In cities across the nation, a few enjoy rising affluence while many struggle to get by. This situation is created in part by the practices of traditional economic development. Current trends threaten to worsen, unless we can answer the design challenge before us. Can we create an economic system—beginning at the local level—that builds the wealth and prosperity of everyone?
Democracy Collaborative Reports and Publications
How do low-income communities learn to advance economically and build wealth? Low-income communities and communities of color, in challenging structural economic and social inequality, have historically grappled with tensions inherent to development. Who participates in, directs, and ultimately owns the economic-development process? In creating and sustaining new, inclusive economic institutions, how do community members cultivate and pass on skills, commitment and knowledge—especially among those who have long faced barriers to education and employment?
On behalf of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), The Democracy Collaborative and local partner, DMM & Associates, conducted a three-month assessment of the procurement practices and supply chain needs of New Orleans healthcare institutions and the capacity of small, local businesses to fulfill those needs.
A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth
It was in 2005 that the highly regarded Monitor Institute report declared that the field of community foundations was “On the Brink of New Promise,” and in the decade since, there have been countless working groups and initiatives to introduce innovative approaches to the field. At the same time, largely beneath the radar, a small but growing group has begun pursuing the innovative path we explore here. Mostly in small steps—but sometimes in larger ways—they are adopting elements of what could emerge as a new anchor mission to deploy all resources to build community wealth.
Fostering resilient communities and building wealth in today’s local economies is necessary to achieve individual, regional, and national economic security. A community wealth building strategy employs a range of forms of community ownership and asset building strategies to build wealth in low-income communities. In so doing, community wealth building bolsters the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, expand the provision of public services, and ensure local economic stability.
How can we scale up the cooperative movement without losing our cooperative values? That is the question contributors seek to answer in this collection of essays. Contributors include Hilary Abell, Michael Johnson, Joe Guinan and Caitlin Quigley, along with contributing editors Thomas Hanna, Andrew McLeod and Len Krimerman.
Democracy Collaborative Research Director Steve Dubb along with Executive Director Ted Howard and Research Associate Sarah McKinley contributed the chapter “Economic Democracy” to the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability, now available courtesy of Gale Publishing. They outline the history of the economic democracy movement, highlighting community wealth building strategies such as community development finance institutions and cooperatives.
A new article by Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and community development associate Keane Bhatt provides ten concrete action steps that individuals and groups can take to foster democratic economies and build community wealth. Using on-the-ground examples, this article shows how to engage credit unions, build employee-ownership structures, work with hospitals and universities to forge community partnerships, invest money responsibly, support thoughtful economic development, and encourage a green economy. Integrating these action steps into daily life will help change the nature of wealth and asset ownership in a way that is more responsive to community need.
This study seeks to introduce a framework that can assist anchor institutions in understanding their impact on the community and, in particular, their impact on the welfare of low-income children and families in those communities.
This report, the companion to our The Anchor Dashboard: Aligning Institutional Practice to Meet Low-Income Community Needs, presents the research behind the framework we have designed to assist anchor institutions in measuring their community impact.
This essay by Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Research Director Steve Dubb opens the academic symposium journal issue on “Alternatives to Capitalism” which provides a collection of essays that explore the broader implications of community wealth building for creating a new economy.
This new report from The Democracy Collaborative and the Responsible Endowments Coalition seeks to connect struggling communities to local institutional wealth through engaging student activism. The report profiles three administration-led initiatives and three student-led initiatives, as well as five potential future partnerships, where institutional investments are directed into local communities in a way that empowers low-income residents, develops small businesses, and generates sustainable economic development.
Clearly, community and labor union activists organizing for economic justice face many tactical problems in our current economic and political environment. Economic hardship and Republican strategy have increasingly redefined basic elements of the social safety net—welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and other programs—as “entitlements” to be challenged and cut. Tax policy has become more regressive. The pressures of fiscal austerity mean that essential public services that help equalize opportunity for all Americans—especially schools—are increasingly underfunded, to say nothing of the risk of outright privatization. Economic inequality is at extreme levels not seen since the Gilded Age. The position of economic justice organizers here is essentially defensive; fighting a rearguard action for the survival of underserved communities, on terrain which is becoming less and less favorable. The following argument is based on the judgment that it is necessary ultimately to be in a position that goes on the offensive—and that there are powerful ways to do this.
In particular, new strategies of worker ownership within a community framework can function as the linchpin of an approach capable of uniting economic justice organizers, progressives, labor, and environmental activists while at the same time presenting an attractive economic development option to municipal policymakers. Moreover, such an approach can help build economic power in communities struggling against concentrated poverty. More generally, a position that offers an alternative vision of the municipal and regional economy, oriented towards local multipliers at all possible scales, can provide a robust platform for a range of organizing work that points towards larger transformations in the economic system...
The Democracy Collaborative’s latest report, Hospitals Building Healthier Communities, provides an in-depth look at six hospitals in five cities that are rethinking their economic and community engagement strategies. These hospitals have recognized that health is more than just treating the patients that come through their doors and are beginning to adopt an “anchor institution mission” that can help build not only more prosperous, but also healthier communities.
This report from The Democracy Collaborative and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT focuses on the path-breaking Vision 2010 Program implemented in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio by University Hospitals System. Over a five year period, the initiative targeted more than $1 billion of procurement locally to create jobs, empower minority- and female-owned businesses, and create a “new normal” for responsible, community-focused business practices in the region.
As long as businesses are set up to focus exclusively on maximizing financial income for the few, our economy will be locked into endless growth and widening inequality. But now people across the world are experimenting with new forms of ownership, which Kelly calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for all of life to thrive for many generations to come. These designs may hold the key to the deep transformation our civilization needs.
To understand these emerging alternatives, Kelly reports from across the globe, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work.
Authored by Rita Axelroth Hodges and Steve Dubb as part of Michigan State University Press' series on Transformations in Higher Education, the book features ten in-depth cases and examines how universities, by pursuing an anchor institution mission to improve surrounding communities in cooperation with community partners, can positively impact the welfare of low-income residents.