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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 (TDC) a nonprofit research organization founded in 2000. TDC is a research and development lab for a democratic economy. She is cofounder of Fifty by Fifty, a network initiative to catalyze 50 million employee owners by 2050, for which she has led research on “next-generation enterprise design.” For her research on the role of capital in taking employee ownership to scale, she was named the Robert J. Beyster Research Fellow by Rutgers University. Her other work at TDC has included working with community foundations on place-based impact investing, and leading The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a five-year project working with Native American organizations to build wealth in Indigenous communities. Kelly is coauthor of The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few (July 2019, Berrett-Koehler Publishers).

Previously Kelly was a fellow at the Tellus Institute, a 40-year-old nonprofit research organization based in Boston, where she cofounded Corporation 20/20 , a multistakeholder initiative to envision and advocate enterprise and financial designs that integrate social, environmental, and financial aims. She has advised private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission. She served as a member of the resource team of the Ford Foundation project WealthWorks, working for wealth creation in rural communities.

She was cofounder and for 20 years president of Business Ethics magazine, known for its annual ranking of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Social Investing Awards. Advisory boards have included Boston Public Bank Working Group, the Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability at George Washington University Law School, the Strategic Corporate Initiative, CUNY School of Law's Community Economic Development Clinic, Donella Meadows Institute, Emerging ChangeMakers Network, and other projects.

Kelly has authored two other books, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution (2012) and The Divine Right of Capital, which was named one of Library Journal’s 10 Best Business Books of 2001. Her writings have appeared in many publications, including Fast Company, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Harvard Business Review, New England Law Review, Chief Executive, The Boston Globe, Yes!, and San Francisco Chronicle.

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: 

The Making of a Democratic Economy

Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard

From Ted Howard, co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, and Marjorie Kelly, author of The Divine Right of Capital, and Owning our Future, The Making of a Democratic Economy is a clarion call for a movement ready to get serious about transforming our economic system. Illuminating the principles of a democratic economy through the stories of on-the-ground community wealth builders and their unlikely accomplices in the halls of institutional power, this book is a must read for everyone concerned with how we win the fight for an economy that’s equitable, not extractive.

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? Read more about Cities Building Community Wealth...

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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