Welcome to our latest www.Community-Wealth.org e-newsletter. In this summer’s edition, we bring you many new developments and site features:
- We are pleased to announce the launch of the new Evergreen Cooperatives website, which we hope will serve as a resource for community wealth building efforts in many localities. The site contains information about the overall Evergreen strategy as well as detailed information on individual Evergreen companies. One of these, Green City Growers, was recently profiled on Cleveland’s Channel 5 news program.
- Evergreen was also recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative, where I participated in a panel on new strategies for creating sustainable finance. Along with many other wealth building initiatives around the country, Evergreen is also profiled in this month’s theatrical release of the newly revised PBS documentary “Fixing the Future” by David Brancaccio. We hope you will be able to attend one of the screenings that will be held in hundreds of cities across the country on July 18th and 19th.
- In anticipation of the nation’s July 4 celebration, our good friends at PolicyLink distributed a video interview with me focused on how community wealth building strategies can enhance civic life and democratic values at the local level.
- The Democracy Collaborative has also been examining broader economic challenges facing our communities. Co-founder Gar Alperovitz and Research Associate Thomas Hanna explore the benefits of public ownership as an alternative to corporate capitalism in The Nation. In an essay for the American Sociological Association, Dr. Alperovitz and our Research Director Steve Dubb outline how multiple forms of democratized ownership (a “pluralist commonwealth”) could emerge as a community-sustaining economic system. Alperovitz also highlights six examples of current and emerging “new economy” trends that are increasing the democratization of ownership and wealth across the nation in a recent article published in Sojourner. Finally, The Democracy Collaborative edited a five-part AlterNet series published at the end of May that explores a broad range of issues: the growing “new economy” movement, socially and ecologically conscious business structures, community wealth building innovations across the country, alternative banking and financial institutions, and five visions that begin to form the model of a new economy.
- Continuing our series, we interview our 23rd community wealth-building leader, Raquel Pinderhughes, developer of a green jobs training curriculum known as Roots of Success, an environmental literacy and job readiness curriculum that serves at-risk youth and adults.
- We also profile our 28th Community-Wealth City: San Francisco, California.
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.
Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative
NEW & RECOMMENDED:
Forces for Good Highlights Successful Nonprofit Practices
Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant released an updated and revised edition of Forces for Good, which included an analysis of thousands of surveys from nonprofits and an in-depth study of the successful tools of 13 “high-impact” nonprofits. In the new version the authors re-examine these organizations to see how they have weathered the recent recession. They have incorporated four new lessons, including nurturing networks within communities, which has proved to help organizations expand their impact.
UN Study Highlights Pathway to a Sustainable Economy
Aiming to situate our material economy within a larger ecological framework, this report is a synthesis of ideas from Dr. Robert Costanza and his co-authors, including the Democracy Collaborative’s Gar Alperovitz. Developed as part of the Sustainable Development in the 21st Century project for the United Nations’ 2012 Rio+20 summit, the report argues that the goals of the sustainable global economy should include protecting capital for fair distribution, reducing systemic inequalities while improving the living standards of the poor, and establishing a system for effective and equitable governance. The authors contend that a sustainable macro-economy is necessary and viable through broad public control of the money supply and financial instruments to benefit the public.
Demand for Urban Agriculture Sites Increases in San Francisco
Released by the San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR), this report analyzes the recent increase in interest for urban agriculture in San Francisco, including the launching of more than 20 projects in just the last four years. City gardening and farming has given San Francisco residents cost-saving recreational space, an enhanced sense of community, job training opportunities, and a moderate amount of economic development. To address the growing demand SPUR recommends, that city officials increase funding and institutional support for urban agriculture sites. The group also proposes that the City promote urban agriculture as a community benefit when evaluating and approving larger development projects.
