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Democratizing ownership

Developing new models to promote equity and anchor capital in communities.

Across the nation, at the grassroots level of communities and cities, a movement is under way that is developing the models and infrastructure and democratic momentum for building a new economy – an inclusive, sustainable economy rooted in community: an economy that works for everyone, and that can sustain our life on this planet for many generations to come. In seed form, this economy is already begun. In the face of widespread dissatisfaction with the current economy, in the midst of pervasive poverty, unemployment and economic suffering, communities are being driven by their pain to experiment with something new – an economy built from the ground up by democratically controlled organizations like cooperatives, social enterprises, community land trusts, employee-owned firms, and municipally owned enterprises. For our nation to realize its founding democratic vision, wealth must be held broadly, with economic power wielded through democratically designed institutions of governance. Inclusive wealth – and inclusive opportunity for those normally excluded from our economy – is integral to the vision of Community Wealth Building.

Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work

This new documentary highlights the work of the Mondragon Cooperatives as well as companies across the United States, such as the Evergreen Cooperatives, which are owned and governed democratically by their employees. Airing on PBS stations across the country in the summer of 2014, the film includes interviews with the Democracy Collaborative's Ted Howard. Find out about the Washington, D.C. premiere here.

The Legacy of the Boomer Boss

Gar Alperovitz
The New York Times

OVER the next decade millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. Many, with no obvious succession strategy, will simply sell their companies, the backbone of Main Street economies across the country, to large corporations. All too often the result will be consolidations, plant closures and lost jobs for the people who helped build and sustain their companies for decades.

The boomers should think again: selling to their employees is often a far better way to go — for both moral and economic reasons.

Take New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., which its chief executive and co-founder, Kim Jordan, sold late last year to its 400-plus employees through what’s called an employee stock ownership plan. “There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multigenerational impact,” she said. “This is one of those times.”

Worker-Owners of America, Unite!

Gar Alperovitz
The New York Times

THE Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.

But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.