Welcome to our latest www.Community-Wealth.org e-newsletter. This quarter we bring you the following new developments:
- The Democracy Collaborative continues to work with the Cleveland Foundation and other partners (including ShoreBank Enterprise and the Ohio Employee Ownership Center) to implement a comprehensive community wealth building strategy in six of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods. As reported in March in the Cleveland Plain Dealer the Foundation has awarded a $2.25 million grant to help capitalize the Evergreen Cooperative Development Fund. The Fund will provide seed funding to a growing network of worker cooperatives and employee-owned businesses in low-income areas. The Fund takes its inspiration from the Caja Laboral, the financial institution that has enabled the Mondragón cooperative movement in Spain to reach a remarkable scale of impact: now more than 120 networked coops employing more than 100,000 workers.
- We’ve added two new videos to our website. First: a report on a pilot program in Cleveland to deconstruct (that is, recycle and reuse) foreclosed and abandoned housing while employing local residents. Second: a presentation by Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz, based on his 2008 book Just Deserts (coauthored by Lew Daly). The talk was held at Washington D.C.’s independent bookstore Politics & Prose.
- We feature the tenth interview in our continuing series of conversations with community wealth builders. This edition: Mark Pinsky of the Opportunity Finance Network, the nation’s leading trade association of community development financial institutions.
- We recently published a journal article in the winter issue of The Good Society. The article examines the history of civic engagement among the nation’s land grant institutions and the potential for public policy to foster a new era of community-university partnerships.
- We also profile our fifteenth community wealth city: Denver, Colorado.
As always, we have added dozens of new links, articles, reports, and other materials to the site. Look for this symbol to find the most recent additions. And don’t forget to view our regularly updated C-W Blog.
Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative
NEW & RECOMMENDED:
Report Casts Lens on Enduring U.S. Racial Economic Divide
Despite the gains of the civil rights movement, today the asset holdings of the median family of color are only 15 percent of those of the median white family. In this report, United for a Fair Economy highlights a number of areas of continuing structural disparity. The report also identifies measures such as targeted low-interest mortgage loans, expanded matched saving programs, and community reinvestment programs, which together offer promise to begin to close the gap.
Book Charts Rise of the “Free Culture” Movement
In his new book, Viral Spiral, David Bollier, whose work centers on ways to reclaim common assets for public benefit, documents the rise of a “free culture” movement dedicated to creating a digital republic committed to freedom and innovation. The term “viral spiral” describes the process by which members of the Internet community — techies, lawyers, artists, musicians, scientists, businesspeople, and innovators — come together to build open-source software and other freely available common tools, to the despair of media conglomerates.
Community Groups Seek to Bring “Green Recovery” Home
The passage of the $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (better known as the “stimulus bill”) provides new resources for community development and green collar jobs. Community groups can play an important role in determining how these funds are spent. This guide, developed by PolicyLink and Green for All, provides a summary of the Recovery Act along with local best practices, tips on how community groups can effectively advocate for funding in key program areas, and a listing of programs and funding streams that can help community wealth builders achieve these goals.
IN THE NEWS:
Asset Building Advocates Hail Community Approaches to Building Wealth
“Most of the focus on assets and ownership has been on individual savings. We argue that there may be an opportunity to rethink that focus,” write Hannah Thomas and Thomas Shapiro, Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis, in a provocative article that examines community ownership wealth building strategies in low-income communities. Among the examples: Market Creek Plaza [pictured left], a community owned commercial development project in San Diego; Champlain Housing Trust, a community land trust in Burlington, VT; and the Mission Asset Fund, based in San Francisco’s largely Latino “Mission District.”
Social Entrepreneur Michael Shuman Takes to the Road to Promote “Buy Local”
Locally owned businesses help create community stability by investing money back into the local area. Author and economist Michael Shuman has been touring rural America to tout the strengths of economic “localism” - buying local and within the community. Focusing primarily on Shuman’s work and travel, this Christian Science Monitor article also illustrates other local business initiatives around the country, such as New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Bank issuing local “community care” debit cards good only at participating local businesses and the many local initiatives of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE).
Will Green Jobs Be Good Jobs?
The “green economy” of renewable energy, mass transit, energy efficiency and modernization of the nation’s electrical grid may soon be upon us, but what will the jobs of the green economy look like? As this report from Good Jobs First illustrates, not all green jobs are “good jobs.” Highlighting challenges, including outsourcing, union busting, and low pay among certain green sectors, this report also identifies ways that public subsidy dollars can be leveraged to guarantee strong labor standards and help ensure that green jobs are also “middle class” jobs.
Center on Budget & Policy Priorities Calls for New Federal Housing Policy
Since 1995, federal spending on low-income housing has fallen by over twenty percent as a share of gross domestic product. Douglas Rice and Barbara Sard document the impact of these funding cuts in the face of increased demand, and outline several steps that can be taken to make housing more affordable for low-income families. Among these are measures to fully utilize the housing vouchers Congress has already authorized and to expand this assistance to more families, reducing child poverty and homelessness.
Can Mission-Focused Investing Achieve Scale?
