Community Wealth Blog
Grocery or “natural food” co-ops pioneered promoting local and organic foods, helping to propel these concepts into the mainstream. But spurred by expanding consumer demand, large corporations now dominate the market and have increased pressure on independent, grocery co-ops around the country. Today, the labels of organic, local, or natural do not necessarily reflect a more equitable distribution of wealth and profits.
This past summer, in a sea-side town in Maine, the state’s largest worker cooperative was created. As a retirement gift, small business owners Vernon and Sandra Seile turned over ownership of their retail businesses to their 40 employees. Ashley Weed, a dutiful worker of the Seiles for 11 years, stated, “I am happy they actually sold it to us, so we don’t have to start at the bottom again.”
According to the Foundation Center’s 2014 Key Facts report, community foundations today have nearly $65 billion in assets, more than 9 percent of all foundation assets ($715 billion). As noted at a recent White House conference, over 700 community foundations operate nationwide. Yet while the first community foundation inCleveland was founded in 1914, their present-day prominence is fairly new. As recently as 1990, U.S. community foundation assets totaled $6.6 billion.
“You can feel the toe of the tsunami,” said one person in the circle. “There’s a great wave rising, and you can feel the power of it, even though it’s just beginning.” The time was mid-December 2014, and I was seated with 20 others in a circle at a San Francisco gathering of community foundations wanting to learn more about impact investing as a tool for building community wealth. Someone else shared a new report on Millennials, and how they are seeking jobs and investments with meaning.
This position would support The Democracy Collaborative’s Community Wealth Building Initiative—community-wealth.org—with a primary focus on connecting the fields of community economic development, public health and healthcare. This position offers a unique opportunity to advance innovative, multi-sector policy and best practices that can have a transformative impact on local economies and low-income communities.
If you’re planning to host foodies for a holiday dinner this winter, you’ve probably already got your eye on the nearest farmers market, community supported agriculture (CSA), or co-op bakery. You know these are where you’ll find the freshest, most sustainably grown foods. Luckily for you, and for all of us, the opportunities to shop in this way are expanding daily.
The time is now for community foundations to embrace a new vision that accelerates social progress and rebuilds local wealth.
The good news is that a new roadmap for community foundations is contained in a just-published report byThe Democracy Collaborative, A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community Foundations Deploying All Resources to Build Community Wealth.
The Democracy Collaborative, a national research institute developing new strategies to build community wealth and exploring systemic transformations to a more democratic economy, is pleased to announce a one-year paid Junior Fellowship. The selected candidate will work alongside our communications and research teams.
This year, community foundations turned 100. But while the hundreds of placed-based philanthropic institutions in cities and towns across the country have much to celebrate, they also have much to worry about.
What do Austin, New York City and Denver have in common? All three cities voted to support the development of cooperatives for the first time this year. The amounts are modest, but the trend is clear—mayors and economic development leaders are beginning to add cooperatives and community wealth building to the economic development toolbox.