The Business Ownership Revolution with Marjorie Kelly


Staff at British retailer John Lewis rea How to make money nurture life instead of Wall Street.

 Marjorie Kelly is Vice President and Senior Fellow with The Democracy Collaborative. Previously, she  was a Fellow with the Tellus Institute in Boston, where she led a variety of consulting and research projects, including co-founding Corporation 20/20, a five-year initiative that brought together hundreds of leaders from business, finance, civil society, and law to explore how to redesign corporations to integrate social and environmental concerns into their governing DNA. For five years Marjorie was also a lead consultant with WealthWorks, a Ford Foundation initiative to develop and test a new approach to rural community development. Before that, she was co-founder and, for 20 years, president of Business Ethics magazine, known for its listing of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens. Marjorie authored Divine Right of Capital in 2011 and her recent book Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution was awarded the Nautilus Book Award.

Food For Thought & Conversation

  • The Ruth Chris Steak House story demonstrates the importance of the role of business ownership in community wellbeing. Are there examples in your community similar to the Ruth Chris Steak House story where the behavior of a company was determined by its ownership?
  • How a system is organized determines how a system behaves. Please discuss the differences you see in a system organized around capital and one organized around life that Marjorie mentions.
  • If our economic system was organized about life, one aspect of it might be our metrics for economic performance. For example, the Gross Domestic Project measures the market value of all goods produced in a country.  So, the BP Spill was a boon to the GDP because of all the clean-up costs. The Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI) measures economic, social and environmental progress. Environmental indicators include energy from renewables and the preservation of wetlands, forests and farmland. Economic indicators include the reduction of the income gap and cost of unemployment. Social indicators include the value of housework, higher education and volunteer work as well as the cost of commuting and crime. Vermont has developed an economic plan based on the GPI. Please discuss.
  • Marjorie gives several examples of ownership designs of businesses that promote the wellbeing of people, the planet and community.  Please share your favorite story.
  • Please share your thoughts about Marjorie’s example of the John Lewis Department Store in England, which has the amazing mission to increase employee happiness. How is their bottom line different from the bottom line some corporations espouse that they do “people planet and profit”.  Do you know of anything at all similar to John Lewis happening here in the US?
  • Municipal and Community Ownership is demonstrated by the Wind Farm in Denmark, which supplies 22% of energy. Here is how that compares to Wind Power in the U.S. In the United States, workers installed a new wind turbine every two and a half hours during the first quarter of 2017, marking the strongest start for the wind industry in eight years, according to a new report by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)..Nationwide, wind provided 5.6 percent of all electricity produced in 2016, an amount of electricity generation that has more than doubled since 2010. Over 99 percent of wind farms are built in rural communities; together, the installations pay over $245 million per year in lease agreements with local landowners, according to AWEA. The new installation figures also translate to continued job growth in America’s wind power supply chain, which includes 500 factories and over 100,000 jobs, according to AWEA. Information on community and municipal ownership of the wind power projects could not be found for any projects currently in operations.  Thoughts?
  • In June 2017, the U.S. Conference of Mayors approved a historic resolution that establishes support from the nation’s mayors for the goal of moving to 100 percent clean and renewable energy in cities nationwide. 36 cities across the United States have now committed to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. 118 mayors have signed onto this vision in their community as part of the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy initiative Co-Chaired by Mayor Philip Levine of Miami Beach, Mayor Jackie Biskupski of Salt Lake City, Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego, and Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina. Has your city signed on?
  • Six South Dakota Sioux Tribes — the Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, Oglala, Rosebud, Sisseton Wahpeton, and Yankton Tribes — have decided to pool their considerable wind power resources to create the largest utility-grade wind installation in the country. The Tribes will own the Project and will realize the full benefit of the sales of power to customers beyond their communities.
  • Progress: to date: March 2016 The Oceti Sakowin Power Authority (OSPA) officially established;January 2017: Innovation Funds received from Rockefeller Foundation, Clinton Foundation and Bush Foundation. Completed technical, environmental and financial work related to developing wind power generation and transmission system across the reservations; world-class technical consultants were selected and discussions started with potential co-developer/operator partners and turbine manufacturers; 2019 Anticipate issuing first tranche of power revenue bonds and starting construction. Please share any thoughts you may have about this initiative.
  • In Maine, the unique partnership of the State Marine Resources Department and the local lobster industry resulted in rules governing water access and fishing that benefits the life of lobsters and the livelihoods of local lobstering families. Are you aware of any other such partnership that has resulted in positive management of the Commons?
  • Also in Maine, Coastal Enterprises, a Community Development Financial Institution with the mission to provide economic development through social justice initiatives funded a local lobster cooperative’s effort to build a warehouse for boats and supplies on the waterfront. CDFI also helped put a 25 foot working waterfront easement on the property modeled after a conservation easement, which was funded by a state bond program. The easement is a covenant that attaches permanently to the property deed guaranteeing that the land will always be used for commercial fishing. This  resulted in two dozen more working waterfronts being preserved on Maine’s coastline allowing hundreds of fishing families to support themselves.   Thoughts?
  • One example of Generative Economy that Marjorie describes is Cooperatives and over 140 Million Americans participate in cooperatives. One form of cooperatives is consumer cooperatives.  If you are participating in a cooperative please share your experience.
  • Actions

  • Learn about Community Development Financial Institutions in your area.  What projects/work have they accomplished?
  • Explore and learn more about Generative Economy and stories of success, form a discussion group online or in your home on Marjorie’s Owning Our Future: The Emerging ownership Revolution.
  • Invite friends, colleagues or community members to view this video with you and host a conversation.

Additional Information

An excellent report on highly effective economic models and best practices for creating the New Economy in your community. Broad-Based Ownership Models as Tools for Job Creation and Community Development: A Report by Marjorie Kelly, Steve Dubb & Violeta Duncan


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