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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!

Credit union

Credit unions

Credit unions are financial cooperatives owned by their account holders and can concentrate on maximizing their impact in the community and on the financial well-being of their members. read more

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Element of the Democratic Economy: Social Wealth Fund

Social wealth fund

A social wealth fund embraces the collective ownership of assets to provide services and democratically distribute resources within a society or community. read more

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Worker cooperative

Worker cooperatives

A worker cooperative provides for both democratic ownership and democratic governance of the workplace, unlike traditional businesses in which ownership is often antagonistic to the workers who create value for the firm. read more

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Municipal enterprise

Municipal enterprise

Municipal enterprises are businesses or services owned by local public authorities that provide services or generate revenue for local communities. read more

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Employee stock ownership plan

Employee stock ownership plan

Description An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) enables full or partial ownership of a business by its employees through a pension plan or trust. The first ESOP was created in 1956 by a San F read more

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Green Bank

Green Bank

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

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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

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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

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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