Community Wealth Blog

Though they end up as owners and decision-makers, workers in low-income communities often don't start off doing all the work of developing and growing a worker-owned cooperative themselves. This is even true for the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, the world’s single largest worker cooperative network and a leading source of inspiration for efforts to build worker cooperatives to scale in the United States.

Indian Country is the site of some exciting new work taking shape in social enterprise and employee ownership. Five Native American projects are being developed as part of an initiative managed by The Democracy Collaborative and funded by the Northwest Area Foundation, known as the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building.

Seattle‘s minimum wage ordinance is one step toward lessening inequality and poverty compounded by low-wage work. But there are still many challenges ahead. Cooperative development is one tool in the community wealth building strategy toolbox that can help lift low-wage workers, and especially women, out of poverty. 

The past few weeks have seen a flurry of impressive activity at the level of city government, all around policies designed to build community wealth and encourage the growth of cooperative local economies. It's encouraging to see that the work of grassroots developers, local foundations, community activists, and field builders (like ourselves here at the Democracy Collaborative) is beginning to gain a foothold in the world of municipal policy. 

Beloved for its charming landscapes and fresh lobster, the rural community of Deer Isle, Maine is now gaining attention in the cooperative world. When Verne and Sandra Seile, proprietors of Burnt Cove Market, V&S Variety and Pharmacy, and The Galley, decided to retire last year, they sold their businesses to their employees. With 62 new worker-owners, Island Employee Cooperative, Inc. (IEC) is now the twelfth largest worker cooperative in the nation.

Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high and employee wages are at their lowest ever as a percent of GDP. Worker cooperatives embody the hope that we can reverse the downward spiral in wage stagnation, wealth distribution, and concentration of ownership to build an economy that truly serves people and communities. But what will it really take to create a more cooperative economy?

The broad appeal of the ‘Cleveland Model’ and of community wealth building in general is becoming evident in a growing number of communities around the country, and—increasingly—overseas as well.

Worker cooperatives are an important part of the community wealth building toolbox, and our new report Worker Cooperatives, Pathways to Scale, authored by Hilary Abell, assesses the state of worker cooperative development in the United States and suggests key strategies and policies for scaling up its impact.

Since our last posting on Boulder’s municipalization efforts, the city has taken another big step forward and succeeded in creating its own power and light utility. Through the continued efforts of an informed, engaged, and environmentally conscious citizenry, Boulder is moving closer to its goal of significant emissions reductions through local control of its energy system.

So many anchors are now engaged in some sort of community and economic development locally. But how do they know if they are truly benefiting local residents? Having metrics and indicators to track the impact of their engagement is tremendously helpful in order to ensure that both the institution and the community are benefiting. 

When community engagement strategies are marginalized and not viewed as integral to an organization’s core business, they are not sustainable. They are susceptible to budget cuts and changing leadership agendas. Quantifying the returns from community initiatives will help ensure that those initiatives are in place for the long-term.

As part of the Rethinking Communities’ Initiative, the Roosevelt Institute|Campus Network launched The Anchor Institution Challenge, a nationwide project designed to help students understand their university's impact on surrounding communities.