This essay by Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Research Director Steve Dubb opens the academic symposium journal issue on “Alternatives to Capitalism” which provides a collection of essays that explore the broader implications of community wealth building for creating a new economy.
Democracy Collaborative Reports and Publications
This new report from The Democracy Collaborative and the Responsible Endowments Coalition seeks to connect struggling communities to local institutional wealth through engaging student activism. The report profiles three administration-led initiatives and three student-led initiatives, as well as five potential future partnerships, where institutional investments are directed into local communities in a way that empowers low-income residents, develops small businesses, and generates sustainable economic development.
Clearly, community and labor union activists organizing for economic justice face many tactical problems in our current economic and political environment. Economic hardship and Republican strategy have increasingly redefined basic elements of the social safety net—welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and other programs—as “entitlements” to be challenged and cut. Tax policy has become more regressive. The pressures of fiscal austerity mean that essential public services that help equalize opportunity for all Americans—especially schools—are increasingly underfunded, to say nothing of the risk of outright privatization. Economic inequality is at extreme levels not seen since the Gilded Age. The position of economic justice organizers here is essentially defensive; fighting a rearguard action for the survival of underserved communities, on terrain which is becoming less and less favorable. The following argument is based on the judgment that it is necessary ultimately to be in a position that goes on the offensive—and that there are powerful ways to do this.
In particular, new strategies of worker ownership within a community framework can function as the linchpin of an approach capable of uniting economic justice organizers, progressives, labor, and environmental activists while at the same time presenting an attractive economic development option to municipal policymakers. Moreover, such an approach can help build economic power in communities struggling against concentrated poverty. More generally, a position that offers an alternative vision of the municipal and regional economy, oriented towards local multipliers at all possible scales, can provide a robust platform for a range of organizing work that points towards larger transformations in the economic system...
The Democracy Collaborative’s latest report, Hospitals Building Healthier Communities, provides an in-depth look at six hospitals in five cities that are rethinking their economic and community engagement strategies. These hospitals have recognized that health is more than just treating the patients that come through their doors and are beginning to adopt an “anchor institution mission” that can help build not only more prosperous, but also healthier communities.
This report from The Democracy Collaborative and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT focuses on the path-breaking Vision 2010 Program implemented in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio by University Hospitals System. Over a five year period, the initiative targeted more than $1 billion of procurement locally to create jobs, empower minority- and female-owned businesses, and create a “new normal” for responsible, community-focused business practices in the region.
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.
Authored by Rita Axelroth Hodges and Steve Dubb as part of Michigan State University Press' series on Transformations in Higher Education, the book features ten in-depth cases and examines how universities, by pursuing an anchor institution mission to improve surrounding communities in cooperation with community partners, can positively impact the welfare of low-income residents.
How thousands of co-ops, worker-owned businesses, land trusts, and municipal enterprises are beginning to democratize the deep substructure of the American economy, with a new introduction by the author, Gar Alperovitz, and a new foreword by James Gustave Speth.
Curbing carbon emissions requires far more than technical know-how. We must change not only our energy use and transportation practices, but also where and how we work and live. It also requires ending the commonplace economic practice of treating built communities as disposable items that can be abandoned when market conditions change.
The challenge is daunting. Yet it also presents an opportunity. Putting forth a vision of green community wealth building, in which community-anchored enterprises, linked to sophisticated and decentralized planning, support stable and sustainable local economies, this study outlines how truly integrated approaches can help America meet the sustainability challenge.
Drawing from the inspiration of the Jackson-Kush Plan and the vision put forward by the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, Cooperation Jackson emerged as an independent organization focused on developing a cooperative economy in Jackson in the summer of 2014. As an aspiring network of cooperative enterprises, Cooperation Jackson aims to reduce income and wealth gaps, generate living wage jobs with quality healthcare, and ensure the provision of adequate housing through the growth of worker cooperatives and other democratically owned enterprises.