The past few weeks have seen a flurry of impressive activity at the level of city government, all around policies designed to build community wealth and encourage the growth of cooperative local economies. It's encouraging to see that the work of grassroots developers, local foundations, community activists, and field builders (like ourselves here at the Democracy Collaborative) is beginning to gain a foothold in the world of municipal policy. While certainly many of the models that have currently proven themselves on the ground have done so with the invaluable support and close cooperation of local policymakers, what's new and exciting in 2014 is the way an increasing number of city governments are stepping into leadership roles and catalyzing new projects and initiatives.
The Roundtable process (in which The Democracy Collaborative participated as consultants to the city) brought community leaders together with institutional stakeholders for a conversation about steps that could be taken to redeploy existing assets strategically to transform the economic situation on the ground in Northwest Jacksonville, where generational poverty has resulted from historical patterns of disinvestment. This video shows highlights of the Roundtable—including some of the best moments with community leaders from Cleveland, Ohio, Washington DC, Amarillo, Texas, and Pittsburgh, PA, who talked about their experiences with initiatives designed to build community wealth through transformative local economic development (like Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives). Our just-released report to the city identifies key strategies for building off these conversations to develop a comprehensive wealth building initiative.
Cooperatives in particular seem to be gaining new recognition as an effective economic development strategy that keeps capital anchored locally while democratizing ownership. In Austin, the city council recently worked with the Austin Cooperative Business Association (ACBA), one of the new local cooperative alliances developed under the aegis of the National Cooperative Business Association, to draft and pass a resolutionhighlighting the positive impact of Austin's 40+ cooperatives, and directing the City Manager "to convene stakeholders to develop recommendations that detail ways the city can promote the development of new and existing cooperative businesses."