The solidarity economy movement is ascendant! It’s true. Activists, organizers, and academics have been foretelling its rise in the United States for over a decade. But something new is afoot. 

I confess that I am among this group of activists and academics who for years have been calling attention to the growth of solidarity economy practices—and have been largely ignored. Back in 2019, I published a study on what I called “cooperative cities” in which I wrote about how local governments in a dozen US cities create enabling environments for developing and sustaining worker cooperatives. Only a handful of municipal leaders at the time referred to this work as “community wealth building.” The ability to do this study is itself part of the story—had I been writing it before the Great Recession, the number of cities that would have qualified as “cooperative cities” would have been zero.

And yet, so much more has happened since 2019, as this series—Solidarity Economies: Building Community Power—documents. Indeed, it is notable that of the five cities featured in this series—Los Angeles, Buffalo, Oakland, New Orleans, and Washington, DC—only Oakland made my list of the dozen leading US cooperative cities in 2019. 

My home city of Chicago did not make my list either. Yet today, Chicago is one of the leading cities nationwide for cooperative development and community wealth building—an approach to community economic development that promotes local, democratic, and shared ownership and control of community assets to transform our economy to be more equitable, sustainable, and just. In November 2021, the City of Chicago made a historic commitment to using $15 million from the American Rescue Plan Act for community wealth building, investing specifically in emerging and established worker-owned cooperatives, limited equity housing cooperatives, community land trusts, community investment vehicles, and the requisite support infrastructure. The new grassroots-led community wealth building developments speak to the rapid growth of the solidarity economy movement in the United States. 

The drivers of this movement, of course, are ongoing crises. The COVID pandemic and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black people by police officers are surely catalysts. But it is the combination of multiple crises—including climate calamities and ecological degradation; insurmountable household debt; housing dispossession and reckless escalation of the billionaire class; resurgent anti-Blackness, homophobia, heteropatriarchy, and White supremacy amid waning civil liberties—that is driving the collective resistance and increasingly unconventional models of provisioning through the development of locally rooted supply chains and networks of mutual aid. Cooperative formations are emerging in Black, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities across the country—and, more and more, taking the form of regional solidarity economy ecosystems, as the writers in this series will outline in further detail.

Read the full article about solidarity economies by Stacey Sutton at Sharable.