A Look Back at a Busy 2013

The Democracy Collaborative's year in review
Posted by: 
John Duda

It's been an incredible 12 months at the Democracy Collaborative, and we thought we should take the time to collect all the new projects and publications we've worked on in 2013 to advance the field of community wealth building.

We started the year celebrating the launch of the third business in Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperative network, Green City Growers ,  which is aiming to produce 3 million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs annually – while providing its worker owners with living wage jobs, no-cost health care benefits and wealth building through profit-sharing. 

At the end of January, Executive Director Ted Howard keynoted the UK annual conference of Cooperative Futures during an inspiring trip to England and Wales.

In February, The Democracy Collaborative and the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT released a joint case study, The Anchor Mission: Leveraging the Power of Anchor Institutions to Build Community Wealth , focusing on the path-breaking Vision 2010 Program implemented in Cleveland and Northeast Ohio by University Hospitals. Over a five year period, the initiative targeted more than $1 billion of procurement locally to create jobs, empower minority- and female-owned businesses and create a “new normal” for responsible, community-focused business practices in the region. 

In March, we released our report: Hospitals Building Healthier Communities, a uthored by research associate David Zuckerman, examining how hospitals strengthen local communities through engagement and economic development as they embrace an anchor mission.

IApril,  Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz released his latest book,  What Then Must We Do?, and an accompanying film,  The Next American Revolution.   Monthly Review  wrote that Gar presents “the most accurate reading of contemporary economic reality and sets the stage for what could be ‘the next American revolution.’” He began a 24 city national speaking tour with an event in Atlanta at the MLK National Historic Site.

Ted Howard presented testimony before the Illinois Governor's Task Force on Social Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Enterprise. The focus was on a set of actionable policy recommendations that would position Illinois as a leader among states in community wealth building.  

In May,  we began work with the  Northwest Area Foundation  and several Native American tribes on a community economic development “Learning/Action Laboratory.”   The year-long program is providing high-impact training, education and entrepreneurial coaching to a cohort of the Foundation’s grantees. 

Ted Howard spoke at a St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank event, entitled “Exploring Innovation in Community Development,” which was simultaneously webcast in four cities and broadcast nationally via streaming video. Speaking from the Memphis branch, his presentation focused on how community wealth building offers a new paradigm for sustainable economic development and included examples of best practices from across the country.

In June, we released the report  Raising Student Voices: Student Action for University Community Investment , a joint publication with the Responsible Endowments Coalition. Nationally, institutions of higher education control more than $400 billion in endowment investments. The study explored ways students, faculty, community organizations, and college administrators can work together to help ensure institutional investment policies benefit the communities in which America’s colleges are based. 

Ted Howard spoke as part of an industry forum organized by Emerald Cities and hosted by The California Endowment, entitled “Leveraging the Power of Health Institutions to Build Community Wealth.”  Research associate David Zuckerman keynoted a workshop at the Connecticut Hospital Association on the opportunities for advancing an anchor mission created by the new Affordable Care Act requirements. 

In July The Committee on the Political Economy of the Good Society published a journal issue entitled “Symposium: Alternatives to Capitalism ,”  edited by our Research Director Steve Dubb, which explored community wealth building, public ownership, and the crisis of European social democracy.

Gar Alperovitz published an  op-ed in the  New York Times on employee ownership entitled “The Legacy of the Boomer Boss,” highlighting the opportunity for expanding employee ownership presented by the wave of retiring baby-boom-era business owners.  

In August The Democracy Collaborative and the Northwest Area Foundation  convened our first gathering of Native American community development leaders in the  “Learning/Action Laboratory for Community Wealth Building,” with a two-day meeting in the  San Francisco Bay Area  that included visits with worker cooperative incubator WAGES , social enterprise  Solar Richmond (and its newly launched worker coop  Pamoja Energy Solutions ), and ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) company Recology

Gar Alperovitz presented a keynote address at the Annual Conference of the Academy of Management, the nation’s leading professional association of over 17,000 business school professors and scholars, held in Orlando, Florida. 

