In tribute to the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, The Democracy Collaborative has prepared an overview report titled Community Stability and the Challenge of Climate Change. Authored by Thad Williamson, Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond, and Gar Alperovitz, Co-Founder of The Democracy Collaborative and the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, the study surveys the implications of climate change for our nation’s future and the critical role stabilizing the economies of our cities can play in reducing carbon emissions. Professor Alperovitz also recently spoke on the possibility for systemic change in America at the E. F. Schumacher society
The Democracy Collaborative has released a new study entitledRebuilding America’s Communities: A Comprehensive Community Wealth Building Federal Policy Proposal. The policy package outlines a series of federal initiatives that could greatly expand and strengthen community wealth building and asset creation strategies nationwide. The Cooperative Business Journal, a publication of the National Cooperative Business Association, published a short article on the study.
This month we also launch a new Policy Guide section of Community-Wealth.org. Here you will find a wide range of information on ways existing federal policy can be used to support community wealth building goals. The guide is designed to provide brief overviews and act as a gateway to more detailed resources available from trade associations and government agencies. We hope these materials encourage greater use and experimentation of different wealth building tools in a more coordinated fashion.
The work of The Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland — in partnership with The Cleveland Foundation — continues. This month, Ohio Cooperative Solar, the second of a growing network of Evergreen worker-owned cooperatives, begins its first 110Kw solar panel installation on a rooftop of a Cleveland Clinic building. More large-scale installations are scheduled throughout the summer on the roofs of University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University.
The Evergreen Initiative continues to be in the news. Recently, both The Nation and Business Week featured articles about the Initiative. The international television program “Fault Lines” reported on Evergreen in a program broadcast on April 8. Also in April, Baltimore’s Urbanite magazine ran an in-depth interview about the Evergreen strategy. A longer version of the interview aired on The Marc Steiner Show on radio station WEAA in Baltimore.
We have also reorganized the wealth of articles and materials about the Evergreen Initiative on our homepage. Look for the new section titled C-W in Action: the Cleveland Model. In the future, we also plan to highlight replication efforts, some already under way, in other communities around Ohio and the nation.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with the assessments of two national leaders about the importance and the potential of “The Cleveland Model”:
Jeffrey Hollender, the co-founder of Seventh Generation, the nation’s leading manufacturer of green products for the home, wrote this month on his blog: “Seeking courage and leadership, we find little. Looking for viable new ideas, we find few. But that’s because we haven’t looked in Cleveland. There is a lot to be incredibly hopeful about here. The Cleveland Model is a solution that suggests that our challenges are not as insurmountable as we fear and that the answers lie right here at home in ourselves and our communities. The idea that local citizens can use the power of business to cooperatively reclaim their shared economic and environmental destinies is a powerful one. I suggest we follow it into the future. This is one important new development you don’t want to miss.”
And Ben Hecht, CEO of the national funders’ collaborative Living Cities, recently remarked: “The Cleveland Foundation is proving out the potential and importance of getting anchor institutions like universities and hospitals to use their hiring and procurement more aggressively to create jobs and business opportunities for the lower class. The Cleveland Foundation has accomplished more in the two years since the launch of the Evergreen Initiative than all other similar efforts around the country over the years have been able to do.”
As always, we have added dozens of new links, articles, reports, and other materials to the site. Look for this symbol *NEW* 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:
Community Wealth Building Efforts Grow in Rural America
Nationally, community wealth building models that spread the benefits of business ownership among a broad range of owners are increasingly successful in generating wealth in rural America. These efforts can take many different forms from cooperatives to land trusts. This report from the Ford Foundation’s “Wealth Creation In Rural America Initiative” analyzes a broad range of ownership strategies, explaining how some build upon existing developments, while others may involve a reevaluation of community priorities.
Shared Equity Housing Builds Wealth, Study Finds
Published by New America Foundation’s Asset Building Program, this paper, authored by longtime community land trust advocates Rick Jacobus and John Emmeus Davis, examines the impact of shared equity models of homeownership on building wealth. Drawing from a case study of more than 400 members of the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington, Vermont, the largest community land trust in the nation, this paper shows that shared equity housing owners do build wealth, providing an effective ladder out of asset poverty for families with limited income.
Foreclosures and Recession Deepen Racial Wealth Gap
United for a Fair Economy’s 2010 State of the Dream report shows that the effects of the Great Recession have been felt disproportionately in communities of color. In thirteen states, the unemployment rate for African Americans was at least 2.5 times higher than that of whites; and in five states, the employment rate among Latinos was at least twice as high as for whites. The foreclosure crisis has also had a profound effect on widening racial wealth disparities. This report calls for greater job creation efforts, expanded use of wealth building tools (such as Individual Developments Accounts), tougher financial regulation and more progressive taxation.
IN THE NEWS:
Predatory Lending Undermines California’s Minority Communities
Examining federal mortgage data from five California cities (Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, and Stockton), the California Reinvestment Coalition has found a disturbing pattern: Large financial institutions in all five of these cities administered a disproportionate number of subprime loans to minority communities, made fewer loan modifications when minority homeowners fell behind on their payments, and now have disproportionately high loan denial rates in minority communities —effectively engaging in a new form of redlining. In response, the report calls for new consumer protections, increased flexibility for homeowners to modify their existing mortgages, and stepped-up enforcement of fair housing and lending in these hard-hit minority communities.
