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The Democracy Collaborative and Somerville, Mass. launch community wealth building initiative

Centering community and place

Collaboration supports the city’s Accelerating Reinvestment in our Communities program


Media Contacts or Isaiah J. Poole, 202-559-1473, Ext. 3012 or Denise Taylor, 857-523-9905

Friday, Dec. 9, 2021 – The City of Somerville, Mass., announced today that it is working with The Democracy Collaborative, an economic policy research and development organization, to help the city design its Accelerating Reinvestment in our Community (ARC) initiative.

The Democracy Collaborative is a pioneer in the fast-growing practice of community wealth building, a people-and-place-centered approach to economic development that reorganizes local economies to be more equitable and sustainable by design, so that wealth is broadly held, locally rooted, and recirculated to the benefit of the entire community.

Earlier this year, Somerville’s outgoing Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced the ARC initiative as “a way to derive a constant flow of new public benefits from the growth of our local economy, ensuring we have a rising tide that lifts all boats.” The Democracy Collaborative will develop specific actions and strategies to help Somerville meet this goal and will produce a report in the new year that will assist incoming Mayor Katjana Ballantyne’s administration with identifying and knitting together winning strategies for building community wealth.

Approaches include helping anchor institutions, such as area hospitals, increase their spending with local businesses; supporting the creation of cooperative businesses that can serve the needs of these institutions as well as the local community while building community wealth through shared ownership; working with the city on a one-stop shop for job training and recruitment for Somerville residents, particularly Black and Brown residents historically left behind; aiding the city in preserving the viability of local businesses through the creation of a commercial/retail trust and social enterprise zones; and helping the city meet its affordable housing needs by supporting its community land trust and limited equity cooperative strategies.

The goal is to ensure that all of Somerville’s citizens benefit from its economic success, with strategies, policy, and action that securely harness wealth, support marginalized communities, and build economic and social resilience.

“Somerville has been envisioning, planning, and striving for community-driven progress and growth for decades, and now that the new businesses, jobs, opportunities, housing growth, transit, and revenues, we’ve fought for are being realized, we must ensure that they serve to advance our community values of equity and opportunity for all,” said Mayor Curtatone. “I want to thank The Democracy Collaborative for their innovative and socially conscious work to support this vital effort.”

“Community wealth building is a new way of thinking about economic development, poverty alleviation and wealth creation, and we are excited that the leadership of Somerville is willing to not simply tinker around the edges but to boldly take on fundamental changes in how, and for whom, the local economy operates,” said Ted Howard, president of The Democracy Collaborative. 

The Democracy Collaborative is “a research and development lab for the democratic economy” and has worked with communities around the world on strategies that, by enabling people and communities to have more ownership and control over their economic lives, foster equity, sustainability, and collective wellbeing. 

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