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Local Economy

‘New Economies’ And The Rebuilding Of Democratic Power

In September 2023, I joined the New Economies gathering in Rotterdam, hosted by the international philanthropic fund Partners for a New Economy. Convening 180 ‘changemakers’ from across Europe and the US, it was an opportunity to catch up on the latest developments across a movement to redesign the economy, with sessions on the impact of inequalities between the Global North and South, the consequences of international debt and currency hierarchies, the disruptions of AI technologies, and tensions surrounding the extractive role of private capital in green infrastructure investment.

It’s Time To Act Locally To Address Racial Wealth Inequality

As we close out Black History Month and the celebration of the many invaluable contributions Black people have made to the U.S., we must also reflect, acknowledge and confront one of the most pernicious issues that has faced generations of Black Americans: racial wealth inequality. Black people have never been able to fully realize the power and freedom that wealth affords since throughout history they have had their wealth systematically blocked or stolen. Despite having the deck stacked against them, generations of Black Americans have been able to save, buy land, start businesses and create their own economic engines.

How ‘Chamas’ And Mutual Credit Are Changing Africa

If I say that the Sarafu Network is a mutual credit network that allows trading without conventional money, that includes 50,000 households across Kenya and did $3 million worth of trade last year – how’s that for a brief description? Yeah, actually we’re up to 52,000, and last month we had 4200 new users registered. What kind of traders are they? Mostly food / agricultural produce. Food sellers and farmers. And what’s your role there? I’m the incoming director, dealing with business development and funding.

Explaining The Commons Economy

What Is The Commons Economy? It’s an economy in which the essentials of life – housing, energy, land, food, water, transport, social care, the means of exchange etc. are owned in common, in communities, rather than by absentee landlords, corporations or the state. Commons have 3 parts: a) resources / assets, b) ‘commoners’ – local people who control and use them, and c) a set of rules, written by the commoners, so that they’re not lost, by being sold or used up. We’re not talking about ‘open access’ public goods like the oceans, atmosphere, sunlight or rainfall or ‘anything to do with building community’, but commons based on the principles laid out by Elinor Ostrom in Governing the Commons.

Community Economies: Reframing Wealth Building

Our current wealth-building system is based on individualism and therefore elitism. We’re totally focused on this idea of competition, on “beating” the opponents and gaining leverage against others to “win”. Those who outrun their competitors “lead” the race and therefore become the “leaders”. Society envies those who “made it”, who, through gaining competitive advantage, made a fortune and can now enjoy status, power, and independence points that seem almost unreachable for the ordinary person who feels stuck in the daily rat race. “The dominant narrative around leadership in many areas of the world centers individualism over solidarity.

Solidarity Economy And The Economics Of Abundance

How do we transform societal structures and pave the way to economic democracy? Professor Jessica Gordon-Nembhard explores the potential of cooperatives and solidarity economics as pathways towards economic democracy and justice. Drawing on historical examples from the civil rights movement and the Knights of Labor in the 1880s, Gordon-Nembhard demonstrates how cooperative economics can counteract the exploitation inherent in capitalist systems. She underlines the importance of communal ownership and shared decision-making as mechanisms for wealth redistribution, arguing that such models can liberate communities from economic exploitation.

The Community-Driven Climate Solutions Making A Difference

To many of us, thinking about climate change brings about existential dread, panic, or even climate anxiety. The largest ever U.N. climate change conference of the parties, COP 28, will occur this week — and many of us are hoping against hope that the world’s leaders come up with a solution for us all. Climate change, though, is hyperlocal. So, too, are many of the solutions. And cities are tackling climate change with an inspiring vigor that, alongside global leadership, could help to reduce emissions and foster a healthier planet. Ordinary people have been at the heart of these local movements. Among these solutions are citizens’ assemblies, which bring together a randomly selected group of people in a community to deliberate on a societal challenge and identify policy solutions.

Four Winning Models For Building Community Wealth

If we’re ever going to have a just economy, we’ll have to build it from the ground up. Flowing resources to front-line communities that face the worst of the climate crisis and the racial wealth gap is the ideal way to plant the roots of a new economy. Not only is it essential for justice, but it’s also a practical, scalable strategy for seeding system change. As executive director of the Just Economy Institute, I’ve collaborated with many JEI fellows who are leading promising community wealth-building initiatives. These financial activists share a set of principles: They support community self-determination and ownership.

