CommonBound Track: "Beyond Business As Usual: Community Enterprise and the Sustainable, Democratic Future of Business"

As inequality and climate change mount, business cannot be sustainable without replacing the core of capitalism’s extractive enterprise model.

The future of business points toward deep questions of ownership, investment, control, and management. A new model called “Community Enterprise”--including businesses that are family run, worker-owned, community or “minority”-owned and consumer conscious--is showing a way forward. In recent years, these innovative firms have illustrated how productive, values-driven business is driving the turn toward an economy that provides sustainable, just, democratic, and cooperative livelihoods for all.

This track will examine the transformative relationships being forged among the workers, community members, lenders, investors and municipal governments that, together, are propelling a shift to workplace and economic democracy. In each session, participants and presenters alike will explore how community enterprise can become a leading force and foundation for the just transition to a new economy.

Drawing on our experience in the United States’ cooperative movement, we look forward to engaging questions beyond the scope of our own organizations’ work and membership: How are cooperatives, small businesses, and labor-power putting capital to productive use in service of transformative values? How do just, sustainable, and democratic businesses offer a financial engine for the movement-building work of employing the workforce of a new economy? What lessons can we learn from Argentina, Northern Italy, Mondragon Spain, Quebec, and France, where cooperative enterprise--rather than philanthropy--drive a compelling agenda for a new economy while meeting the needs of communities and workers?

To address these questions and more, we invite sessions that:

  • Emerge from initiatives, organizations, or enterprises prioritizing new models of profit, management, and ownership.
  • Demonstrate innovation, whether your model has been around for decades but is new at scale, is entirely new, or seeking new collaborations.
  • Investigate how to open new markets rather than simply foster the creation of new businesses.
  • Inspire the use of worker ownership as a critical tactic in ensuring racial, economic and gender justice throughout the economy

We welcome submissions from practitioners advancing the field of workplace democracy, partners building ecosystems of support for worker ownership, and allies using small business as a tool for economic transformation.

Representatives from Community Development Financial Institutions, community-based organizations, business incubators, city and regional planners, and policy makers are encouraged to apply. Prospective session leaders might be supporting worker-owners to launch and grow their enterprises, organizing with coalition partners to expand the promise of worker ownership to those most disenfranchised by our dominant economy or organizing capital to direct investment to regenerative enterprises.

Proposals should be specific, practical, concrete, and address the power of community enterprise. We especially invite collaborative proposals by partners that provide a comprehensive, multi-perspective approach to their topic. For example,  a workshop examining cross-sector strategies for addressing the acute crisis of community and small business displacement through gentrification. Interactive sessions, ensuring a dynamic and highly engaging learning environment for both participants and presenters, are highly encouraged.

For more information, contact esteban [at]

Coordinated by:

  • Esteban Kelly, US Federation of Worker Cooperatives
  • Melissa Hoover, Democracy At Work Institute
  • Zen Trenholm, Democracy At Work Institute


Propose a Session