. Last month, Director of Research Thomas Hanna spoke about the work of The Democracy Collaborative and the American experience with local public ownership at a conference on “Social Equality and Public Policy” at the University College London, sponsored by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.
“Until philanthropy commits to learning about the injustices that plague our nation, it can’t play the role our citizens demand,” writes Democracy Collaborative board member and President of the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG) Tamara Copeland in an op-ed for The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Copeland encourages her peers to develop a deeper understanding of racial inequality and invites them to join a six-month lecture series “Putting Racism on the Table.” In a blog post for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), Director of Special Projects Steve Dubb similarly notes the  imperative of combatting disparities and highlights opportunities for impact investors to play a constructive role.

And finally, we would like to extend a congratulations to our friend and colleague India Pierce Lee, Program Director for Neighborhoods, Housing, and Community Development at the Cleveland Foundation, for being named as being one of Cleveland’s “Smart Creatives” of 2016. The accompanying profile in Cleveland's Plain Dealer newspaper reviews India's career in community development as an advocate for disadvantaged neighborhoods in Cleveland. India is one of the primary architects of the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative, which was recently cited in the Wall Street Journal. The article noted how the worker-ownership model has helped provide Cleveland area refugees from the Middle East with living wage jobs.

As always, we continue to add new links, articles, reports, and other materials to the site.

Ted Howard
President & Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative

New from The Democracy Collaborative

Cities Building Community Wealth Convening in NYC

On January 29, The Democracy Collaborative hosted a convening, in partnership with the CUNY School of Law Community and Economic Development Clinic and the Surdna Foundation, highlighting innovative city leaders working to build more inclusive, equitable, and cooperative economies. The event brought together mayors, city officials, community development experts, researchers, and activists for dynamic discussions around how to build and scale these efforts. Panelists and speakers included Mayor Lovely Warren, City of Rochester (NY); Mayor Paul Soglin, City of Madison (WI); Speaker Carl Heastie, New York State Assembly; Director of Economic Development Tracey Nichols, City of Cleveland; editor of the American Prospect, Harold Meyerson, and many others. Read a detailed recap of the event on our blog and watch the panel conversations online.
Read our full recap

C-W City: Burlington, Vermont

The thirty-eighth in our Community Wealth Cities series is Burlington, Vermont. Although it is the economic and educational engine of the state, Burlington has a relatively high poverty rate and is facing the challenge of steadily rising housing costs. However, the city is also home to many community wealth building groups and institutions—many of which emerged due to the efforts of former Burlington Mayor and current United States Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Burlington is home to the country’s most advanced community land trust and one of the greenest municipally-owned electric utilities in the nation, which serves over 19,600 customers from completely renewable sources. Burlington also houses the Vermont Employee Ownership Center (VEOC), a statewide nonprofit that provides technical assistance and financial support through a revolving loan fund to businesses transitioning to employee ownership.
Check out the C-W.org City

Recommended Videos

Zillah Eisenstein and Damayan: Race, Gender, and Socialism

The Next System Project recently teamed up with The Laura Flanders Show to produce an episode on gender and race that profiled the Damayan Cleaning Cooperative, the first Filipina migrant worker-owned cooperative in the U.S. Also interviewed on the program was feminist scholar Zillah Eisenstein
Capitalish: The untold sidestory to the proliferation of global capitalism

The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance recently released a new short film, Capitalish, which features four worker co-ops– a child care company, a homecare agency, a bar/coffee shop, and a taxi dispatch—and describes how they are building community wealth in Philadelphia. 


Recommended Reads

Research Highlights How Employee Stock Ownership Plans Can Reduce Income Inequality

This new paper from Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist for Vice President Joe Biden, finds that Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) can be an important tool to address income inequality and that workers at ESOP companies tend to have more equal wage distributions. Bernstein makes two recommendations for expanding ESOPs—creating a small government agency to help firms transition to employee ownership and only awarding tax breaks to companies with some form of employee ownership.

Read the full paper

Pension Plans Offer Significant Opportunity for Impact Investing

While pension plans have traditionally prioritized financial outcomes over other measures of success, an increasing number of plans are integrating social goals into economically targeted investments (ETIs). This new research brief highlights model public and private pension plans and synthesizes best practices, such as maintaining a clear and strategic focus, partnering with local non-profits, and integrating outside subsidies or partnerships with government entities to grow investments. The authors estimate gains from such an approach could direct more than $250 billion in capital toward the impact investing marketplace.

Read the full report
New Book from CFED & Federal Reserve Bank Explores Conditions of Financial Health

“The effects of the recession are still being felt by many families, particularly those that had very little in savings and other assets beforehand,” notes Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System Janet Yellen in her foreword to a new book from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED). What It’s Worth emphasizes the importance of building financial health and well-being so families can become more resilient to economic downturns and build wealth.  Bringing together over 30 essays, the book takes a holistic look at financial well-being, emphasizing the linkages to other fields such as education, health, housing and workforce training. 

See more about the book
Report Identifies Ways to Scale Social Enterprise

This new report from REDF synthesizes lessons from ten in-depth case studies of social enterprises that work to dissolve barriers to employment, including a full case study on our partners at the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH. Drawing on the examples studied, the REDF report identifies five core drivers that have helped these mission-driven businesses—which collectively employ 10,190 people and generate $153 million in annual revenue—including anchors, audacity of business models, evidence, growth capital, and identity. In order to scale the movement, the authors recommend investment in developing the business acumen of social enterprise leaders and advocating for policies such as incentivizing public procurement by minority- and women-owned business. 

Read the case studies

Upcoming Events

Neighborworks Symposium: Creating Opportunity through Collaboration
February 24, 2016
Atlanta, GA
CDFI Coalition Institute
March 9th, 2016 to March 10th, 2016
Washington, DC
See all events

Featured Websites

The Co-Op Water Cooler, a project of Currency Marketing and 6th Story, aims to aggregate and elevate news and editorial comment related to cooperatives. Experts in the co-op field serve as editors, curating a list of weekly links with relevant articles on trends in the field, marketing, social media, technology, and success stories. The editors also maintain a blog on big picture issues facing the cooperative community. Individuals can sign up to receive updates via email or RSS feed, or follow on twitter to receive the latest articles. Learn more at http://www.coopwatercooler.com
Becoming Employee Owned is a web resource created by Workers to Owners, a national collaborative of finance institutions, cooperative developers, employee ownership advocates, legal professionals and other service providers, convened by the Democracy at Work Institute. Becoming Employee Owned includes resources from these various fields and provides tools for companies interested in converting to worker ownership. The site includes case studies, a calendar of training and events, lists of service providers by location, and the opportunity to sign up for a free consultation. Learn more at http://becomingeo.org/
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