By: Diane Ives, Fund Advisor, The Kendeda Fund

Diane Ives, fund advisor for People, Place, and Planet at The Kendeda Fund and steering committee member of the Funders’ Network’s GREEN working group, shares a reflection on the what it means to build community wealth that lasts beyond grant cycles and builds economic prosperity for all, including our planet.

“Last spring I had a chance to visit two of the Evergreen Cooperative Corporation businesses in Cleveland, Ohio – Green City Growers and Evergreen Cooperative Laundry. This was not my first time visiting these operations, or even my second. Over the years I have returned time and again to watch these companies make headway in shaping the new economy. They are part of a growing movement to bring democracy to the workplace through employee ownership – a trend taking root across the United States.

At Green City Growers, a mission-driven company providing dozens of local restaurants with immediate access to hyper-local food, new LED lighting is in place and floats of lettuce and basil are happily soaking up the rays. Our tour-guide, Ernest, has been at the greenhouse for several years. He is a worker-owner who has moved up from an entry level position to assistant general manager who exuberantly shares his life, the work at Evergreen, and his appreciation for a grandmother who encouraged him to become a worker-owner at Evergreen.

Opened in early 2012, the Green City Growers’ greenhouse was engineered and constructed specifically to grow specialty greensSituated on a 10-acre inner-city site that was once urban blight, the greenhouse—with 3.25 acres under glass–now serves as a vibrant anchor for the surrounding neighborhood.

The laundry has undergone a transformation since I last visited. The Cleveland Clinic has contracted with Evergreen to provide the workforce for their new laundry facility, an impressive operation can wash 30 million pounds of linens annually. Four worker-owners will be taking a trip to Minneapolis to learn how to repair and maintain the new, German-manufactured laundry equipment. Another second-chance worker, Charles, has been with Evergreen laundry since it first opened in 2009. He now has a seat on the board, voted in by his peers. Through Evergreen’s Home Ownership Program he purchased a home for no more than the cost of his monthly rent. Tymika, a second chance worker who has put in many hours in the laundry, now heads up two divisions that prepare linens for the Cleveland Clinic’s surgery rooms and family care centers. She motivates her workforce with enthusiasm, and the occasional offer of pizza (in the break room).

Kendeda has been supporting Community Wealth Building efforts like Evergreen since 2009, in an effort to build economic prosperity for all within the means of the planet. Our funding over that decade has focused on advancing economic systems change that starts at the community level. These include worker coops, community land trusts, anchor institution procurement strategies, and municipal and local public enterprise.”

Read the full blog post here.

About the Author

Diane Ives has worked with The Kendeda Fund since 2003, and currently serves as the fund advisor for the People, Place, and Planet program.

Diane has also worked with the Tides Foundation, Beldon Fund, Putnam Foundation, and the Enlyst Fund. Her experiences include national programs that advance environmental and economic sustainability; locally based community development efforts; international programs that support communities and ecosystems; and state-level efforts to support strategic environmental policymaking.

Throughout her career Diane has served in varying capacities for and with foundations, including as a board member, executive director, program officer, grants manager, and consultant. Diane is a graduate of Yale University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. She served as a community development Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa, from 1983 to 1985.

She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with her husband and son.