|Pic: Zach Klein. Policies for Shareable Cities|
The sharing economy offers enormous potential to create jobs. Sharing leverages a wide variety of resources and lowers barriers to starting small businesses. Cities can lower the cost of starting businesses by supporting innovations like shared workspaces, shared commercial kitchens, community-financed start-ups, community-owned commercial centers, and spaces for “pop-up” businesses. Cities can also lower permitting barriers for home-based micro-enterprises. Sharing is also at the heart of the employment model that is designed to keep wealth and jobs in the community: cooperatives. In the age of global economics, where even money spent locally can quickly slip from local communities, fostering cooperative enterprise creates local jobs that are rooted securely in the community. Just as important, cooperative jobs are likely to be good jobs that value dignity, creativity, democracy, and fair pay. These qualities are among the reasons co-ops are widely acknowledged as being more viable, more resilient, and healthier for their communities than conventional businesses. Supporting the growth of cooperatively owned enterprises may be one of the most important things that a city can do to support stable, fair paying, local job creation. On the surface, cooperatives may look like conventional businesses, but co-operatives stand apart from traditional enterprise on two major counts:
- Accountability to Members, not to Absentee Shareholders: A cooperative’s Board of Directors is elected - on a one-member, one-vote basis - by the members of that cooperative, who are typically either the workers or customers (or both) of the business. Unlike conventional businesses that gravitate toward deci- sions that benefit absentee shareholders, cooperatives are nearly guaranteed to make decisions that serve the interests of local workers and customers.
- Profits are Shared on the Basis of Patronage, not Capital Ownership: Unlike traditional businesses, which distribute profits to shareholders on the basis of the relative size of shareholders’ capital ownership, cooperatives distribute profits to members on the basis of each member’s contribution to the cooperative’s work or business - also known as “patronage.” In a worker cooperative, patronage is measured by the value of work contributed by the member or by the number of hours worked. In a consumer cooperative, patronage is measured by the value or quantity of purchases made by the customers. In this way, wealth spreads within the community instead of leaking to shareholders outside of the community.