Dear Colleague,

As 2018 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on two incredible statistics. The first is that US life expectancy has dropped for the third year in a row, the longest sustained decline since World War I; and the second is that in order to avoid climate catastrophe, we need to take drastic action to curb emissions to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030. These findings highlight what many in our communities are already keenly aware of—that our current political-economic system fails both people and the planet.

While these trends can seem insurmountable, there are intriguing alternative pathways taking shape. As stated by our Co-Founder Gar Alperovitz in a recent keynote at the Bioneers conference, communities are developing solutions on their own and “within those models and strategies are the kernels of a systemic way to move forward.” At The Democracy Collaborative, we are continually working to surface these building blocks for the next system.

One of these is enterprise design—how do we structure businesses so that community, inclusion
and sustainability are front and center? A recent report from Fifty by Fifty highlights how combining employee ownership with mission-driven governance can be a step in this direction. Read more about the report below. We are increasingly seeing the positive impact of worker ownership in a wide range of places from Cleveland, as highlighted by the Huffington Post, to Scotland, as described on the Fifty by Fifty blog.

Another element of the solution will be redefining the role of existing institutions—how can universities, health systems, local government, and other anchors help catalyze the transition to a more just and sustainable economy? This is the question at the heart of the Healthcare Anchor Network, which hosted its bi-annual convening in Richmond, Virginia earlier this month. A growing collaboration of over 40 major health systems, the Network is focused on supporting health systems as they reimagine their role in the community through strategies like inclusive, local purchasing and place-based investment. Read more about the work of the Network and its members from the Association for American Medical Colleges, Wharton Healthcare Quarterly, and the Wall Street Journal.

Public ownership provides yet another pathway forward. Director of Research Thomas Hanna recently authored an article for Jacobin highlighting how public ownership is an important tool that can be built on and developed to address social, economic, and environmental needs. The energy sector offers a clear example of the necessity of democratic public ownership: rather than simply breaking up investor-owned monopoly utilities such as California’s PG&E, there is an opportunity to transition them to public ownership, which would enable the development of community-based renewable energy projects that are essential to heading off catastrophic climate change. Hear Research Associate Johanna Bozuwa discuss public ownership at the Climate Futures conference.

As we approach 2019, I remain optimistic. Interest in, and commitment to, bold solutions like the ones outlined above continue to grow. We at The Democracy Collaborative are more committed than ever to surface and accelerate the models and strategies needed to build a more just, equitable, and democratic economy, and I invite you to support our work in the coming year.

Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative


TDC & CWB in the News

  • Writing for The American Prospect, President and Co-Founder Ted Howard reflects on Amazon’s recent HQ2 announcement, contrasting the race-to-the-bottom corporate attraction strategy it represents with the Community Wealth Building approach being developed in Preston, England.
  • Nonprofit Quarterly published an article about how Philadelphia-based anchor institutions are collaborating to localize $500 million in contracts over the next 8-10 years. Read more here.
  • Inspired by the Preston Model in England, the Canada-based Centre for Local Prosperity is exploring opportunities to build community wealth in Prince Edward Island through localizing purchasing. Read more in The Guardian.
  • The City of Berkeley’s Office of Economic Development recently announced a partnership with Project Equity to explore the potential of employee ownership conversions as an option for retiring business owners. Read more here.

New from The Democracy Collaborative

New Report: Next Generation Enterprise Design

“Instead of picturing companies as objects owned by shareholders, designed to produce earnings like ball bearings off an assembly line, we need to see companies as living systems,” write Marjorie Kelly and Sarah Stranahan in the introduction to this new report from Fifty by Fifty. The report assesses the performance of employee-owned certified B Corporations or benefit corporations incorporated under state law. Finding that employee-owned enterprises have higher benefit scores than B Corporations without employee ownership, the report then explores the design elements that allow for greater focus on workers and the environment. Rather than selling companies to financial interests, founders of these companies have been able to pass ownership to employees as stewards, embedding a commitment to social and environmental benefit in governing documents.
Read More

New Report: Memphis Medical District Collaborative

Authored by Democracy Collaborative Senior Associate Danny Fisher-Bruns and Nidia Logan-Robinson, Associate Director of Innovate Memphis, this new report explores the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC), an anchor collaborative focused on community redevelopment. The report includes background on the development of MMDC as well as an overview of their programming in areas including business support and development and land use and real estate development support. The report evaluates the collaborative infrastructure of MMDC, highlighting lessons learned from other anchor collaboratives, and includes a set of recommendations for navigating common tensions.
Read More

Jobs in CWB

Featured Audio & Video

President and Co-Founder Ted Howard presented on the Making of a Democratic Economy at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London, England.

The latest episode of the Next System Podcast features The Democracy Collaborative’s Johanna Bozuwa, the Sierra Club’s Anthony Torres, and Sunrise Movement Co-Founder Evan Weber in discussion about the opportunities of a Green New Deal.

Recommended Reads

Assessing the State of Worker Cooperatives in the US

The Democracy at Work Institute and U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives have released their 2017 Worker Cooperative State of the Sector Report, which provides an in-depth analysis of worker-owned business in the United States. With a growth rate of about 25 new business per year, the report includes maps of the metropolitan areas with growing concentrations of worker cooperatives. The report also notes that cooperative businesses have maintained a pay ratio of around 2-1, compared to the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 303-to-1 for large corporations. Read the full report here.

New Case Study on the Preston Model of Community Wealth Building

This new case study from the Centre for Public Impact highlights the “Preston Model,” an approach led by the City Council that harnesses the potential of anchor institutions to build community wealth. Modeled in part on the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio, the initiative has led to increased procurement within Preston, as well as the ongoing development of new worker-owned cooperatives. The case study includes an evaluation of the model, including an assessment of the activities in Preston across metrics related to legitimacy, policy, and action. Read the full case study here.

Featured Website

America’s Concentration Crisis

This new resource from Open Markets Institute compiles data on the level of economic concentration across industries. From cell phone providers to dry cat food, the website includes industry profiles that detail the market share breakdown, highlighting that in fact, many brands are owned by just a few monopolistic parent corporations. Find out more here.

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