Skip to main content

Elements of the democratic economy

A periodic table overlaid over a birdseye view of buildings.
  • Elements of the democratic economy
August 18, 2018

Elements of the democratic economy

Traditional policies and approaches are demonstrably failing to alter deteriorating long-run trends on income inequality, concentrated wealth, community divestment and displacement, persistent place- and race-based poverty, and environmental destruction. As a consequence, we have witnessed in recent years an explosion of interest in and practical experimentation with a variety of alternative economic institutions and models of ownership—from worker cooperatives and community land trusts to public banking and community development financial institutions—that are capable of fundamentally altering patterns of ownership and producing dramatically better distributional and other outcomes as a matter of course.  New hybrid forms are emerging, as well as ideas as to how innovative combinations might produce still more powerful results.  Taken as a whole, these institutions and approaches form the mosaic of a new democratic economy in the making, suggesting the contours of a next system beyond corporate capitalism and some pathways for getting there.  

Elements of the democratic economy distills this landscape of theoretical exploration and real-world practice into concise summaries describing each of the institutions involved, assessing their transformative characteristics and potential impact, and providing on-the-ground examples and a sense of the challenges yet to be overcome. The series is intended as an entry point for all those looking to understand the various building blocks of the democratic economy currently being constructed from the ground up in communities across our nation and around the world.

We will be releasing more entries in this series on an ongoing basis—make sure to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and/or subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest Elements!

Element of the democratic economy: Public bank

Public Banks

How financial institutions owned by and accountable to the people help create a nonextractive economy. read more

Community Land Trust

CLTs are nonprofit organizations that acquire and steward land in a “trust” for the permanent benefit of low-income communities. read more
The commons

The Commons

The commons are collective resources—encompassing things as varied as land, seed banks, and open-source software—managed by self-organized social systems under mutually acceptable terms. read more
Land bank – Elements of a Democratic Economy

Land Bank

Land banks can acquire abandoned, foreclosed, and tax-delinquent properties in order to convert them into productive use. read more
Community benefit agreement

Community Benefit Agreement

A legally binding product of negotiations between a developer and community members who have banded together to safeguard their community’s interests. read more
Green Bank

Green Bank

A green bank can help communities transition away from fossil fuels and build resilience against climate change. read more

Resident-Owned Community

Resident-owned communities (ROCs) are manufactured housing neighborhoods (sometimes referred to as mobile home or trailer parks) in which the land is community-owned and managed. read more

Video: Limited Equity Housing Cooperative

A limited equity housing cooperative is a residential development owned and managed by a democratically governed, nonprofit cooperative corporation, such as a tenants’ union. This video show how they help keep housing affordable over the long term. read more

Limited Equity Housing Cooperative

A limited equity housing cooperative is a residential development owned and managed by a democratically governed, nonprofit cooperative corporation, such as a tenants’ union. read more
Democratic energy utility

Democratic Energy Utility

Democratic energy utilities are nonprofits run by the public or community members in a way that enables their engagement in decision-making and distributes ownership. read more
Default Image: Triangle

Video: Resident-Owned Community

Resident-owned communities (ROCs)—manufactured housing neighborhoods in which the land is community-owned and managed–are one of the leading sources of affordable housing in the U.S. This video explains their benefits. read more

Video: Community Land Trust

CLTs are nonprofit organizations that acquire and steward land in a “trust” for the permanent benefit of low-income communities. This video explains what they can achieve. read more