From Seattle to Santiago, community wealth-building initiatives are springing up in cities around the world. These initiatives are often aimed at addressing economic inequality and creating more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive local economies. Here are a few examples of how these initiatives are making a positive impact in their communities and what lessons can be learned from them.
The Seattle model of community wealth-building is based on the idea that if local businesses and workers can keep more of the money that they earn within the city, then everyone will benefit. To achieve this, the city has implemented several policies and programs, including:
- Establishing an Office of Economic Development to support small businesses and entrepreneurs
- Investing in workforce training and education
- Creating an innovative procurement program that directs city spending to local businesses
- Supporting the development of employee-owned businesses
- Implementing living wage laws and policies
- Establishing a publicly owned renewable energy utility
Since these initiatives were implemented, Seattle’s economy has flourished. Between 2010 and 2016, the city’s median income increased by 18%, poverty was slashed by half, and the city added over 100,000 new jobs. One key to Seattle’s success has been its focus on creating good jobs for all residents, regardless of their educational attainment or work experience.
In Santiago, Chile, a group of civil society organizations have come together to form the Red de Economía Social y Solidaria (Redes)—a network that promotes and supports the development of the solidarity economy in the city. Redes works with a range of partners, including grassroots organizations, cooperatives, social enterprises, universities, and municipal agencies. Together, they are working to build an inclusive local economy that meets the needs of all Santiago residents.
One key initiative of Redes is the Creando Oportunidades program—a job training program that provides marginalized youth with skills development and work experience in the solidarity economy sector. The program includes classes on cooperative management, social entrepreneurship, financial literacy, and conflict resolution. Participants also complete internships with local organizations to gain work experience. To date, over 1,200 young people have participated in the program with great success—90% of participants have gone on to find employment or start their own business within 6 months of completing the program.
These are just two examples of successful community wealth-building initiatives from around the world that are making a positive impact in their communities. What lessons can be learned from them? A few key takeaways include:
- The importance of involving multiple stakeholders in planning and implementation
- The need for targeted policies and programs that meet the needs of all residents
- The value of investing in workforce training and development
- The power of cooperation in creating an inclusive economy
There are many different types of community wealth-building initiatives, but some of the most successful ones are those that focus on creating jobs, supporting small businesses, and investing in housing and infrastructure. Here are three more examples of community wealth-building initiatives that are making a difference in the lives of everyday people.
- The Northampton Community Land Trust in Massachusetts: This land trust was established in 1998 to create affordable housing options for low- and moderate-income residents. Since then, it has helped develop over 200 units of affordable housing and commercial space, created over 100 jobs, and generated millions of dollars in economic activity.
- The Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio: This cooperative is made up of three businesses—an urban farm, a solar installation company, and a laundry service—that employ residents and invest profits back into the community. Since its launch in 2009, Evergreen Cooperatives have created over 300 jobs and generated annual revenue of $20 million.
- The Chicago Community Loan Fund: This organization provides financing and technical assistance to small businesses and nonprofits in underserved communities on Chicago’s South and West sides. To date, it has provided over $100 million in loans and helped create or retain over 8,000 jobs.
When done right, community wealth building can have a profound impact on everything from economic development to social cohesion. These initiatives show that when communities come together to invest in job creation, small businesses, housing, and infrastructure, everyone stands to benefit.