A recent PolicyLink interview with Ted Howard of the Democracy Collaborative, an organization that functions to “strengthen democratic life in America,” provides a window into some ways that disinvested cities can become more successful and equitable using what already exists in those cities.
Howard’s conversation with Angela Glover Blackwell focuses on his organization’s efforts to boost employment, local food resources, environmental sustainability and overall opportunity in Cleveland. The Democracy Collaborative’s efforts focus on creating cooperative businesses that provide essential services to the City’s “anchor institutions,” historically rooted and successful organizations such as hospitals and universities with a vested interest in improving the surrounding neighborhoods and the city proper.
Among the Cleveland projects Howard mentions:
The Evergreen Cooperative – builds business opportunities for anchor institutions that invest in surrounding communities and function as a cooperative (i.e food services at a hospital). The Evergreen collaborative accepts employment applications from people with fundamental barriers such as a criminal record and gives management responsibilities to community members.
Ohio Cooperative Solar – a project that aims to double the amount of solar energy use in Ohio through new panel installations.
Green City Growers – ten acres in the heart of Cleveland with a five acre hydroponic greenhouse. Produces more local produce and is owned by the people operating it. Environmentally sustainable and a reinvestment in Cleveland neighborhoods.
The bottom line, according to Howard, is that we have no option but to reinvest in the built infrastructure of cities like Baltimore and Cleveland if we’re to accommodate a United States with 450 million inhabitants. Baltimore’s many similarities with Cleveland, particularly a steady population decline and a number of world-class medical and educational institutions, mean some of these projects could be replicated here.
In some cases, they already are: programs like the Johns Hopkins Live Near Your Work initiative show that anchor institutions are eager to invest in their surrounding areas in Baltimore, and the boom in cooperative urban farming in this city shows how cities in general are at the forefront of sustainable local agriculture that is beneficial in myriad ways.
This interview was part of PolicyLink‘s America’s Tomorrow: Equity in a Changing Nation multimedia series featuring innovators in equitable solutions to paramount economic problems. See the rest of the series here.