In September, we released The Anchor Dashboard, a  paper and companion research report based on extensive Democracy Collaborative research, including 75 interviews of anchor institution and community leaders. The Anchor Dashboard  identifies twelve priority areas and corresponding indicators that anchor institutions can use to assess current local conditions and evaluate institutional progress in aligning their activities with the needs of the community.  Highlighted by The Chronicle of Higher Education, NextCity, WYPR, Shelterforce, and What Works for America's Communities,

Responding to the question “What can I do to help build a democratic, local economy?” Gar Alperovitz and Keane Bhatt published "What Then Can I Do?  Ten Ways to Democratize the Economy," which appeared on Bill Moyers ' website and which was shared on Facebook by nearly 20,000 people. The article provided ten concrete action steps that individuals and groups can take to build wealth locally.

Research associate David Zuckerman and research director Steve Dubb presented at a conference in Duluth, Minnesota that focused on how healthcare institutions can partner with their communities to achieve better health outcomes. Also, at the Rocky Mountain Employee Ownership Center’s inaugural conference in Denver, Colorado, Steve delivered the keynote presentation on community wealth building.

In October, the Anchor Dashboard was the conversation centerpiece at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s  Redefining “Rust Belt” four-city videoconference . Steve Dubb presented the Dashboard at  The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities’ annual conference  and Ted Howard presented the paper at the Municipal Arts Society Summit for New York City  and at the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s  Inner City Economic Summit in Cleveland.

In NovemberSarah McKinley and Ted Howard presented the findings of the Anchor Dashboard  at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Charles Rutheiser of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and HUD officials from the Office of University Partnerships also participated in the dialogue, focusing on how anchor institutions can consciously assess their impact on low-income communities. 

Gar Alperovitz answered questions about his book What Then Must We Do?  as part of a Reddit AMA, and discussed elements of rebuilding US local economies in his article for The Nation, " How to Democratize the US Economy.

In December, the Democracy Collaborative and Community Catalyst hosted a webinar on the opportunities that new Community Health Needs Assessment requirements create for hospitals to promote community revitalization, with representatives from the Democracy Collaborative, the national healthcare advocacy organization Community Catalyst, Indianapolis-based Community Health Network, and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition.  

Ted Howard participated as a featured speaker on the Federal Reserve’s “Redefining Rustbelt: The Role of Anchor Institutions and the Arts” national audioconference, and we launched Community Wealth Building in the United States, an interactive atlas of projects across the country.

December also saw the first strategy workshop of the Next System Project, an initiative co-chaired by Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth to promote bold new thinking about responses to the systemic challenges facing the United States. Held at the Ash Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School, this initial gathering brought together a select group of academics and activists to help set the terms of reference for the project launch. 

Gar Alperovitz:

Co-founder Gar Alperovitz appeared on
 The Real News, Grit TV with Laura Flanders, KALW's Your CallBloomberg Radio, NPR's  Marketplace Morning Report, WNYC's Leonard LopateHuffington Post Live, Between the Lines, WLRN's Topical Currents, Majority Report with Sam Seder, WYPR's Maryland Morning, Talk Nation Radio, KBOO's Recovery Zone, Reddit's Ask Me Anything, Bioneers Radio, Alternative Radio, New Hampshire Public RadioEcon4, the ExtraEnvironmentalistThe Progressive, WUNC's The State of Things, Solidarity Halland Russia Today’s Breaking the Set.

His work was featured by AlternetDissent, WSJ Marketwatch, Bloomberg Businessweek Demos’ PolicyShopthe Los Angeles Review of Books, New York Times, Common Dreams, Huffington Post, Robert Pollin's Back to Full Employment blog, New Left Project, Truthout, Baltimore Sun, Yes! Magazine, The Good Society, The Nation, Tikkun, Moyers and Company, Freelancers Union, Think Progress, Shareable, In These Times, Inequality.org, Monthly Review, Indy Week, and the Solutions Journal.