Community Organizations Take Ownership Of Local Food Systems

What if there was a way for communities to create a food system, from land ownership to composting, that could sustain itself? Community organizations’ efforts to create a sustainable food ecosystem in Boston’s lower-income neighborhoods offer a window into resident-led food security initiatives in disinvested communities around the country. Dorchester, Roxbury and other majority-minority neighborhoods in the city are home to a grassroots, informal network of community organizations that manage food-related processes ranging from harvest to gardening to composting.

D.C.’s Street Vendor Regulations Formalize The Informal

Informality often makes something beautiful. A rapper freestyling. A jazz musician improvising. A drag queen lip-syncing. Their organic, in-the-moment, uncodified nature is a huge reason they captivate and excite. Street vending is supposed to be the informal version of commerce. In this country, lawmakers and law enforcement have made attempts to codify street vending, and usually it gets pretty ugly, pretty quickly. Maybe this summer in Washington, D.C. will be the start of something different. After years of street vendor-led organizing, earlier this year D.C. Council Members unanimously passed legislation overhauling the District’s street vendor regulations.

East Cleveland Residents Are Building A Closed Loop Economy

Meet Wake Robin Fermented Foods, a small company based in the city of East Cleveland, Ohio, focused on local sustainability. About 90% of its vegetables are sourced from farms in Northeast Ohio; all vegetable waste goes to compost; paper, cardboard and metal is reused or recycled; fermented products are packaged in reusable glass jars. Wake Robin would be impressive if it stood on its own, but it’s part of a larger vision to establish a closed loop, community-owned supply chain in the three square miles comprising East Cleveland. The organization leading the work is called Loiter.

From Shrinking To Resilience – Lessons From The Latvian Rural Parliament

The Latvian Rural Communities Parliament (LRCP) is held biennially with the aim of collaboratively discovering effective solutions and exploring new opportunities for rural development. Its primary focus is to foster cooperation among diverse stakeholders and identify challenges and priorities at the local, regional, national, and European levels. The Community Parliament operates on the principle of equal dialogue, bringing together approximately 300 individuals representing local and regional authorities, businesses, policymakers, academics, rural development experts, and enthusiasts.

Community Investors Are Doing What Big Dollar Retail Investors Won’t

Lyneir Richardson has been helping Black people buy the block since 1991 or 1992. Then a new lawyer at the First National Bank of Chicago, Richardson occasionally had to take on pro-bono assignments that popped up related to the bank’s community reinvestment obligations. One such pro-bono assignment sent him to his childhood neighborhood on the West Side to work on loan documents for a $100,000 loan from a community-based organization to a barbershop on Chicago Avenue. “The amount of the loan, $100,000 or $100 million, didn’t matter. It was the same documents, a promissory note, a mortgage,” Richardson says.

How To Build A Bank To Scale Up Local Food Ecosystems

Charley Cummings had a vision of creating a new, sustainable, local food system. In 2013 he and his wife started their own company in Concord, New Hampshire, delivering grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork and chicken purchased from farmers in the region and delivered directly to consumers. Along the way, he’s found farmers, food processors, distributors and consumers who are excited to be part of it. But the banks haven’t been interested. “There were farmers and also other types of food businesses, processors and things that wanted to scale alongside us, but seem to have trouble accessing the right type of capital,” says Cummings, who previously worked in commercial composting and management consulting.

California’s ‘Local Food Producers’ Hope New Label Will Boost Support

Despite offices being closed, Sundays are the busiest day of the week at the Marin County Civic Center. Located half an hour north of San Francisco—and within a couple of hundred miles of California’s many agricultural regions, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and the North and Central coasts—the Sunday Marin Farmers Market is the third largest among the state’s 655 open-air greenmarkets. On busy weekends, crowds of locavores routinely swell to 15,000. “Customers come from all over,” says Gha Xiong, owner of Xiong Farm. He’s one of nearly 150 regional farmers, ranchers and food purveyors who set up Sunday shop in the sprawling parking lot, in clear view of the Prairie-style dome and spire designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
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