IN THE NEWS:
Los Angeles Case Study Provides Road Map for Effective Movement Building
Manuel Pastor and Michele Prichard seek to answer the question: How did Los Angeles transform from the economic and social despair seen in 1992 to the innovative large-scale multi-racial, multi-sector community that exists today? The authors identify four key phases or “waves”: setting vision and developing organizations (1992-1995), creating anchors and forging alliances (1996-2000), fashioning movements and building power (2001-2005), and achieving impact and scaling up (2006-2010). Providing a number of important takeaways for practitioners in other cities, one lesson that the authors emphasize is the importance of investing in institutions. Another important lesson is to develop sustainable business models so that community organizations do not become overly dependent on foundation support.
2012 Report Calls for Broad Policy Change that Promotes Asset Building
The New America Foundation’s 2012 Assets Report is an annual analysis of the savings and asset-building programs and policies embedded in the U.S. tax code. Of the $548 billion directed toward asset-building goals, the authors show that the overwhelming majority benefit middle- and upper-income families. The report offers recommendations for the executive and legislative branches to implement a more comprehensive set of saving and asset-building policies for low-income families, including granting funds to non-profits to set up matched savings accounts, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, and increasing capital that flows to non-profit community-based lenders that provide microloans for small businesses.
Community Wealth Approach Leads to Economic Revival in the Basque Country
In this case study, Juan Ibarretxe Markuartu, who served as President of the Basque County autonomous region of Spain from 1999 to 2009, examines how the Basque government and citizens implemented participatory processes that seek equality, democracy, and sustainable human development, including, famously, support for the Mondragón cooperative network. As a result of these policies, from 1998 through 2008 the Basque Country experienced 28 percent GDP growth, exceeding the 17 percent achieved in Spain and the European Union average of 20 percent. Other notable achievements from this strategy include reducing their long-term unemployment rate from eight percent in 1999 to less than one percent in 2008 and closing the gender gap in Parliament representation, increasing female participation in Parliament to 53 percent.
Surveys Demonstrate the Strength of the Co-op Sector during the Recession
A collaborative effort of the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, Strengthening Local Independent Co-ops Everywhere, and associated Northwest co-op developers, this survey evaluates the strength of the Northwest cooperative sector during the recent recession. Examining established and emerging cooperatives throughout the states of Washington and Oregon, the survey found that more than half of the cooperatives have been in operation for ten or more years and an overwhelming majority reported that their business is steady or improving, even in a recessionary business climate. The survey also found that 92 percent wanted to support a regional cooperative economy and 87 percent are already conducting business with other co-ops. The report also calls for an increase in cooperative development funds and support services to build on these achievements.
Clean Tech Industry Proves its Ability to Create Jobs
In this report, a collaboration of the Breakthrough Institute, The Brookings Institution and World Resource Institute, the authors analyze the spending trajectory and economic impact of 92 separate clean energy technology (“clean tech”) programs included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Among the key findings is that the clean tech sector experienced more than a 12 percent growth rate and created over 70,000 jobs at the height of the recession. To build on these gains, the report authors propose implementing energy subsidies to improve technology prices and performance so the sector will eventually be able to expand independently of government support. The report further contends that an increase in investment to “smart regional clusters” will foster bottom-up innovation, job creation, and local economic growth.
Building Civic Infrastructure is Key to Creating a Resilient Economy
In this interview, Indy Johar, co-founder of the London-based cooperative Architecture 00:/, emphasizes the need to restructure social institutions from the typical business model to one that stresses a civic economy. Building a civic economy, creating jobs, and shifting the power base is most effective when it occurs in the community, in local corner shops, bakeries, and farms. By changing institutions and democratizing capital and finance, society can create platforms for public investors to become social investors. Through their own organization and a project called Civic Crowd, Johar and his team attempt to demonstrate the practicality and reality of the emergence of a socially conscious economy.
