In early October 2016, 1worker1vote submitted a grant application to the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change Grant Competition to solve the most threatening challenges facing America and the world. Our submission declared a nationwide “solidarity deficit” and confirmed that, “Since the 1970s, America has counterbalanced high per capita GDP with rising unequal income distribution. ‘Winners-take-all’ results produce stagnant wages, declining mobility, increased economic class divisions and racial tensions at levels not experienced since the Great Depression.”
We clarified that “America is increasingly politically polarized, economically unequal and socially on edge recalling 1960s turbulence, anticipating the outlines of ongoing civil disruption. Top-level business schools, policymakers, funders and innovators proclaim self-fulfillment glories of technology-induced ‘creative destruction.’ Meanwhile, the U.S. as a civic democracy proves extraordinarily inept, unimaginative, unmotivated and disunited in creatively retraining, rehabilitating and uplifting immobile working-class communities intentionally wrenched from their former economic moorings and reduced to cycling in place or going backwards.”
We noted that “Trickle-top-down formulas haven’t worked except to postpone America’s metastasizing inequality cancers. Scaling projects don’t meet basic ROI or outreach expectations while victimized economic classes (including those growing millions of working poor, underserved, marginalized and second-class consumers who realize that lowest prices at minimum wages with no local, co-production value chain constitute a dead-end) multiply in political revolt. America is ‘lost in translation’ between ‘I built it all myself’ and ‘it takes a village,’ crisscrossed by victims of sustained economic-class-based violence with unmistakable racial underpinnings.”
We affirmed that “President Obama in 2013 called inequality the greatest challenge of our times. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’ becomes a metaphor for an unequal nation dependent on individual consumer consumption for 70% of its GNP. America needs a bottom-to-top, systemic solidarity culture intervention that optimizes virtuous-cycle free market principles instead of the predatory reverse. ‘Daring & Caring’ leadership needs to inspire VCs, hedge funds, investment banks, foundations, government programs, trade associations, national labs, private sector and academic research centers to begin to co-invest in such a transformative cultural overhaul.”
We recalled that, “The modern co-op movement originated with the 1840s Rochdale principles in Manchester/UK as did industrial unionization. Cooperatives and unions evolved separately but today’s extreme solidarity deficit imperatives compel renewing and scaling the union-coop bond. 1worker1vote.org aligns union locals and worker center collaborators with top tier cooperative developers and mission-driven institutional allies from scratch to create an inclusive, ‘Rise of the Rest of Us’ solidarity and economic development catalyst with nationwide reach.”
We proposed an urgent civil society cultural intervention at scale to bind high-impact union solidarity with the democratic power of cooperative ownership giving more working people, especially those in distressed and underserved communities, genuine control over their economic lives.
We were not selected.
One MacArthur Foundation judge wrote, “The project’s success also hinges on major legislative change that is highly unlikely given the outcome of the election.”
This past week, the Main Street Employee Ownership Act passed on a completely bipartisan basis. (Read more: Historic Federal Law Gives Employee–OwnedBusinesses Access to SBA Loans – Nonprofit Quarterly; ASBC Statements in Support of the Main Street Employee OwnershipAct – Common Dreams; Worker ownership in the USA – a new law for #coops and #employeeownership – Ed Mayo’s Blog | the power of co-operation.)
Maybe now there’s hope for a do-over.