Building Community Wealth in 2019

Dear Colleague,

As 2018 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on two incredible statistics. The first is that US life expectancy has dropped for the third year in a row, the longest sustained decline since World War I; and the second is that in order to avoid climate catastrophe, we need to take drastic action to curb emissions to 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030. These findings highlight what many in our communities are already keenly aware of—that our current political-economic system fails both people and the planet.

While these trends can seem insurmountable, there are intriguing alternative pathways taking shape. As stated by our Co-Founder Gar Alperovitz in a recent keynote at the Bioneers conference, communities are developing solutions on their own and “within those models and strategies are the kernels of a systemic way to move forward.” At The Democracy Collaborative, we are continually working to surface these building blocks for the next system.

One of these is enterprise design—how do we structure businesses so that community, inclusion and sustainability are front and center? A recent report from Fifty by Fifty highlights how combining employee ownership with mission-driven governance can be a step in this direction. Read more about the report below. We are increasingly seeing the positive impact of worker ownership in a wide range of places from Cleveland, as highlighted by the Huffington Post, to Scotland, as described on the Fifty by Fifty blog.

Another element of the solution will be redefining the role of existing institutions—how can universities, health systems, local government, and other anchors help catalyze the transition to a more just and sustainable economy? This is the question at the heart of the Healthcare Anchor Network, which hosted its bi-annual convening in Richmond, Virginia earlier this month. A growing collaboration of over 40 major health systems, the Network is focused on supporting health systems as they reimagine their role in the community through strategies like inclusive, local purchasing and place-based investment. Read more about the work of the Network and its members from the Association for American Medical Colleges, Wharton Healthcare Quarterly, and the Wall Street Journal.

Public ownership provides yet another pathway forward. Director of Research Thomas Hanna recently authored an article for Jacobin highlighting how public ownership is an important tool that can be built on and developed to address social, economic, and environmental needs. The energy sector offers a clear example of the necessity of democratic public ownership: rather than simply breaking up investor-owned monopoly utilities such as California’s PG&E, there is an opportunity to transition them to public ownership, which would enable the development of community-based renewable energy projects that are essential to heading off catastrophic climate change. Hear Research Associate Johanna Bozuwa discuss public ownership at the Climate Futures conference.

As we approach 2019, I remain optimistic. Interest in, and commitment to, bold solutions like the ones outlined above continue to grow. We at The Democracy Collaborative are more committed than ever to surface and accelerate the models and strategies needed to build a more just, equitable, and democratic economy, and I invite you to support our work in the coming year.

Ted Howard
President and Co-Founder,
The Democracy Collaborative