|Title||Sustainable Economic Democracy: Worker Cooperatives for the 21st Century|
|Year of Publication||2010|
|Authors||Iuviene, N, Stitely, A, Hoyt, L|
|Corporate Authors||MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab),|
Now is the time for an alternative economic development framework. In the past two years we witnessed the near collapse of global financial markets and the highest national unemployment rate since the early 80s. In the wake of this crisis, we are challenged to find a sustainable and democratic way to generate wealth in cities. The kind of questions we need to answer are:
- What is an appropriate path to economic development for deindustrialized cities where the loss of a manufacturing economy has left many people adrift?
- How can people who live and work in cities build robust local economies that are based upon democratic principles?
- And, what role can rooted institutions play in helping to reorganize local economic activity so that communities have greater control?
Worker cooperatives, when configured in a network with rooted institutions, can promote progressive, place-based, and endogenous economic development. In this guide, we explore the worker cooperative network as a neighborhood, municipal, and regional strategy for generating wealth. We present two examples: the well-established Mondragon Complex in Spain (Mondragon) and the nascent Evergreen Cooperative Initiative in Cleveland, Ohio (Evergreen). Drawing from these two cases, we then put forth a general framework for building a scalable cooperative network in post-industrial American cities.
What is economic democracy?
One means to achieving economic democracy is through cooperative ownership of the local economy by all who participate. In this case, a wide ownership structure can force a realignment of interests that helps reconcile conflicts between the owners of productive assets and their laborers. Shared ownership of the local economy helps root wealth in communities, keeping resources from “leaking out” of the area. Cooperative businesses are one of the more natural firm types that fits within the model of economic democracy, be they worker, producer, consumer, or housing cooperatives.