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Marjorie Kelly

Executive Vice President & Senior Fellow

Marjorie Kelly is the Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President of The Democracy Collaborative, a non-profit research organization founded in 2000. Marjorie is lead author of the new report, “A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth,” which profiles an “Innovative 30” community foundations pursuing impact investing and economic development strategies. The report was recently featured in Stanford Social Innovative Review, Forbes, and elsewhere. Marjorie is also a consultant with the current “Community Foundation Circle,” a peer learning project for 14 foundations interested in adopting impact investing strategies. 

Marjorie is Project Director of The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a year-long collaboration spearheaded by The Democracy Collaborative and supported by the Northwest Area Foundation. She is also an Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, a 35- year old nonprofit research organization based in Boston. Marjorie advises private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission. Marjorie is also on the Advisory Board of Boston Public Bank Working Group. Additionally, she is on the National Board of Advisors for CUNY School of Law's Community Economic Development Clinic.

Marjorie is author of the book, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolutionreleased June 2012 by Berrett-Koehler. In it, she explores many experiments with new forms of ownership, which she calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for life for many generations to come. To understand these emerging alternatives, Marjorie reports from all over the world, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work.  And she explores how they may hold the key to the deep transformation that our civilization needs.

She specializes in ownership and financial design for the “mission-controlled enterprise,” a term she devised to define the companies – including many large corporations in both the U.S. and Europe – that maintain a primary focus on social mission, even when they might be publicly traded. Marjorie is co-founder of Corporation 20/20, a multi-stakeholder initiative to envision and advocate enterprise and financial designs that integrate social, environmental, and financial aims. Over five years, this project brought together hundreds of thought leaders from business, finance, labor, government, law, and civil society for meetings, research, and two national conferences.

Marjorie also leads a variety of consulting and research projects in corporate social responsibility, rural development, and impact investing. She is a member of the resource team of the Ford Foundation project Wealth Creation in Rural Communities. As part of that project, she co-authored the reports Keeping Wealth Local: Shared Ownership and Wealth Control for Rural Communities, and Impact Investing for Rural Wealth Creation: Investing for Financial Returns and Community Impact. Also as part of that project, Marjorie is working with Emerging ChangeMakers of Mobile, Alabama, helping the group create a new rural impact investing fund and network for local wealth creation in the poorest counties of the state.

Marjorie was co-founder and for 20 years president of Business Ethics magazine, known for its annual ranking of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Social Investing Awards. She has experience working in many forms of ownership design, including cooperatives. She was president of the board of the William Street Grocery Cooperative, where she helped lead the store to double its size and revenue. She was also director of Great Neighborhoods Development Corporation, a nonprofit real estate developer in an under-served community of Minneapolis. She served on advisory boards for the Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability at George Washington University Law School, the Strategic Corporate Initiative, and other projects. Current Advisory Board memberships include the Donella Meadows Institute and Emerging ChangeMakers Network.

Her previous book, The Divine Right of Capitalwas named one Library Journal’s 10 Best Business Books of 2001. Marjorie's writings and op-eds have appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business ReviewNew England Law Review, Chief ExecutiveBoston GlobeYes! Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle.

Marjorie is from a business family, where her grandfather founded Anderson Tool and Die from his Chicago basement during the Depression; her father founded and ran Graphic Engraving, a supplier to the printing trade, in Columbia, Missouri, where she grew up; and many of her uncles were also in business for themselves. She holds a bachelor’s in English, cum laude, and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri, where she received the Penney-Missouri Award for most promising young magazine journalist.

Selected Publications: 

Strategies for Financing the Inclusive Economy

Marjorie Kelly, Violeta Duncan and Steve Dubb

How can impact investors, family foundations, and financial institutions strategically leverage  their investments toward solutions that help stem and reverse rising economic inequality? This new report from The Democracy Collaborative explores ways in which impact investors can  help build an inclusive economy by accelerating  the growth of broad-based ownership models—worker cooperatives, social enterprises, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), hybrid  enterprises, and municipal enterprise.

Cities Building Community Wealth

Cities Building Community Wealth

In cities across the nation, a few enjoy rising affluence while many struggle to get by. This situation is created in part by the practices of traditional economic development. Current trends threaten to worsen, unless we can answer the design challenge before us. Can we create an economic system—beginning at the local level—that builds the wealth and prosperity of everyone?

A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth

It was in 2005 that the highly regarded Monitor Institute report declared that the field of community foundations was “On the Brink of New Promise,” and in the decade since, there have been countless working groups and initiatives to introduce innovative approaches to the field. At the same time, largely beneath the radar, a small but growing group has begun pursuing the innovative path we explore here. Mostly in small steps—but sometimes in larger ways—they are adopting elements of what could emerge as a new anchor mission to deploy all resources to build community wealth. Read more about A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth...

Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution

Marjorie Kelly

As long as businesses are set up to focus exclusively on maximizing financial income for the few, our economy will be locked into endless growth and widening inequality. But now people across the world are experimenting with new forms of ownership, which Kelly calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for all of life to thrive for many generations to come. These designs may hold the key to the deep transformation our civilization needs.

To understand these emerging alternatives, Kelly reports from across the globe, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work.

Living Enterprise as the Foundation of a Generative Economy

Marjorie Kelly
Cambridge University Press

Guest Essay in The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision, by Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

“What kind of economy is consistent with living inside a living being?” This was a question posed to us under a leafy canopy, deep in the woods of southern England, not far from Schumacher College where I’d come as a teacher. I stood listening with a group of students as resident ecologist Stephan Harding posed what for me would become a pivotal question – the only question there is, really, as we negotiate the turn from the industrial age into an entirely new age of civilization.

Keeping Wealth Local: Shared Ownership and Wealth Control For Rural Communities

Marjorie Kelly and Shanna Ratner

Resources do not represent community wealth unless communities own and control them. This handbook looks at various kinds of shared ownership, including cooperatives, employee ownership, community land trusts, municipal ownership, local and tribal ownership, mission-controlled ownership, and community covenants and easements. Each section looks at strengths, weaknesses, the range of applications, expertise required, and sources of assistance.

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