This report published by the Monitor Institute, a consulting firm that specializes in social enterprise, argues that socially responsible investment or “impact investing,” has the potential to move from a periphery of activist investors to the core of mainstream financial institutions. In particular, this report highlights the importance of developing infrastructure that can help raise, channel, and make productive use of social investment capital.
CDFI Legislation at the State Level Hits All Time High
The Opportunity Finance Network has produced its third annual Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) State Legislation Advocacy Guide. The report examines 160 CDFI-related bills introduced in state legislatures since January 1, 2008. This total represents more CDFI bills introduced in this past session than all such legislation introduced and passed in the previous decade. In addition, this guide offers suggestions on how to work with state legislatures and an appendix describing various types of legislative models.
Report Surveys State Responses to Foreclosure Crisis
This report from the National Governors’ Association provides a broad survey of the wide range of state actions taken in 2008 to mitigate foreclosures, stabilize neighborhoods, and prevent future mortgage crises. In 2008, governors in 33 states signed 70 pieces of legislation designed to combat the rise of foreclosures in one form or another. Additionally, nearly all states have adopted new regulations to improve oversight of the mortgage lending industry and, prodded by 2008 federal housing legislation, all have formulated stabilization plans for locating, acquiring, and disposing of vacant properties.
CDFI Leaders Issue Call For Public Benefit Principles to Govern Finance
The current financial crisis offers an opportunity for the nation’s CDFIs, argue Ellen Seidman, Executive Vice President of Shorebank and Jeremy Nowak, President of The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based community loan fund. In their policy brief, Seidman and Nowak call for a “new public purpose bargain” that would provide “specific forms of support for smaller banks and community development financial institutions that specialize in community lending and development” and ensure that the overall financial sector is governed by sound principles including higher capital adequacy requirements, consumer protections against predatory lending, and market transparency.
C-W.ORG INTERVIEWS WITH COMMUNITY BUILDERS:
Mark Pinsky is CEO of the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a position he has held since 1995. OFN is the nation’s leading trade association of community development financial institutions. Through 2007, OFN members had originated more than $19.8 billion in financing in underserved urban, rural, and Native communities. In this C-W.org Interview, Pinsky discusses the state of community development finance, the movement’s vision and policy initiatives, and current challenges faced by CDFIs in this period of economic crisis.
The fifteenth in our continuing series of profiles ofCommunity Wealth Cities: Denver, Colorado. With population rising due to an influx of immigrants, Denver is not only home to new faces but also some fresh and innovative initiatives, including the T-REX project, the largest public transit expansion project in the country. The T-REX project and its sequel, FasTracks, are fostering some of the nation’s leading examples of transit-oriented development and mark one of Denver’s central contributions to community wealth building.
Labor, Environmentalists Seek Common Ground at Green Jobs Conference
More than 2,500 people came to Washington, DC to attend the Blue Green Alliance’s second annual “Good Jobs, Green Jobs” Conference. Founded by the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club, the Blue Green Alliance aims to build a movement that combines the pursuit of high quality, high wage jobs with environmental sustainability. Many speakers focused on ways to build policy that would create “green collar” jobs, promote energy independence, and reduce global warming. Discussion also took place on the development of specific renewable energy sectors as well as broad themes of building a movement for the long haul. Among the highlights were addresses by Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers, Winona LaDuke of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, and Van Jones of Green For All.
A gathering of close to 100 representatives from state community development associations attended the third annual NACEDA Policy Summit in Washington, DC. NACEDA, the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, was founded in 2006 to provide a common voice for the nation’s 4,600 community development corporations (CDCs). This year’s summit balanced discussion of the current economic crisis with how to achieve policy objectives to enable neighborhood-based community development corporations to better meet community needs and build wealth in low-income communities.
Americans for Community Development
Combining the social mission of nonprofits with the profit motive of traditional business, Americans for Community Development (ACD) advocates for a hybrid business model called L3C, or a low-profit limited liability company. In 2008, the first L3C law in the country was enacted in the state of Vermont. ACD pushes for the expansion of laws that encourage the development of this alternative model and encourages foundations to make program related investments in L3C businesses.
Go.Coop Whether the goal is understanding what a cooperative is, searching for one nearby or starting a new co-op in your area, Go.Coop is a resource for much of what one needs to know. This user-friendly resource is invaluable for anyone exploring or venturing into the world of co-ops.
More for Mission Investing
More for Mission (MFM), initiated in April 2007 as a joint project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the F.B. Heron Foundation and the Meyer Memorial Trust, works to promote greater mission investing - the aligning of foundation investments (at market rates) with foundation goals. The group aims to generate $10 billion in new mission investment commitments over the next five years by supporting current mission investing, encouraging other foundations to increase their mission investing, and fostering a network of foundations committed to mission investing.
For more information, see also:
Urban Land Conservancy
Founded in 2003, the Denver, CO-based Urban Land Conservancy acquires, develops, and preserves community land and assets in urban areas for schools, affordable housing, and office space for non-profits. Using land banking to secure land at today’s prices allows ULC to ensure that the space will remain affordable and accessible for future community endeavors. ULC also provides capital, resources, and coordination to other organizations for community development projects.