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Dear Colleague,

Welcome to our spring 2012 e-newsletter. In this edition, we bring you a host of new developments and site features:

  • Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative Initiative has developed a new 6-minute video featuring Evergreen’s worker-owners and anchor institution partners.
  • I also want to recommend to you this six-minute preview of Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work, a feature-length documentary coming out later this year.  The film includes original footage of the Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain and also features the Evergreen Cooperatives, along with other employee-owned companies across the United States. The filmmakers are seeking to raise $30,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter for the film’s completion.
  • Continuing our series, we interviewed our 22nd community wealth-building leader, Caroline Murray, Organizing Director of Rebuild the Dream and former Executive Director of the Alliance to Develop Power, a Springfield, Massachusetts group that has combined advocacy work with the development of housing, food, and worker cooperatives for 19 years. 

As always, we have added 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. You can also follow new developments on Facebook and Twitter.

Ted Howard
Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative



Shuman Offers a Road Map to Investing Locally and Sustainably
Michael Shuman’s Local Dollars, Local Sense delves deep into communities around the nation to show us how we can all invest locally, providing the necessary missing capital to help neighborhood businesses and assets survive, thrive and enhance our communities. There is something for everyone to learn as Shuman explores the possibility of local stock exchanges, mission related investment, direct microfinance lending, the power of cooperatives and even steps that each of us can take to invest in ourselves before we put our money into non-local, non-socially oriented Wall Street firms.
Available from

Collins Surveys Rising Global Wealth Inequality
In 99 to 1: How Wealth is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It, Chuck Collins compiles all of the sobering statistics that we often hear about growing wealth inequality into one concise piece. In addition to highlighting the growing inequalities of wealth and power for individuals and corporations in the media, politics, and other areas, he explains the damaging effect the “Wall Street Inequality Machine” has on our social fabric.
Available from

America’s Cooperative Movement Achieves New Growth and Success
In this 64-page dossier, freelance author Enrico Massetti provides an interesting introduction to worker-owned and consumer co-ops in the United States, highlighting a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives shows that there are nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States.  Drawing in his readers with a compilation of interesting back stories for co-ops across the nation, Massetti also provides a useful toolkit - based on one developed by the Arizmendi Bakeries in San Francisco - for those interested in starting a worker co-op or expanding their current one into a larger system of collectives. Other profiled cooperatives include the Brooklyn-based, cleaning service Si Se Puede!; Madison-based machinery manufacturer Isthmus Engineering & Manufacturing, Cleveland-based, solar panel installer Ohio Cooperative Solar, and even San Francisco’s Lusty Lady peep show theater.
Available at


Report Shows that Valuing and Engaging Employees Creates Business Success
In Employees Matter: Maximizing Company Value Through Workforce Engagement, Anne Claire Broughton from the SJF Institute shows just that: valuing and investing in employees creates long-term returns for a business. Examining 16 firms, employing between 50 to 3,500 people and with average revenues of $35 million, Broughton identifies ten employee engagement strategies that have contributed to their success.  Many involve increasing an employee’s ownership and management stake in their company, including profit sharing mechanisms, ESOP opportunities, employee involvement on the executive management team, and open book management.  The report also offers resources related to employee ownership and engagement and broad-based employee incentive programs that may be useful for other firms looking to implement some of these practices.

Global Recession Reveals Strengths and Successes of Public Sector Banks
In this Truthout article, Ellen Brown highlights the success that countries with public sector banks have had in riding out the Great Recession. Although anathema to many in the United States, globally, public banks provide the backbone for many nations’ financial systems, including the four “BRIC” nations of Brazil, Russia, India, and China. Today, the largest banks by market capitalization, the largest bank by deposits, the largest bank by assets, and the largest development bank are all state owned.  Brown notes that 2010 research conducted by economist Svetlana Andrianova and colleagues found that countries with strong public sector banking were not only more stable but had grown more quickly than countries with no or little government ownership of banks.

