Community Wealth Building

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= community-based investment in, and control over, wealth creation


Ted Howard [1]:

"Employees, companies, non-profits, cities, and states are using diverse and innovative strategies to create community wealth. It is wealth that improves the ability of communities and individuals to increase asset ownership, anchor jobs locally, expand the provision of public services, and ensure local economic stability, rather than just boost corporate profits and shareholder fortunes.

A common thread runs through the employee-owned firms, community development corporations, and even the traditional co-ops: the idea that real wealth equality can only be built by communal involvement in the means by which that wealth is produced. Such approaches provide ownership for million of American – in many cases, through a tangible asset that can appreciate and be passed on to subsequent generations. Others create community wealth by enabling businesses and jobs to stay in the United States.

“But more than that, these ownership strategies give people a real stake in their community, strengthening the bonds of citizenship and the connections between people, institutions, and places. These are not incidental by-products of a progressive ownership society; they lie at its core.

Community wealth building programs are creating local “commons” of economic activity, particularly in disadvantaged communities. They are also helping to popularize and legitimate the idea that common/collective ownership, widely distributed and anchored in communities, is a practical and workable approach to solve local economic problems.

Few Americans are aware that there has been a steady and continuing build-up of new and alternative forms of economic activity through the United States over the last several decades. Across the country, democratic, community wealth-building institutions have begun to multiply dramatically in number in recent years. Although many ventures are small in size, a number have already become a major presence in their communities and have implications for longer-term community change. The various efforts differ from traditional corporations, on the one hand, and small individually-owned businesses, on the other.

At one level are a variety of community-building neighborhood corporations and related efforts. At another level are enterprises largely or entirely owned by employees who live in, and are members of, the community. At still another are new nonprofit efforts which undertake economic activity in order to support their community service missions. Beyond this are numerous publicly owned enterprises, which both provide jobs and services and make money for cash-starved municipalities. Still other new efforts include large number of cooperatives, community housing land trusts, and various hybrid community oriented economic efforts." (

Status Report 2007: USA

Ted Howard [2]:

"For example: community development corporations have grown from a mere handful in the late 1960s to more than 4,000 today;

  • there are also more than 11,000 employee-owned firms (ESOPs), which employ more people than all the workers in America’s private sector labor unions;

  • cooperatively-owned businesses involve more than 100 million members nationwide;

  • nonprofit housing land trusts that create permanently affordable housing as a community-held asset are expanding throughout the country (last year, the city of Irvine, CA made a commitment to develop 10,000 units of housing within its community-owned land trust);

  • in one of the fastest-growing and most interesting innovations, a host of local municipal enterprises (a community-ownership mechanism) – ranging from telecommunications infrastructure and municipal power companies to city-owned methane recovery businesses, transportation systems, and hotels – are winning the enthusiastic backing of both Republican and Democratic mayors."


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