Dear Colleague,

From all of us at The Democracy Collaborative, we wish you a happy near year. We are more convinced than ever that we are at the precipice of a political and economic transformation in this country and around the world, and we will be redoubling our efforts this year and beyond to see this come to pass. As my colleague Marjorie Kelly, Executive Vice President of TDC, recently stated in an interview with Laura Flanders, “the economy is designed for the outcomes that we have where three billionaires have more wealth than the bottom half of Americans combined. But a different kind of economy is growing.” As we discuss in our recent book The Making of a Democratic Economy, across the globe we are seeing evidence of this growth, from public banking to worker cooperatives, and seeing how these models are starting to displace the architecture of the extractive economy. Read the full interview in Truthout.
Last year we also saw several important developments around state and local policies for a democratic economy. Researcher Juliana Broad captured some of these victories, highlighting public polices and initiatives related to public banking, worker co-ops, and community land trusts in 2019. Taken together, efforts like these not only show that a more democratic economy is possible from a technical standpoint, but a visionary one as well. Next System Project co-chair Gus Speth discusses this in a recent essay, Through the kitchen window: a vision of a new America. Reflecting on his home community, Gus sees values around cooperation and mutual support in people’s everyday interactions, and considers how this can form the basis of a more democratic, just, and sustainable economy.  
We are also excited to share a new report from Fifty by Fifty, a project of The Democracy Collaborative aimed at creating a more inclusive economy through employee ownership. The report looks at the intersection of employee-owned and mission-led businesses, finding that these enterprises outperform their peers on social and environmental outcomes. Read more about this innovative ownership design below. At the end of last year, Fifty by Fifty also published a forum reflecting on the end of employee ownership at New Belgium Brewing, an oft cited example. The forum, which has new contributions since it was first published, includes leading voices from the world of worker and employee ownership and offers differing perspectives on what the field can learn from this inflection point. Read the series here. The Fifty by Fifty blog continues to highlight new developments in the field, including a proposal for a federal loan guarantee to expand employee ownership. Read an interview with the architects of this proposal here.
We are also continuing to see increasing traction around public ownership. Key recommendations about state-level production of generic pharmaceuticals from our "Medicine for All" report are reflected in a recent proposal from California Governor Gavin Newsom to make prescription drugs more affordable. Read more about the proposal in CalMatters, as well as a supplement to the Medicine for All report, written with the Sustainable Economies Law Center, that outlines how California could execute its own public pharmaceutical manufacturing plan. We are also seeing growing momentum around public ownership of energy utilities—read more about how campaigns from California to Maine are pushing for a more renewable, resilient, and affordable energy system on the Next System Project’s website.

Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative

Jobs in CWB

TDC & CWB in the News

  • The Guardian published an op-ed detailing how the community wealth building approach put forward by the city council in Preston, England, can provide a model for the Labour Party moving forward.
  • A recent piece in the Philadelphia Citizen highlights efforts around the country that are working to build community wealth, including the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio. “By taking a jobs-first approach and then finding and training workers, Evergreen helps create employee-owned businesses with a pipeline to local anchors,” the report states.
  • Employee-owned fashion brand Eileen Fisher was recently profiled by CNN, including an interview with Fisher about why she opted to sell shares of the business to workers through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
  • “The model of a private, for-profit utilities company operating with oversight has not worked. That’s why the state or the customers should own it,” California congressional representative Ro Khanna states in a recent interview in Jacobin. Rep. Khanna discusses his support for efforts to transfer PG&E into public ownership. Chicago Magazine recently published an article profiling proposals for public ownership of Chicago’s energy system.
  • The Twin Cities’ Pioneer Press published an article about St. Paul’s new Office of Financial Empowerment, which will support efforts such as college savings accounts programs, expanded tenant protections, and worker cooperative development.

New from The Democracy Collaborative

Webinar: Leveraging Local Assets and Social Procurement

January 28th from 1-2 pm ET

Across the US and Canada, place-based collaboratives are working to apply a community wealth building framework to community development work, leveraging local assets to advance democratic ownership. Join this webinar, hosted by with the Tamarack Institute, to learn more about this emerging movement as well as the work of AnchorTO around leveraging local institutional procurement in Toronto. Webinar speakers include Nate Stephens, manager of The Democracy Collaborative’s Anchor Collaborative Network, and Hanifa Kassam, community development officer with the City of Toronto.

Register Here

New Report: Ownership design for a sustainable economy

This new report from Fifty by Fifty synthesizes research on the relationship between employee ownership and sustainable business practices. The research compared employee-owned B Corps to similar B Corps that were not employee-owned, and to employee-owned companies that were not mission-driven, finding that that mission-led employee-owned businesses significantly outperformed their peers in terms of social and environmental impact. The report identifies over 50 employee-owned, mission-driven firms in the US, and includes insights from interviews and case study comparisons to explore the structural components that drive sustainability.

Read More

Featured Video & Audio

Next System Podcast: The Making of a Democratic Economy

The latest episode of the Next System Podcast features The Democracy Collaborative’s President & Co-Founder Ted Howard and Executive Vice President Marjorie Kelly in conversation with host Isaiah J. Poole about their recent book The Making of a Democratic Economy. Listen here.

All Things Co-op Podcast: Right To Own

On this episode of the All Things Co-Op podcast, host Kevin Gustafson interviews Senior Policy Associate Peter Gowan about the Right to Own policy proposal, which would give workers the ability to purchase businesses that are being sold to convert them to worker ownership. Listen here.

Recommended Reads

If I Only Had a Heart: a DisCO Manifesto

A joint publication by, the Transnational Institute, and Guerrilla Media Collective, this new manifesto puts forward a framework for DisCOs, or Distributed Cooperative Organizations. Grounded in cooperative, feminist, and commons-oriented economics, the manifesto provides a primer on the fundamental principles of DisCOs and explores how these can be applied to technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence to push back against negative trends in these areas. The manifesto calls for transnational cooperation, the centering of care work, and broadening decision-making power and control. Learn more here.

Wealth Creation: A New Framework for Rural Economic and Community Development

Authored by rural economic development expert and adviser Shanna Ratner, this new book offers a framework for rural revitalization grounded in cultivating local assets and increasing local ownership of these assets. The book outlines the principles of “wealth creation value chains” which leverage regional demand to build wealth in low-income communities, and highlights examples of successful value chains across the country from affordable housing development to environmental remediation. Read more here.  

Featured Website

PODER Emma Community Ownership

Based in the Emma neighborhood in Asheville, PODER Emma focuses on preventing displacement and supporting neighborhood level organizing. PODER Emma includes a network of mobile home cooperatives and worker cooperatives, a Residents Association, and a participatory action research process to develop a community plan. Learn more here.
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