What Is a Community Economy?

The Alliance to Develop Power has invited our closest allies to help us get the word out about our participation in the JobRaising Challenge. We've asked them to share stories of their work with us, explaining how our joint efforts tackle some of the most intractable problems in our communities. We want to demonstrate how collaboration is key to creating jobs and expanding our vision of a new community economy.

By Karen Ribeiro
Inner Fortune

ADP folks know too well the effects of global warming. In June 2011 their offices at 130 Union Street in downtown Springfield Massachusetts were devastated by a freak tornado. What did they do? Immediately launched a South End Hope Initiative to rebuild their Change Center for their 5,000 members throughout the Pioneer Valley.

This Alliance to Develop Power knows how to build a community economy in a just and sustainable way. Every month they provide 1,000 families with access to a week's worth of healthy locally grown food, they provide essential community building support and leadership development for members in 770 units of tenant run affordable housing, they manage a Worker Center with over 800 members, and run a community owned worker-controlled construction and landscaping company that hires from the worker center and serves those very same properties, and much more. If, however, we view ADP as a microcosm, representing an entire nation rebuilding its economy like China or India, we'd see a stark contrast between ADP's path and the "developing" world - with leaders on massive spending sprees, making long term sacrifices of water supplies and soil health for short term gains like fancy cars and bellies full of meat.

The temptation for any developing community organization -- or nation -- or person -- to rebound from impoverished conditions by filling their empty bellies and homes with indulgent foods and goods is natural. And hell, if the "developed" countries and people have (generally) been satisfying their every desire while the disadvantaged suffer more and more, why then shouldn't the latecomers get the same advantage?

It all comes back to this thing called global warming...

The thing about global warming is that 99% of us can't understand how our day-to-day behaviors make any real difference in the world, positive or negative. This results in apathy and business as usual. We might think, "Yeah, I should recycle more" or "Perhaps I should drive less or get a smaller car" but it's easier for many of our mental influencers (media pundits and politicians) to point at the biggest offenders, currently China and India, rather than look at the three fingers pointing backwards (go ahead, point your finger at something).

What would ADP do? They'd hold a community conversation. In less than 18 months they held over 1,000 one-to-one meetings with members to gather consensus and form community strategies. Such an alliance to develop power does not sit idle because the media and politicians are afraid to act. They rally, they act together as a community, and they enhance their collective well being, one intentional step at a time -- which is why they are one of 74 national organizations competing in the Huffington Post Job Raising Challenge.

And you know what? We are all capable of building important alliances -- in our homes, our communities and across the planet!

The following Steven Colbert clip, features these dependably parched witticisms:
  • Obama cynically used his inaugural address to push his radical pro survival agenda
  • Colbert doesn't want to be one of those grandpas who spoils his grandkids with a habitable planet, and
  • "no one offers more nothing than CNN conservative commentator and inertial lump Erick Erickson (as opposed to psychoanalyst Erik Erikson), who says that no matter what we do, nothing will help for 100 years so just do nothing. We need to just get used to the terrible effects of climate change because basically incrementally fighting CO2 emissions is just a lot of work.

The refrain, "What can you do about it?" does absolutely nothing to inspire us to act beyond our own self-interest. But as anyone who has been a part of a community organized movement, nothing does more to inspire us to act than the restoration of hope and the sense of connection to one another that is our most human desire. The constant question facing ADP -- and arguably all of us: How do we holistically address the barriers that disproportionately affect low-income people and people of color -- structural racism and systemic poverty -- while building a sustainable, relevant model for economic prosperity? One inspired, intentional step at a time. What can you do to make the world a better place?