Skip to main content

Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Some Solidarity Economics Financing Basics

October 27, 2008
Body paragraph

Many people function in modern capitalist society by referring to the measures of the Stock Market, the Dow and so on, often organized by Mutual Funds.  I've collected below a few excerpts from some important progressive financial businesses.  While Muhammed Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 or so, microfinance and shareholder activism have already been promoted by several businesses, some extending back historically to the 19th Century.

     As activists, we can be more assured of our progress with knowledge in this area.

 Green Century Capital Management (GCCM) strives to serve the public interest by helping to create an environmentally sustainable economy. We are the administrator for the Green Century Funds, which seek competitive financial returns without compromising the environment. In other words, we put your dollars to work for you and the planet.
Here's how GCCM seeks to protect the environment and serve your financial needs:

provide two mutual funds for those who wish to align their investments with their environmental values;
use shareholder advocacy to seek to place direct pressure on corporations to change their practices to protect the environment;
dedicate GCCM's profits to advocacy organizations who work for public policies that help create a sustainable economy.


A group of cooperative leaders sets out to provide a dependable source of financing for cooperatives not eligible to use the existing U.S. cooperative finance system.

ShoreBank began operating in August 1973, when its founders purchased the South Shore National Bank (now ShoreBank) on Chicago's South Side.
The South Shore neighborhood was undergoing racial change at the time, and the bank's former owners wanted to move the failing institution north to the city's downtown business district. Neighborhood residents protested the move and, for the first time in U.S. banking history, federal regulators denied an application to relocate a bank for reasons of changing neighborhood demographics. Consequently, the bank's owners chose to sell the bank.

At the same time, four friends and co-workers ? Mary Houghton, Milton Davis, James Fletcher, and Ronald Grzywinski ? whose combined backgrounds encompassed banking, social services and community activism, were seeking to buy a bank. They believed that a commercial bank, flanked by complementary development organizations, could effectively restore neighborhood economies.

With $800,000 in capital and a $2.4 million loan from the American National Bank, they bought South Shore National Bank. From its inception, ShoreBank's operations demonstrated that a specially designed, regulated bank can help to reverse the decline of inner-city neighborhoods coping with disinvestment and discrimination. Within two years, profitable operations were restored and the bank's profits have helped support the activities of the other affiliates ever since.

Operating on ShoreBank Corporation?s belief that a locally rooted regulated financial institution can be a catalyst for positive change in a community, SBI assists its clients in making local markets work more effectively for individuals and families with limited access to traditional financial sources.. 

SBI has worked in 28 emerging economies, with banks, microfinance entities, credit unions, cooperatives, nongovernmental oranizations and others that seek to continually reach entrepreneurs that are perceived to be too small, too risky or too new to interest conventional financial institutions. It emphasizes training and capacity building for lenders, managers and boards of partner institutions, and collaboration with local technical assistance providers to create a permanent, profitable local finance facility. 
ShoreBank Corporation established this consulting practice in 1988, which initially included both a U.S. and international focus, to share its operating experience in urban and rural economic environments, working with financial institutions globally to create greater access to capital for underserved clients and to generate economic wealth within target markets.  Currently, the company is focused exclusively on international mandates in emerging economies around the globe.

ShoreBank Pacific is the result of an innovative partnership between Ecotrust?, a non-profit devoted to fostering a conservation based economy, and ShoreBank Corporation, a pioneer in developing inner city community projects.

In 1991 Spencer Beebe, the director of Ecotrust, was rafting the Salmon River in a group that included Mary Houghton, one of the founders of ShoreBank. The two started talking about bringing new resources to people trying to grow their businesses in ways that would bring environmental and social returns while creating economic opportunity. Two years later, Ecotrust and ShoreBank joined forces to launch ShoreBank Enterprise Pacific (now ShoreBank Enterprise Cascadia - SBEC), a non-profit market development and technical assistance organization. SBEC makes loans that might be too risky for FDIC-insured banks and links products to new markets while providing technical assistance to small rural businesses. As SBEC established a presence in the Columbia-Pacific Coast region, ShoreBank raised EcoDeposits? from investors who wanted their money to help build a healthy economy and community.

The Birth of World Council of Credit Unions
The credit union idea expanded to North America early in the 20th century. Credit Union National Association (CUNA), the national association for credit unions in the United States, was founded in 1934. Twenty years later, Roy Bergengren, CUNA president & CEO, asked representatives to approve an overseas credit union assistance program that would expand the organization?s existing outreach to countries outside of North America.

The vote passed, and CUNA's World Extension Department came to life. Its purpose was to attack usury, one of the greatest abuses in developing countries, on a global scale. The department?s vision was to provide a simple, effective, yet potent weapon to improve people's economic situations.

In the 1950s, international credit union development programs emphasized community development. Programs had broad social, as well as economic objectives. Bergengren believed the department could work with several private and government funding agencies to foster credit unions as part of a wider program to create modern economies in less developed countries. The work of this office, in conjunction with the efforts of cooperative systems in Canada and Europe, led to the organization of credit unions in nearly all parts of the world over the next two decades.

For over eighty years, Amalgamated Bank has been providing financial services to working people. The Bank first opened its doors in New York on April 14, 1923. Under the leadership of Sidney Hillman, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America had invested $300,000 to launch the union bank.

Since our inception during an era when most banks served only businesses and wealthy individuals, it has been the goal of Amalgamated Bank to serve as America's Labor Bank. The Bank's report for 1926 noted that "the outstanding feature of the Bank's loan operations has been its service to small borrowers who are unable to furnish real estate or securities as collateral." In addition to breaking ground by offering unsecured installment loans to working people, the Bank also moved quickly to implement a foreign funds transfer system to enable immigrant workers to send money to their families overseas.

The Dow Jones Sustainability World Index (DJSI World) comprises more than 300 companies that represent the top 10% of the leading sustainability companies out of the biggest 2500 companies in the Dow Jones Wilshire Global Index.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.