Report Highlights Federal Policies that Foster Asset Building
Written by Katherine Lucas Smith from the Corporation of Enterprise Development (CFED), this report identifies 20 inexpensive, “stroke-of-the-pen” policies that will cultivate economic growth for disadvantaged families. Some of the notable recommendations include calling for the Administration for Children and Families to institutionalize an asset-building framework into each of its programs, for Congress to eliminate or reform asset limits in public benefit reforms, and for HUD and the Federal Housing Administration to allow for shared equity mortgages to qualify for affordable housing development grants and mortgage insurance programs.
Communities Embrace City Role in Reclaiming their Energy Sources
In this Governing article, Dylan Scott touches upon two time-tested strategies that communities have recently recycled to reclaim their energy sources from for-profit utility companies. He begins by examining Boulder, Colorado, which broke away from its utility provider to create a municipally owned utility that will meet residents’ demand for sustainable energy practices in a cost-effective manner. Boulder is not alone in undertaking such projects. Sonoma County, California has pursued a community choice aggregation (CCA) allowing counties to join a service area that collectively purchases energy, giving the government greater control over costs and energy sources. Local citizens then have a choice to purchase their energy from the CCA or the current power company.
Islanders Partner with Credit Union and Receive Substantial Control and New Branch
In this Los Angeles Times article, Kim Murphy explains how residents of Vashon Island, Washington, fed up with corporate banks, embraced a banking alternative. Key to their success was the decision to work with a local credit union to open a new branch on the island, receiving substantial control in exchange for new members and deposits. Within the first year of their campaign, the organizers exceeded their goal of ten million dollars in local deposits, convincing 16 percent of island residents to move nearly $20 million to the new credit union. The collaboration has resulted in an increase in micro lending to community projects and energy conservation lending by allowing nonprofit groups to use their own savings to guarantee certain loans.
Report Claims that CDFIs are More Effective as Regional Networks
Contracted by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution Fund, the Carsey Institute conducted a detailed analysis of a large sample of community development financial institutions (CDFI), focusing on challenges of investing in low-and-moderate income individuals and communities from 2005 until 2010. The industry analysis found five key issues that inhibited the sector from increasing their impact, including suffering from financial strains as they addressed lending-related needs during the recession and facing barriers that prevented CDFI Loan Funds from allocating capital more effectively. The report recommends that in order for CDFIs to serve more people, access more funds, and increase their productivity, they need to operate as national or regional, instead of individual, networks to increase their scale and secure long-term loan funds.
Comprehensive Guide Offers Advocacy Tools for Increasing Affordable Housing
Presented by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), this guide offers readers a comprehensive overview of housing issues and services, income programs, and advocacy tools for readers interested in affordable housing. Beyond preserving existing federally assisted housing resources, the guide advances the coalition’s mission to expand the supply of low-income housing and establish housing stability as the priority within federal housing policy. The report also offers a variety of resources and tools for effective advocacy to state and local officials.
Job Guarantee Model Stresses Role of Nonprofits in Creating Jobs
In this Levy Economics Institute paper, Pavlina Tcherneva states that the most effective fiscal policy to achieve full employment and macroeconomic stabilization is through a non-profit job guarantee model (JG), which endorses the role of non-profits and social enterprises in community projects that create jobs for those unable to find employment in the private sector. This model of JG allows for a bottom-up approach to job creation and community development where nonprofits, communities, and local citizens participate in designing, proposing, and executing projects and programs. With the support of federal grants, nonprofits and social enterprises are able to addresses local needs, encourage community participation, and create job opportunities for previously unemployed community members.
C-W INTERVIEWS WITH COMMUNITY BUILDERS:
Interviews with Community Wealth Builders
In this edition, Raquel Pinderhughes, Founder and Executive Director of the Environmental Literacy Curriculum Project, which manages Roots of Success, discusses her journey to develop an educational program that offers hard to employ youth and adults the training and support they need to access careers in the green economy. Her priority going forward is to continue to scale up, accessing more programs and people that have been failed by the education system to provide them with opportunities to access jobs and improve their communities.