PolicyLink Offers Recommendations for an Equitable Foreclosure Recovery
In Fostering Equitable Foreclosure Recovery, PolicyLink examines three case studies of foreclosure recovery efforts in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland and Seattle. In order to ensure an equitable recovery and build a more just system of housing finance, PolicyLink offers several recommendations, including increasing local capacity to take control of distressed properties through land banks and other institutional mechanisms and expanding existing models of sustainable homeownership for low-income buyers to help reduce the racial gap in homeownership and wealth.

Food Advocate Highlights Health Sector’s Key Role in Sustainable Food Production
In this interview, sustainable food system advocate Jamie Harvie explains why the health care sector has a large incentive to support sustainable food production. As Harvie notes, current methods of food production contribute to obesity; antibiotic-resistant bacteria; contaminated air, water, and food; global warming; and other harmful consequences. Health care organizations are beginning to recognize their stake in this fight, which often means shifting their significant purchasing power to support local and community-owned production, such as Community Supported Agriculture, and hosting farmers markets in areas that have been historically food deserts – a change that may have significant health and economic benefits for the vitality of local communities.

Denver Health System Becomes Public Sector Star
In this article from Governing, Dylan Scott explains the turnaround of Denver Health in the 1990s that has led it to become a national model for public sector health care today. Through a variety of strategies, including adopting Toyota’s lean manufacturing philosophy, which stresses five principles focused on eliminating waste, and decoupling itself from city control to become a public, academic and independent health system, Denver Health completed a total overhaul of its system under CEO Patricia Gabow. In terms of cost and quality of care, the results of this reform are impressive: Denver Health, which has the lowest mortality rate of any of the nation’s academic hospitals, transformed a $35 million deficit to operating consistently in the black. Additionally, these achievements were accomplished despite system expenses for treating uninsured patients increasing from $100 million to $400 million, without laying off any of its 5,400 employees, and while charging 35 percent less for an inpatient stay than Metro Denver – a private, non-profit system that serves the rest of the city’s population.

Survey Provides Most Comprehensive Look At Community Land Trusts To Date
Surveying 96 of more than 240 community land trusts across the nation, The 2011 Comprehensive Community Land Trust Survey aims to “holistically capture the current landscape” of this form of shared equity housing that creates permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for low- and medium-income families. Authored by Emily Thaden from the Housing Fund at Vanderbilt University, in partnership with the National Community Land Trust Network and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, this report shows the prevalence of these organizations – established in 46 states and the District of Columbia – and highlights current challenges facing community land trusts, including difficulty accessing first mortgage products for their homebuyers and in obtaining sufficient resources to both increase unit production and provide the necessary stewardship for their homes and homeowners.

Usage and Impact of Community Workforce Agreements Increase Nationwide
In this Cornell School of Industrial Relations report, authors Mari Figueroa, Jeff Grabelsky and Ryan Lamare explore the community development impact of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which are contracts to achieve uniform labor standards for construction projects, and Community Workforce Agreements (CWAs), which are PLAs that contain social investment or targeted hiring provisions.  Surveying more than 185 PLAs, the authors find that more than 100 have included community workforce provisions, such as preferences for local, women and minority hiring. Although additional research is still needed, the authors find that these agreements can be effective for improving the economic condition of communities and traditionally underserved populations.

Opportunity Finance Network Rolls Out Next Generation Vision for CDFIs
In this report, the Opportunity Finance Network lays out its next generation vision for the community development finance industry. Convening 25 leaders in this field (from more than 126 that applied) in October 2010, OFN tasked them with crafting this report - CDFIs v2.0: The Vision of a New Generation - meant to lay the foundation for encouraging a new generation of industry leadership and a platform for those new leaders to leverage their ideas. The convened group focused on three issues that it felt the industry urgently needed to address: professional development, social metrics, and industry-wide efficiency. To address these challenges, the 25 leaders offered five recommendations that are explored more in depth in the report: strategically recruit new talent, increase opportunities for training and advancement, improve social impact measurement and collection, collaborate and innovate to use resources more efficiently, and diversify capital sources and improve transparency.

