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Join us for a conversation with Josu Ugarte, president of Mondragon International, Dorcas Gilmore, founding board member of Baltimore Activating Solidarity Economies (BASE), Bill Generett, inaugural president and CEO of Pittsburgh’s Urban Innovation 21, and Ed Whitfield, co-founder and co-managing director of the Fund for Democratic Communities, as we discuss strategies for transitioning Baltimore — and greater Maryland — towards a New Economy.
The recent uprising in Baltimore is showing us that nothing is changing properly, rapidly, or effectively for inner-city black Americans.
Public leaders talk about failed statistics resulting from America’s mostly privatized Prison Industrial Complex. Media reports careen between understanding the “whys” of violence born of frustration and hopelessness, while traditional faith and community leaders call for protesters to stand down.
Some solutions have been offered up, like more sensor technology, less automatic prison time for non-violent offenders, and more investment in local communities. However, the sad reality is that images of burning cars and buildings could drive private investors away from Baltimore for years – unless something different happens.
Inner-city America isn’t the first place where racially based inequality, poverty, unemployment, and disenfranchisement have exploded into anger and rebellion. “Rising Up” is a global phenomenon.
Fortunately, some communities are increasingly embracing the alternative model of a local living economy. Visionary African-American leaders in Jackson, Mississippi, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Greensboro, North Carolina and yes, Baltimore, are turning to successful worker ownership experiences to put inner-city equity on the table.
Inner-city equity is key to sustaining job creation, improving citywide procurement systems, and starting up cooperative housing, which turns renters into owners. It is also already paving the way for place-based cooperative such as in agriculture, grocery stores, solar energy installations, taxi companies, and community health centers — just to name a very few in-motion examples.
To reestablish “ownership as the original American system condition” — especially for a people first brought to the Americas as property — organizations such as 1worker1vote.org, Pittsburgh’s Urban Innovation 21, the Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative, and Baltimore’s Activating Solidarity Economies (BASE) are advancing a new ethos focused on local civic and workplace equity as a transformational catalyst for the New Economy.
Starting with mayors in cities as diverse as New York, San Francisco, and Madison, America’s politicians are beginning to recognize this transformation as the real-deal catalyst. This is a left-right solution, where governments can combine financial incentives and local procurement equality with private-sector bootstrapping — such as “do it yourself” (DIY) entrepreneurial business practices — in a way that fosters racial justice.
For the past seven years since 2008, Josu Ugarte has served as the President of MONDRAGON International. In this capacity Josu manages nine global trade and business development corporate delegations in Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Chile, Vietnam, Taiwan and the U.S., countries where, last year Mondragon’s international sales increased by 85%. Started over 60 years ago by a village priest, Mondragon is the world’s largest industrial worker-owned and managed cooperative with its own university, insurance mutual, and bank, Laboral Kutxa, that is now partnered with National Cooperative Bank.
In July of 2012, Josu presented a defining paper to the London School of Economics proving that Mondragon’s multi-localization strategies enables the group to be the largest Basque regional multinational ranking tenth overall in Spain, while still increasing domestic employment and raising the domestic salary levels for those cooperatives operating globally. MONDRAGON’s management focus on multi-located global supply chain production stands as a stark alternative to traditional zero-sum outsourcing and off shoring models. In 2013, the Financial Times awarded Mondragon its coveted “Boldness in Business” award.
In October of 2009, Josu was instrumental in teaming up with Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, North America’s largest manufacturing union, to forge a precedent-setting partnership that is now operating in more than sixteen cites around the U.S. through the 1worker1vote.org platform.
An economist from the Basque University, Josu is a recognized leader in business internationalization and multi-localization as well as strategy and brand management, especially in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China). He has served as a Chief Executive Officer for MONDRAGON cooperatives in Morocco, England, Poland and Paris, France.
Josu serves on a number of foundations and is a published author in the areas of Small & Medium Enterprise globalization, emerging markets and on possible outcomes resulting from Spain’s Great Recession crisis which started in 2008.