28th in Our Continuing Series of Community-Wealth Cities: San Francisco, California
A prominent financial hub and an epicenter for internet start-ups, San Francisco is also home to a number of community wealth building initiatives, including multiple employee-owned businesses, numerous community development corporations seeking to increase affordable housing options for low-income residents, and policies to foster local job creation, such as the city’s Local Hire Policy for Construction.
National Organizations Stress Co-ops’ Ability to Scale-up
Two prominent national cooperative organizations, the Cooperative Development Foundation and the National Cooperative Bank, held events in Washington, D.C. this past May. Both conferences focused on the designation of this year as the International Year of the Cooperative concentrating on member-owned co-ops as a scalable business model.
Ohio Conference Focuses on Employee Ownership’s Role in Improving the Economy
With over 300 employee-owners from across the state, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center held their 26th annual conference, with the central theme of “Employee Ownership: A Better Way of Doing Business.” The Ohio Conference highlighted the benefits of employee-ownership firms and recognized a number of employee-owned companies for their longevity and productivity.
Community Reinvestment Conference Advocates for Equitable, Local Solutions
More than 550 activists, fair housing professionals, community practitioners and policymakers attended the National Community Reinvestment Coalition’s 22nd annual Conference. Titled “Not Just an Economy, A Just Economy,” the conference focused on developing and highlighting local solutions to economic concerns faced by homeowners in low- and moderate-income communities and building a stronger advocacy network to accomplish these objectives.
BRIDGE Housing was originally founded to combat San Francisco’s shortage of affordable housing. Since 1983, the organization has expanded its capabilities to address a variety of issues, including project financing, community outreach, planning, construction management, property maintenance, and asset management. They have successfully developed over 13,000 homes with an estimated market value of three billion dollars.
The Cooperative Teach-In
The Cooperative Teach-In is a nation-wide initiative that seeks to engage college, university, and other campuses with the cooperative movement through events, programs, and projects on co-ops. The initiative aims to also facilitate an exchange of information, ideas, tactics, and goals about the cooperative movement and show how cooperatives positively impact local and global communities.
Delancey Street Foundation
Delancey Street is a prominent residential self-help organization for substance abusers, ex-convicts, homeless, and many others trapped in poverty. Delancey Street, San Francisco is a 370,000 square foot self-built, self-managed, self-help complex constructed primarily by Delancey Residents. Covering an entire city block, this complex contains retail stores, restaurants, cafes, bookstores, vocational schools, and over 500 housing units. The complex offers vocational training programs that have provided over 300 previously unemployed people skill training in purchasing, contracting, computer, and accounting services.
Food Co-op Initiative
The Food Co-op Initiative aims to serve as a support system that provides an array of resources and programs for emerging retail grocery cooperatives. The development model combines experience from consultants, start-up groups, and experienced co-op founders to guide the design and implementation of start-up cooperatives. In 2011, The Food Co-op Initiative’s Seed Fund, which was created to provide financial grants up to $10,000 to early development co-op organizing groups, made grants of a total of more than $100,000 to 16 new retail cooperatives.
New Economics Institute
The New Economics Institute, formerly the E.F. Schumacher Society, combines theory-based economics with mainstream businesses and financial services to create an economic model that prioritizes human well-being and the preservation of the Earth’s natural resources. The group is working to develop the Global Transition 2012 Initiative, which would bridge international organizations and academics focused on proposing alternative solutions to redress financial inequalities and global environmental issues. The Institute manages a library of over 15,000 pieces of literature concentrating on decentralization and community economics. Their collection can be searched through their website, providing equal access for individuals interested in the history and up-to date works on ecologically and socially responsible economics.
We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream
We the Owners is a documentary film that follows the founders and employees of three employee-owned firms, the New Belgium Brewing Company, Namasté Solar, and DPR Construction, as they share their approaches and challenges in shared wealth and ownership. Along with a trailer and other information on the documentary, this website offers selected resources, teaching materials, and a library of employee-ownership service organizations for students, start-up businesses, or existing firms interested in a new business model.