Mondragón-Steelworker Partnership Shows Promise
Last fall, a partnership agreement was announced between the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC), a 100,000-member worker cooperative based in Spain’s Basque Region, and the United Steelworkers (USW), North America’s largest industrial union with 850,000 members. The two organizations agreed to work jointly to build unionized worker co-ops in the United States and Canada. This marks a potential watershed moment in the shared history of unions and cooperatives. While the partnership is still in its initial stages, the conversation itself is important given that worker co-ops and U.S. unions have all but ignored each other’s movement over the past several decades despite common practices and historical solidarity.
Public Transit Generates Job Creation Bang for Stimulus Buck
Prepared jointly by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Smart Growth America, and U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), this paper, based on American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) data, illustrates that public transit generates nearly twice as many jobs per dollar invested as highway spending. Aside from the job creation benefits, this paper argues that a federal spending shift from highways to transit is necessary, as public transit demand has increased while access remains limited.
Speth Calls for Rethinking of Environmentalism
In this article, James Gustave Speth (former Chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and Dean of the School of Forestry at Yale) explains how the environmental movement, while successful at slowing the rate of worldwide environmental decline, has been unable to reverse it. To achieve this larger task, Speth argues, a new environmentalism is needed that goes beyond a “green” version of our current economy to create a “sustaining economy” that makes social justice a central component of protecting the environment.
Rising Work Hours Pose Challenges to Families and Communities
The typical American middle-income family put in an average of 11 more hours a week at work in 2006 than in 1978. Results include greater turnover at work and a growing strain on family and community well being, notes Joan Williams of the Center for WorkLife and Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress. To ease this conflict, the authors argue for federal policy that makes it easier to balance work and family roles through flexible work schedules, childcare and more generous leave.
Community Development Finance Helps Build Healthy Communities
Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) play a key role in public health — and could play an even greater role - argues Lisa Richter in the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Development Investment Review. Lauding such efforts as NCB Capital Impact’s financing of community health centers that together serve 350,000 low-income people and TRF’s financing of 74 new grocery stores to make fresh food available in underserved Pennsylvania communities, Richter calls on CDFIs to work to more systematically promote health and community wealth building through their loan programs and financing commitments.
Community Lenders Respond to Changing Bank Practices
Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) both cooperate and compete with commercial banks, according to Geoff Smith and Sean Zielenbach of the Chicago-based Woodstock Institute. In some cases, CDFIs have leveraged the capital of larger banks, which accept lower rates of return to gain access to new markets without having to bear the cost of the customer-intensive relationships required to maintain these loans. In other cases, CDFIs are reexamining their revenue streams, as the recession and bank mergers reduce their access to low-interest capital.
Food Access Boosts Local Communities
Improved fresh food access not only benefits health, but it also boosts local economies and creates jobs, argue Judith Bell, President of PolicyLink, and Marion Standish, Director of Healthy Environments at the California Endowment. For example, local supermarkets employ 100 to 200 people per store, who are often local residents. Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative, on which President Obama’s proposed $400-milion national Healthy Food Financing Initiative is modeled, offers, Bell and Standish contend, a creative, positive example of leveraging public monies with private investment to tackle this pressing problem.
C-W.ORG INTERVIEWS WITH COMMUNITY BUILDERS:
Brenda Palms Barber is Founding Executive Director (since 1999) and CEO of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), a workforce development nonprofit agency that focuses on helping former offenders reintegrate to the workplace. In 2004, NLEN launched a social enterprise called Sweet Beginnings, an urban honey farming and natural skin care manufacturing business that trains and employs former offenders and others with significant barriers to employment. The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is four percent, compared to the national average of 65 percent. In this C-W.org Interview Barber discusses the community impact of North Lawndale’s large former offender population, the development of the social enterprise, the promise of green jobs, and the challenge of spreading the model to other cities.
The nineteenth in our continuing series of profiles ofCommunity Wealth Cities: Seattle, Washington. This major Pacific Northwest hub is often considered one of the nation’s greenest cities and has used community wealth building tools to achieve “green” goals, including a growing push to support transit-oriented development and a revolving loan fund for energy-efficient retrofits.
Community Reinvestment Conference Attendees Confront Foreclosure Crisis
More than 600 people came to Washington, DC on March 10th through 12th to participate in the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s 20th annual conference. Two central themes at the gathering were addressing the pain from the foreclosure crisis and working to build a longer-term movement to address the many challenges facing low-income communities in the United States.
Community Development Bankers Association
As the national trade association of the community development bank sector, the Community Development Bankers Association (CDBA) helps members gain additional resources, educates policy makers, and communicates best practices. Unlike many other community development financial institutions, community development banks are typically for-profit institutions, but with a mission to serve urban and rural communities that have historically lacked access to credit from the traditional banking community.
New Economy Working Group
Instead of focusing on what is currently politically feasible, the New Economy Working (NEW) Group focuses on the desired outputs of our economic system - strong communities created through ecological balance, shared prosperity, and living democracy - and how we can get from here to there. With such an approach, NEW Group strives to reframe the national conversation over economic policy.
Triple Bottom Line Collaborative
As a 10-member alliance of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) supported by the Ford Foundation, the Triple Bottom Line Collaborative aims to support CDFIs that seek to simultaneously pursue three goals: economic revitalization, social equity, and environmental sustainablity.
Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI)
Founded in Seattle in 1938 by 23 mountain climbers, REI is the largest consumer cooperative in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members and 100 stores nationwide. Selling outdoor recreation gear and sporting goods, REI sales exceeded $1.43 billion in 2008. REI has been ranked every year in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” since the list’s inception in 1998. In 2009, it ranked twelfth nationally. www.rei.com