We engage with communities and institutions to connect them with innovative strategies, models and training to build community wealth.
Over the past decade, The Democracy Collaborative has become the nation’s preeminent strategist, consultant, knowledge source, and theorist within the Community Wealth Building field. The field is comprised of a broad range of democratic, common asset, community economic development institutions and strategies that anchor wealth in community and broadly distribute the gains among a diverse population base. Our staff puts decades of experience in cutting edge community development, shared ownership strategies, asset-building programs and local institutional procurement models to work for your community. Together with our network of allied consultants in impact investing, social enterprise capital formation, cooperative development, employee ownership, anchor institutions and community finance, The Democracy Collaborative offers a uniquely comprehensive and rigorously field-tested set of programs for transformative community wealth building.
Among our consultancy services:
Community vision and strategy
Helping communities create convenings and approaches that guide the creation of community vision and strategy. As consultants and advisors to community foundations, city governments, anchor institutions and nonprofit organizations, the Collaborative has worked with a variety of cities to create Community Wealth Building Roundtables, as a critical first step in launching a local initiative. We have also created national forums to spread knowledge and build networks among diverse groups, such as foundations, nonprofits, policy makers and impact investors.
Project development consultation
Assisting communities in strategizing on project development – sector analysis, project selection, stages of development, players needed at the table, capital formation, and so on. Most notably, the Collaborative helped develop — in partnership with the Cleveland Foundation, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, the City of Cleveland and local anchor institutions — the path-breaking Evergreen network of employee-owned cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio. The "Cleveland model," as the work is known nationally, combines anchor institution procurement strategies with employee ownership and network linkages among companies to create a community-based system that stabilizes the local economy, provides living wage jobs for low-income residents, roots ownership locally and broadly, and helps anchor institutions green their supply chain.
Project research and feasibility studies
Conducting technical research that helps identify strategic opportunities for building community wealth in the local context. From identifying the contributions of key stakeholders and mapping the economic assets and challenges faced by your community, to detailed analysis of possible sectoral strategies and evaluation of specific potential community based enterprises, the Collaborative’s research and feasibility studies can help catalyze transformative approaches to economic development. For instance, we have completed studies that included outreach to dozens of potential anchor procurement officers, helping start the conversations that have led to more sustainable localized supply chains.
Anchor institution strategies
Assisting anchor institution leadership to understand how to leverage their economic impact to make sustainable long-term investments in their surrounding communities through field-tested, metrics-driven community wealth building strategies. We educate institutional stakeholders on the anchor mission, evaluate the performance of wealth building initiatives, and help craft agendas for inclusive place-based development.
Capital formation strategy
Helping organizations understand how to put together “capital stacks” with funds from a variety of sources – federal, state, and private – that can be used to finance job creation, business development and wealth building in core urban areas (an approach pioneered in Cleveland with the Evergreen Cooperatives). We also convene Capital Teams of technical advisers, bringing together highly specialized financing knowledge.
Offering training in Community Wealth Building approaches and strategies in various formats. The Collaborative has conducted trainings from one-day to a full year for community-based practitioners, philanthropy, anchor institutions and nonprofit organizations, regionally and nationally, who seek to pursue Community Wealth Building in their areas.
Examples of our work:
Evergreen Cooperative Initiative for Cleveland Foundation (Cleveland, Ohio)
Working with a core group of major educational and medical institutions convened through the Cleveland Foundation, The Democracy Collaborative helped initiate and continues to help steward the Evergreen Cooperatives, a growing experiment developing anchor institution-supported worker cooperatives in low income Cleveland neighborhoods. The work focuses on building a framework through which these institutions could align their procurement practices with the employment needs of their surrounding neighborhoods, and bringing that framework to life with concrete cross-sectoral community wealth building strategies that mobilize capital, connect stakeholders, and create effective models for community ownership and cooperative governance.
Community Wealth Building Initiative for Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and Community Foundation of the National Capital Region (Washington, DC)
The national capital region is one of many instances where local philanthropic institutions have engaged the Collaborative for the initial development of a community wealth building strategy. Using our work in Cleveland as a jumping off point, our research has helped lay the foundations for an ambitious wealth-building strategy that aims to involves stakeholders from across the DC Metro region. The Collaborative has identified key opportunities to leverage both anchor institution procurement and public infrastructure expenditures, and is helping catalyze and guide the team implementing the first stages of the wealth building vision.
City of Jacksonville Community Wealth Building Roundtable (Jacksonville, Florida)
Engaged by the municipal government of Florida's largest city, our team brought together community stakeholders, elected officials, and anchor institution leaders for a catalytic conversation about how to use existing assets to build wealth in low-income neighborhoods.
City of New Orleans/New Orleans Business Alliance: Biomedical Corridor (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Our team is working to help catalyze inclusive economic development rooted in the city's growing health sector. By identifying barriers in small business capacity, uncovering key missing elements in the local technical and financial infrastructure that serves those businesses, and highlighting opportunities to direct medical institution procurement towards local firms, we are helping connect public health spending to community wealth building.
Illinois Governor's Task Force on Social Innovation, Enterpreneurship, and Enterprise (Illinois)
At the invitation of the Governor's Task Force, The Democracy Collaborative prepared an extensive set of recommendations for low-cost, high-impact measures that Illinois could implement to retain jobs and sustain stronger local economies across the state.
Learning/Action Laboratory for Community Wealth Building
With the support of the Northwest Area Foundation, the Collaborative is engaging with Native American communities that all too often face tremendous challenges due to economic marginalization both in urban areas and on the reservations. The Learning/Action Lab is connecting community wealth builders from six Native American organizations with expert knowledge and best practices from across the community wealth building field, and serving as mentors and advisors as they develop community and cooperatively owned social enterprises.