What We Do
ICA’s Theory of Change
ICA’s objective in supporting democratic employee ownership and employment social enterprise is to demonstrate to the broader business community the benefits of adopting the principles of democracy in people’s economic life. Unless and until democratic firms control a significant portion of the market, however, we will not be able to influence employment practices and public policy on a broad scale. What is required to meet that goal is an approach that works to develop firms that are of a scale that can demonstrate to the broader business community that democratic ownership is not only a viable business model, but the best choice for broadening economic prosperity.
While employee ownership does hold enormous promise to address these issues, a more thoughtful and long term approach is necessary to start moving the needle on income inequality. ICA employs a three-pronged, industry-focused strategy designed to build wealth and root capital locally within a community. First, we work to facilitate the conversion of existing businesses to worker ownership; second, where appropriate we work to develop startup worker co-ops and social enterprises; and finally, we continually strengthen and expand our set of business tools designed to support grassroots startup efforts.
Critically, however, new development and conversion efforts need to be rooted to a long term strategy designed to improve working conditions for workers within an industry or across a region. A neighborhood focused strategy that pursues multiple ventures across a wide array of industries, all located in the same geographic area structurally limits the ability to build firms that can achieve significant market share. It also reduces the chances that any one of the different ventures will be successful by stretching resources, partnerships, and business acumen in many different directions at once.
An industry focused cooperative replication strategy, on the other hand, holds much more promise for achieving success on a scale that can actually realize social change by making a real difference to the most number of people. Business replication, especially in sectors that are capital intensive or employ large numbers of people, requires in-depth expertise, where the fine details of markets, operations and supply channels are thoroughly understood. By taking proven business models from a few carefully selected sectors and adapting them to a variety of local markets, ICA applies a development process across several new communities which continually builds on the lessons of previous projects.