CFED’s Scorecard Gives Low Marks to Americans’ Financial Insecurity
CFED’s 2012 Assets and Opportunity Scorecard paints a pessimistic picture of poverty in America, showing that poverty by any measure, and especially for minorities, is increasing. Providing data on “asset poverty,” or the inability for a household to live above the poverty level for three months in the absence of income, CFED finds that 27 percent of Americans are asset poor (a family of three would need $4,632 in assets). CFED also introduces a new measure of financial insecurity in America – “liquid asset poverty” – which look at cash on hand and other assets that can be easily converted to cash.  By this measure, the poverty rate for American households jumps even higher to 43 percent and 65 percent for minority households. The report also highlights 12 asset-building policies and rates each state’s effort on reducing asset poverty. CFED also offers federal policy recommendations to help low-income households build assets, including eliminating asset tests for TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families) and making the Saver’s Credit refundable.

Study Scores States on ‘Good Job’ Standards for Economic Development Subsidies
No state received a grade of ‘A’ and only four managed a grade of ‘B’ in this Good Jobs First report that grades state economic development subsidies. The report evaluates 238 programs across the nation, including corporate income tax credits, cash grants, low cost or forgivable loans, enterprise zones, reimbursement for working training expense and other types of company-specific state assistance. Of these, only 135 programs had requirements related directly to job creation, job retention or training of a certain number of workers. The report does offer one positive note: of the 135 programs with job-related requirements, 98 of them require that the new jobs remain in existence for a minimum period of time or that the facility remain open for a designated period of time and 92 prohibit companies from receiving subsidies for simply moving existing jobs from another location.


Interviews with Community Wealth Builders
In this edition, Caroline Murray, Organizing Director of Rebuild the Dream and former Executive Director of Alliance to Develop Power (ADP) in Springfield, Massachusetts, discusses ADP’s work combining community organizing with community development of housing, food, and worker cooperatives. Murray also explains efforts at Rebuild the Dream to expand these new economy innovations from the grassroots level to the mainstream.



27th in Our Continuing Series of Community-Wealth Cities: Kansas City, Missouri
Well known for its substantial musical contributions to jazz and blues starting in the 1930s, Kansas City is also home to many wealth building initiatives, including a new effort by Mayor Sly James to create the New Tools Task Force that is developing a tool box of strategies to create sustainable neighborhoods through community engagement in distressed parts of the city.


Controlling the Corporation
On Monday, April 2, a large group of activists and scholars convened for the all-day conference, “Controlling the Corporation,” organized by Ralph Nader and the Center for Study of Responsive Law. The event explored Nader’s two-pronged strategy to constrain corporate power through public pressure and activism, while also “displacing” corporate power through new-economy initiatives.


Blue Hills Community Services (Kansas City, Missouri)
Blue Hills Community Services (BHCS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1974 serving the residents of the Blue Hills community and surrounding neighborhoods in Kansas City, MO using a block-by-block strategy to revitalize the community. Blue Hills has developed more than 960 affordable housing units, and has further assisted communities through their Save Our Streets crime prevention program and by administering education funds by the U.S. Department of Education. More recently, the group has invested $3.1 million to sustainably repurpose an existing 14,168 square-foot building to be used for green career and small business development, while providing local community services and programs.

Central Corridor Funders Collaborative (St. Paul, MN)

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative is a group of local and national funders that supplements the programs and investments of its member foundations along the Central Corridor Light Rail Line by working with community groups and public agencies to encourage collaboration, investment, and planning. With the goal of investing $20 million over 10 years to improve access to affordable housing, foster a strong local economy, and create vibrant, transit-oriented places, the Collaborative has currently raised $5 million to date.


The United Nation’s has designated 2012 as the International Year of the Cooperative.  Inspired by this decision, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action, a worker-owned, next-generation publisher of participatory resources for social and economic change, has developed a game to teach participants about cooperatives. Co-opoly offers a cooperative, everyone wins or everyone loses spin on the traditional Monopoly board game.

ImpactAssets (Bethesda, MD)

Incubated by the Calvert Foundation and launched independently in 2009, ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services company striving to tackle global issues with equal regard for problem solving and profit. With the goal of achieving maximum environmental, social and financial impact, ImpactAssets also works to speed the adoption of impact investing by investors and philanthropists. To date, the nonprofit administers $60 million in assets, with a long-term goal of $1 billion in assets.

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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