Gar’s presentation at Madison's cooperatively owned Rainbow Books was broadcast nationally on C-SPAN's BookTV, and gave a talk at the New America Foundation which can be viewed online here. His presentation on the main stage of the Baltimore Book Festival was moderated and broadcast by WEAA's Marc Steiner. Also available are a select few of his many presentations from the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, Democracy Convention 2013, Elliot Bay Book Company, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 


Community Wealth Interviews:

We continued our series of interviews with trailblazing leaders in the community wealth building field, with five new conversations in 2013:

  • Blake Jones, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of Namasté Solar in Boulder, Colorado
  • Rob Witherell, representative for the United Steelworkers union in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Kate Sofis, founding Executive Director of SFMade, a non-profit organization launched in 2010 to support the building of a local manufacturing base in San Francisco
  • Reverend Barry Randolph, pastor of the Detroit-based Church of the Messiah
  • Ellen MachtCEO of the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative 


Community wealth cities: 

We profiled three more cities in our ongoing series highlighting local community wealth building initiatives and infrastructure:



  • In an article that appeared in Truthout senior research associate Thomas Hanna examined how public ownership by cities and states can promote democracy, participation, pluralism, transparency, and sustainability.
  • In Alternet, Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb provided six economic steps to build a new economy that democratizes wealth and works for all.
  • In The Baltimore Sun, Gar Alperovitz and research associate David Zuckerman explored how a little known provision of the Affordable Care Act provides an incentive for nonprofit hospitals to engage in community wealth building strategies.  
  • Gar Alperovitz used the example of marriage equality victories at the state level to show how political progress can be made one step at a time in an article in Yes! Magazine .
  • In AlterNet, Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna challenged the Obama administration’s proposal to privatize the publicly-owned Tennessee Valley Authority.
  • Research director Steve Dubb and David Zuckerman wrote for Shelterforce’s blog Rooflines about eliminating food deserts using community wealth building strategies.
  • In Truthout, Thomas Hanna and senior fellow Joe Guinan argued for win-win public partnerships with organized labor that would use workers' vast pension fund assets to rebuild America’s infrastructure while putting people back to work. 
  • Gar Alperovitz co-authored an op-ed with Robin Hahnel of Portland State University in the Sunday Herald on the Scottish pursuit of a new economic model. 
  • In a piece for Rooflines, Steve Dubb, responding to an article in The Atlantic by Richard Florida, called for anchor institutions to target their resources to communities most in need.
  • Gar Alperovitz investigated policy solutions for job creation that also help build a new economy for Robert Pollin's "Back to Full Employment."
  • Joe Guinan wrote for Open Democracy on the need for a new vision of community wealth building and economic democracy.
  • In Truthout, Gar Alperovitz pointed out how Ohio's vibrant tradition of worker ownership was left out of a major presidential speech on the economy.
  • Our C-W blog highlighted the growth of US credit unions to $1 trillion in combined assets.
  • Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb wrote for AlterNet on how we can build a new economy that democratizes wealth and works for all.
  • Steve Dubb blogged on Rooflines about Hospitals Building Healthier Communities by David Zuckerman.
  • David Zuckerman guest posted on the New America Foundation's Asset Building Program blog on leveraging non-profit hospitals' revenues to transform neighborhoods and build assets for residents.
  • Our C-W blog looked at how anchor institutions can move past creating shared value to building community wealth.
  • Gar Alperovitz contributed a short post to a series by the New Left Project on exploring the political economic prospects for 2013.
  • Our C-W blog analyzed Federal Reserve Governor Sarah Bloom Raskin's keynote at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition's annual conference.
  • In an article in Truthout, Gar Alperovitz assessed Americans' interest in socialism, and presented new alternative American models of public ownership.
  • Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke praised Jane Jacobs and bottom-up solutions in his speech to the Community Affairs Research Conference; we covered it on our C-W blog.
  • Gar Alperovitz posted a blog in response to New Era Windows Cooperative's launch after an unprecedented double occupation of the Republic Windows/Serious Energy factory.
