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Hippie Capitalism: How An Impoverished U.S. City Is Building An Economy On Co-ops
With sky-high unemployment, Richmond, California, is not a place where traditional business models alone can dent poverty. The city has turned to co-ops in hopes that people who might be unemployable in the traditional economy gain access to both jobs and control over their own labor.
At the height of the recession, the unemployment rate in Richmond, Calif., topped out at a dismal 19%. That figure has more recently crept down about three points, an improvement that might be worth celebrating if the city didn’t still have so far to go.
City councilman Tom Butt deadpans that Richmond, a city of about 100,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area just north of Oakland, is a place with “more than the usual number of socioeconomic challenges.” A large share of the immigrant population doesn’t speak English. Crime is high–Richmond is regularly ranked among the most dangerous cities in the country–meaning local residents who’ve gone through the criminal justice system have even rougher odds of landing a job. This is not, in other words, a place where traditional business models alone can dent poverty.
“There’s not a lot of help coming from the federal government, or the state government,” says the city’s Green Party mayor, Gayle McLaughlin. “So we’re…