Community Wealth Building Initiative
Cooperation Jackson has asked The Democracy Collaborative — a nonprofit research and advisory group with offices in Washington, DC and Cleveland, Ohio — to explore the feasibility of a CommunityWealth Building strategy in Jackson, Mississippi. The aim of this approach is to transform neighborhoods through job creation by identifying areas where local business is under-developed and creating employee-owned businesses that can fill those gaps while employing residents, paying living wages and meeting procurement needs of existing large employers.
Over the past decade, The Democracy Collaborative has worked on such strategies in a number of cities, including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Amarillo, Atlanta, Jacksonville, and metropolitan Washington DC. The most advanced work of The Democracy Collaborative is in Cleveland, where it has assisted with the development of the Evergreen Cooperatives, a network of businesses that meet the specialized business needs of area institutions, such as universities and hospitals.
The interviews and research work of The Democracy Collaborative will result in the production of a strategic report that will be used by Cooperation Jackson to establish a Community Wealth Building Initiative based on the Anchor Institution model.
As an emerging network of cooperative enterprises, Cooperation Jackson is striving to reduce the income and equity gaps that exist in our community, as well as address the severe unemployment and underemployment, low wages, inadequate health coverage, and substandard housing that plague our community. One of the primary strategies we are pursuing in the attempt to reduce these gaps and address these issues is a comprehensive place-based development initiative centered around creating worker-owned cooperative enterprises that partner with and serve the supply chain or service needs of the various Anchor institutions in our community. We call this our "Community Wealth Building Initiative."
Anchor institutions are placed-based institutions that have a vested interest in their respective communities by reason of their mission, capital investment, or structured relationships to their customers or employees. The primary Anchor institutions in our community are: Hospitals, Colleges and Universities, Public Schools, and Municipal and County governments. Each of these institutions spends millions annually servicing their basic operational needs. Combined they spend hundreds of millions. The bulk of these dollars however are not spent on local suppliers and servicers, but on national and multinational suppliers and servicers. If our Anchor institutions are committed to purchasing the bulk of their goods and services locally, they could help stimulate and support hundreds of new jobs in our community. And if our Anchors committed to supporting worker-owned businesses, they would make a substantive contribution towards ending our community's long-standing income and equity gaps.
Through the Community Wealth Building Initiative, we strive to work with our community Anchors, and other critical stakeholders, to develop procurement strategies, policies, and commitments that will support and encourage the growth of local worker-owned cooperatives, to secure stable employment for hundreds of residents and help alleviate many of the ills of social inequality that afflict our city. The Community Wealth Building Initiative can do for Jackson what it did for Cleveland, Ohio where it gave rise to the Evergreen Cooperatives under the leadership of the Cleveland Foundation and the Democracy Collaborative.
With the support of the Jackson People's Assembly and national partners including the Fund for Democratic Communities, the Working World, and the Democracy Collaborative, Cooperation Jackson looks forward to working with you and your organization to create the broad and progressive economic coalition needed in Jackson to advance the Community Wealth Building Initiative and see it come to fruition and produce the quality jobs our community needs.
Our Power Campaign
The Our Power Campaign is a coordinated effort of grassroots organizations in oppressed and exploited communities throughout the United States to end the carnage of global capitalism and the threat of ecocide produced by the capitalist system. Why focus on these issues?
Cooperation Jackson aims to make Jackson, Mississippi a beacon of leadership in the joint struggles for a just transition to economic democracy and the creation of sustainable methods of production, distribution, and consumption of the essential goods and services needed by humanity to live in dignity without fear of want. It is essential that our means of social production and reproduction transform, and transform immediately, to enable our species to avert an apocalyptic collapse of the Earth’s life giving systems. We aim to make a contribution towards this end by creating a network of worker cooperatives that will perfect existing methods and innovate new methods of sustainable production, distribution, and consumption. These new methods will be compelled by radical systems of worker self-management and democratic governance that will better serve our communities’ long-term interests by preserving our environment and making the needs of capital subordinate to the needs of humanity. We are going to build a Sustainable Community that will serve our present and future interests.
We look forward to a bright future as part of the Our Power Campaign and the Climate Justice Alliance, and we hope all who read this will join us in the struggle to save our ecosphere and create a Just Transition to a new, democratic economy.
Feasibility Studies and Business Plans
We are currently doing Feasibility Studies to help us firmly establish a number of cooperatives over the course of the next several years. Some of the studies include examining the feasibility of construction, temporary/day labor, recycling, urban farming, child care, and housing cooperatives.
We are working with the Democracy Collaborative on a comprehensive Market Study of Jackson throughout the Summer and early Fall of 2014. Together will be conducting exploratory conversations with the hospitals, primary schools, universities, civic organizations, and political, religious, trade union, and community members to explore various cooperative wealth building strategies centered on the Anchor Institution model developed by the Democracy Collaborative.
Several of our proposed cooperatives are at a stage in their development where Business Plans are currently being constructed on the basis of our Feasibility Study findings. We are looking to open the doors of several of our cooperatives within the next 6 months to a year.
Community Orientations, Work Groups, and Trainings
We are currently hosting monthly Community Orientation meetings, typically on the second Saturday of every month at 2 pm at Central United Methodist Church Family Life Center at 517 N. Farish St., Jackson, MS.
Various Work Groups are also starting to meet regularly to aid in the development of our Feasibility Studies and Work Plans.
Over the course of the next year, we will be undergoing intensive trainings on cooperatives and how to successfully start and build them. We will be engaging in ongoing mass education sessions with the community throughout the year to share what our members have learned with the wider Jackson community. We will be receiving training from the Democracy Collaborative, the Fund for Democratic Communities, Democracy at Work Institute, the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Sustainable Economies Law Center, Sharing Cities Network, Green Worker Cooperatives, Mondragón and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund amongst others.