  • Our C-W blog looked at the opening of the New Era Window Cooperative and the possibility that economic development subsidies might help worker cooperatives, rather than businesses who are all to happy to pack up, leave town, and destroy jobs in search of maximum profits.
  • A report back on our C-W blog from the annual Cooperative Issues Forum looked at how co-op advocates around the country are developing new models for acting at scale.
  • Our C-W blog covered a case study by University Hospitals and how non-profit institutions can improve local economies.
  • Gar Alperovitz and Steve Dubb co-authored an article for Common Dreams that gave five possibilities for the next great progressive push.
  • Our C-W blog applauded Nevada for becoming the 17th state, along with the District of Columbia, to pass legislation enabling businesses to incorporate as benefit corporations.
  • At the Left Forum, we organized a panel on community organizing for a new economy, summarized on our C-W blog.
  • In an article for Yes! Magazine, Gar Alperovitz explained the "checkerboard strategy" for democratizing wealth in America.
  • At the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) 2013 Conference, we learned about the initiatives Phoenix, AZ, Cleveland, OH and Dane County, WI have taken to help build a stronger local economy, we covered this in depth in our C-W blog.
  • In the New York Times, Gar Alperovitz outlined how the massive wave of retiring boomers + existing tax incentives could create 2-4 million worker owned businesses over the next 15 years.
  • On Rooflines, Steve Dubb encouraged students to push their universities and colleges to invest locally.
  • The Good Society featured a symposium organized around Gar Alperovitz’s and Steve Dubb’s lead essay on alternatives to corporate capitalism. 
  • Our C-W blog featured all the activity around our report, Raising Student Voices including webinars, presentations, and an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • Joe Guinan and Thomas Hanna explored the limitations of cooperatives and what else is needed for a democratized economy in an article for Open Democracy.
  • Communications associate Benzamin Yi designed an infographic outlining Fifth Season Cooperative's six-member class structure on our C-W blog.
  • Truthout published an excerpt from Gar Alperovitz's book, What Then Must We Do? on everyday socialism, American-style.
  • Our C-W blog provided an analysis of Boulder, Colorado's inspiring fight for green public power, and the struggle against the desperate corporate reaction that's trying to overturn a grassroots victory. 
  • On Rooflines, Steve Dubb assessed the measurement of the economic impact universities and hospitals have on their communities.
  • Our Anchor Dashboard page featured eight policy briefs for indicators that can be used to measure the impact on communities by anchor institutions.
  • Community development associate Keane Bhatt and Gar Alperovitz co-authored an article on Truthout on ten strategies for democratizing the economy.
  • Our C-W blog explored the concept of inclusive capitalism and if ownership sharing at the workplace can really address growing inequality.
  • In Common Dreams, Gar Alperovitz analyzed the distressed state of the economy five years after TARP and what might be done to start fixing it in the long term.
  • Our C-W blog explored how public finances can be used for local economic development.
  • Ted Howard blogged on Investing in What Works for America's Communities' Ideas Blog about measuring the impact of anchor institutions in building more sustainable communities.
  • On Policy Network's blog, Joe Guinan reported back from London, UK on the rise of community wealth-building institutions after a debate event hosted by Policy Network and Renewal Journal.
  • On C-W.org, Benzamin Yi designed a mock-up of a hypothetical webpage for universities looking to measure and present their impact on their communities.
  • On Rooflines, Steve Dubb and his co-author on The Road Half Traveled, Rita Hodges, challenged universities to rekindle their public purpose to address pressing community challenges.
  • On our C-W blog, Benzamin Yi created an infographic that explores the union co-op model developed to combine the benefits of workplace democracy with traditional union representation.
  • In The Nation, Gar Alperovitz explained how to democratize the US economy with a long-term plan to renovate the American dream at the local level and scaling up.
  • Our C-W blog highlighted Oberlin College's decision to adopt the largest impact-investing platform to date by a college or university in the United States.
  • In the Solutions Journal, Gar Alperovitz reflected on the next system question and the new economy movement.
  • On our C-W blog, Thomas Hanna praised New Era Colorado and the residents of Boulder, CO for voting down Question 310 by more than a two to one margin and called upon other communities to take similar actions.
  • On our C-W blog, John Duda interviewed Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, about converting existing businesses to worker cooperatives.