text graphic for 2023 fall funder series a vision for economic democracy with people at a meeting

The US economy and democracy are in crisis. Our economic system based on free market strategies has created a legacy of underinvestment, corporate consolidation, and massive concentrations of wealth resulting in widespread economic insecurity, limited opportunities for small businesses, persistent racial wealth and wage gaps, and record income inequality —  especially for workers and families of color. Vast disparities in economic power have also been translated into vast disparities in political power, and public policies that no longer serve the public.

EOF’s 2023 Fall Funder Series explores efforts to redistribute power among government, businesses, workers, and communities to build a more democratic economy that works for all of us.

Economic Democracy: A Framework for a More Equitable Future

This brief aims to provide a shared understanding of the framework of economic democracy. It begins by providing context on current economic and democratic crises and laying out the framework of economic democracy as a means of addressing them. It then introduces three areas of focus that solve for the challenges we face: expanding public options of goods and services, building power for workers and communities through shared ownership and co-governance, and rightsizing corporate power.

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Delivering for Workers and Communities: Philanthropy’s Efforts to Ensure Equitable Implementation of Federal Investments

December 7, 2023 | 9:00-3:30pm
Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, New York
Hosted by: Economic Opportunity Funders, Funders for a Just Economy, Ford Foundation

Industrial policy is making a comeback in the United States. Sweeping legislation — including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act — present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advance worker and community-centered investments and help lay the foundation for a more just, inclusive, and democratic economy. The ability of the federal government to perform after decades of underinvestment, particularly for workers and families of color, is about to be tested. Charitable foundations have an important role to play in ensuring that this opportunity is widely understood and equitably implemented.

Join us to learn more about philanthropic efforts taking place at the national, state, and local levels to support the effective and equitable implementation of these historic federal investments. Through sharing and facilitated conversation, participants will have the opportunity to provide updates on their funding strategies and priorities, explore how their work is evolving in response to the current environment, and work collectively to identify opportunities for alignment and collaboration.

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Field Expert Q&As

Field experts share their vision on economic democracy as a means of addressing the current crises of concentrated economic and political power through the expansion of public options of goods and services, empowerment of workers and communities, and rightsizing of corporate power. They also provide insights on how recent historic federal investments provide an opportunity to advance these ideas.

Part 1: The Role of Public Options in an Equitable Economy

The term “public option” is most often associated with health care debates in the United States. But a public option can include any good or service that is publicly owned, available to everyone, and coexists with private options. Public schools, public libraries, and the U.S. Postal Service are all examples of public options that have long existed in the U.S.

Advocates for economic justice have embraced the potential of public options for banks, grocery stores, and more. The reason? The profit-driven private free market often fails to equitably provide basic and essential needs like food, child care, and housing. Public options also offer an opportunity to fill the gaps in availability, distribute ownership and decision-making power across the tax base, and ensure that power is not concentrated among the wealthy few.

During this Q&A, a panel of experts shared their insights on efforts to expand public options of goods and services that center the needs and participation of communities.

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Part 2: Rightsizing Corporate Power for an Equitable Economy

Corporate concentration has increased persistently over the past century, channeling power away from people and communities into the hands of the wealthy few and creating competitive disadvantages for smaller, entrepreneurial businesses — especially in Black and brown communities.

During this Q&A, a panel of experts discuss how consolidation in corporate power impacts our everyday lives and examine a range of promising interventions — including modernizing antitrust legislation, restoring agencies’ regulatory and enforcement power, and establishing a more equitable tax code — that can help foster a private sector that works in tandem with a thriving public sector to serve the public good.

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Part 3: Building Worker and Community Power for an Equitable Economy

Distance between those who set the rules and those who work by, live by, and are impacted by the rules creates an opportunity for distrust, disengagement, and potentially abuse. With the decades-long decline of unions, erosions in regulations supporting employee power, and greater inequality between the compensation of owners and employees, worker influence over and engagement in workplace decisions may be at an all-time low. At the same time, the voice of everyday people is increasingly undermined by the influence of money in our political system. At all levels of government, elected officials face pressures from paid lobbyists representing corporate interests, while people in communities lack both the resources and transparency in the process to weigh in on critical decisions over public resources. Co-governance and shared ownership models allow people to directly participate in decision making at their workplace or in their community.

During this Q&A, a panel of experts share innovative solutions being implemented across the country to counter decades of declining power and engagement among workers and citizens.

Read the Q&A