Employment is up. Wages are down. Most people have fewer choices and chances. It doesn’t add up. Some people are throwing their hands in the air because they don’t believe the economic system can change. Others are simply throwing shade on it. We’re drawn to people who are taking action today to generate more opportunities and wealth for whole communities in the future, not just a few individuals. Democracy Collaborative’s Ted Howard throws light on what it takes to design an economy that benefits everyone.
Ted Howard is a lifelong social justice advocate and campaigner for a democratic economy. He is the co-founder and president of the Democracy Collaborative with offices in Washington, D.C. and Cleveland, Ohio.
The Democracy Collaborative is an action-oriented think tank, looking at how to build more democratic and resilient economies in communities across the United States and around the world.
The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland are a global innovation model for building community wealth, through building businesses that create living wage jobs with ownership to serve Cleveland’s anchor institutions.
The Power Lab is an innovation lab generated by the Atkinson Foundation and the Broadbent Institute for people who are building economic and democratic power within historically excluded and equity-seeking communities.
The Legacy Leadership Lab, at the University of Waterloo, is a program focused on tackling the challenge of small business succession through conversions to social purpose or cooperative enterprises.
“Power rests in who owns and controls the assets in a society.” Ted referenced that three individuals in US – Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet – own as much wealth as 50 percent of the least wealthy Americans. As the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found, Canada isn’t doing great either – the 87 wealthiest families are worth as much as three whole provinces!
Interested to hear more from Ted on democratizing the economy? He co-wrote the Making of a Democratic Economy with Marjorie Kelly – check out their info and resources!
Adding on to this, Ronnie Galvin has noted the need for democratic economies to also be reparative: “What the Democracy Collaborative hopes to build, then, is a new moral and ethical foundation for the democratic economy that centers liberation, racial and gender equity, and reparations for the sins of the past — only then can we ensure that the wounds of the past are healed, and that we do not merely recreate the excitative system we seek to transform.”
Co-operatives have long been a big part of the movement for fair economies. Check out this blog from Meg Ronson, a millennial co-operatives activist, and read The Co-operative Opportunity, a report she co-wrote with Sean Geobey on how co-ops could be key in the future of small businesses in rural communities and decent work across Canada.
One way that communities are organizing to build wealth with equity at the centre, is through organizing for community benefits agreements. Find out what they are and what the research is on them. Then, see who is doing the work in Ontario:
- Toronto Community Benefits Network
- Parkdale People’s Economy Project
- Windsor-Essex Community Benefits Coalition
- Hamilton Community Benefits Network
- ACORN Canada – especially the Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa/Gatineau chapters
Community benefits pilots are also ongoing in these regions:
More and more cities and public sector are looking at how to nurture fair, local economies through their own spending. These are called anchor institutions. The Preston Model highlights the possibilities. Closer to home, AnchorTO is leading the way.
The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) – one of the organizations behind the Preston Model – published a snapshot of the community wealth building movement in 2019. It highlights the principles of community wealth building, some great case studies, and the challenges. A must read!
You can also check out Episode 4 of Lovers and Fighters for another great conversation with Alejandra Bravo and Dusha Sritharan on power and how we can build a just, low-carbon future.