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The Latest Trends in Sustainable Communities

Gar Alperovitz and Michael Shuman

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz joined BALLE co-founder Michael Shuman in a conversation on how to build sustainable communities through inclusive local economic development.

On Economic Development

MS: Economic development currently counsels communities across the planet to attract and retain global business. Implicitly this assumes that local business is irrelevant. My belief is that prosperity flows from three alternative principles of economic development that prioritize local business. We should maximize the percentage of jobs in locally owned or locally controlled enterprise. We should maximize local self-reliance, not as a way of disengaging from the rest of the world, but as a way of engaging with the rest of the world from a position of greater strength. And we should identify, celebrate, and spread great models of high labor and environmental standards in local business.

GA: I can accept all three of those and I would add one. At the local level, I think that some forms of cooperative or democratic ownership become important. There are several reasons— one of which is, the culture of cooperation in some form is a culture of community that I think needs to be nourished. Another is because major problems happen politically if you don’t democratize ownership. Concentrated wealth has ways of creating political power, and as small businesses that start small become larger they can generate interest groups and institutional power that subverts both the local community and national community, to say nothing of an ecological vision....

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