Dorcas R. Gilmore is an attorney and consultant working with nonprofit organizations and small businesses on racial and economic equity, organizational development, and leadership development. She is a co-founder of Baltimore Activating Solidarity Economies (BASE) and a principal of Gilmore Khandhar, LLC, a solidarity economies law firm. Previously, she taught as a Practitioner in Residence in the Community & Economic Development Law Clinic at American University Washington College of Law. She also served as an Assistant General Counsel for the national office of the NAACP representing the national office and its over 1,000 local and state affiliates. She focused her advocacy work on economic and environmental justice. She began her legal career as a Skadden Fellow & Staff Attorney at the Community Law Center, Inc. creating a Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative to provide business legal services to youth-led businesses, organizations, and social ventures. Dorcas has represented a range of community-based organizations, youth-led enterprises, social ventures, and coalitions seeking to advance equity at local, regional, and national levels.
Dorcas was a Gilbert & Jaylee Mead Public Interest Scholar at the University of Maryland School of Law. Prior to law school, she provided workforce development training in the Dominican Republic as a part of the national government’s Presidential Plan Against Poverty. Dorcas is a Governing Committee member of the ABA Forum on Affordable Housing and Community Development Law and serves on the Board of Directors of the National Black Worker Center Project, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, and the Racial Justice Advisory Committee for the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. She has written several articles and book chapters focused on community economic development.
Bill Generett is the inaugural President and CEO of Urban Innovation21, a regional public-private economic development partnership that links successful innovation economy clusters with the needs and assets of inner city communities to produce local, living and sustainable economies. Under Bill’s leadership Urban Innovation21 has been recognized nationally for its work to connect underserved communities and their residents to the greater Pittsburgh region’s most successful innovation ecosystems.
A Pittsburgh native, Bill has served as an entrepreneur, nonprofit executive, corporate executive, attorney and teacher. He was the founder and president of a non-medical homecare company, ComForcare Senior Services Allegheny County (ComForcare), where he managed forty employees who provided services to hundreds of clients throughout Allegheny County. In 2007, Bill sold Comforcare and it is now one of the largest home care companies of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania. Bill served as the Vice President of legal staffing and recruiting for one of the nation’s largest legal staffing agencies, Compliance Inc., in the Washington D.C. area. William also taught English for one year in Japan through the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.
Bill is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College. For several years he practiced corporate and real estate law with an Atlanta, Georgia law firm. Currently, Bill is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the state of Georgia and serves as a consultant in many venues. He is a very active member of the community where he serves on several nonprofit boards and advisory committees including the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Mercy Health Systems, Pittsburgh Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, Innovation Works, Renewable Manufacturing Gateways Corporation, The Heinz Endowments African American Male Initiative and the Business Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and 1worker1vote.org. In 2014, he was appointed to the U.S. Department of Commerce National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Ed Whitfield is Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC) in Greensboro NC. A long time social justice activist, Ed had been involved in labor, community organizing and peace work since the late 60‘s when he was a student activist at Cornell University. He was the chairman of the Greensboro Redevelopment Commission for 9 years and formerly board chairman of Greensboro’s Triad Minority Development Corporation.
In his work with F4DC, Ed helped initiate the formation of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project (SGEP) and their annual CoopEcon conferences aimed at networking and training among people interested in developing a cooperative new economy in the US South. He has visited and studied worker cooperative activities from Madison Wisconsin to the Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland, OH and the Mondragon Cooperatives Corporation in the Basque region of Spain. For Ed, helping people in communities engaged in meaningful, democratic, just, sustainable and productive activities is a key motivation.
He is currently helping to provide technical assistance to a group of people living in an urban food desert struggling to develop a community owned cooperative grocery store as well as working along side people in Jackson Mississippi to get several cooperatives started. Ed is deeply involved in conceptualizing and spreading the idea of democratic ownership, democratizing finance and the reclamation of the commons.
IPS’ New Economy Working Group and New Economy Maryland Project, The Democracy Collaborative, Faith Economy Ecology Program at Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Impact Hub DC, Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO, Mondragon North America, Moving Images, producer of SHIFT CHANGE, 1worker1vote.org, Solidarity Economy DC, and the American Sustainable Business Council.