Course Catalog

Community Wealth-building Practicum: Start-up Worker Cooperatives in Baltimore (3)

"Community Wealth Building" is a framework for community-benefiting economic development. The tenets of this framework are to foster local ownership, catalyze locally-oriented economic development, build capacity for local community economic development, and expand investment opportunities for Americans of modest means. One form of co-op development, under way by Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, is a network of worker co-ops that capture existing revenue streams from local "anchor" institutions, large non-profit institutions like universities and hospitals that command significant resources and are unlikely to relocate. Evergreen has inspired dozens of cities to think about leveraging local procurement dollars to support worker cooperatives, buy local, and recycle capital in low-income neighborhoods. In Richmond, VA, the Mayor recently established the first City-government Office of Community Wealth Building, and community wealth initiatives have been launched in cities as different as Cleveland, OH, Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA and Amarillo, TX. Regional Federal Reserve Banks are hosting video webinars and meetings. The community wealth building field includes a broad range of legal entities and approaches: cooperatives, employee-owned companies, social enterprise, land trusts, community development financial institutions and banks, and more.

This seminar will engage students primarily with the legal forms and practical realities of worker owned cooperatives. Worker cooperatives are democratic associations of people who collectively own and control their own businesses. The worker-owners participate in the profits, oversight, and management of the organization. This model has proven to be an effective tool for creating and maintaining sustainable, dignified jobs; generating wealth; promoting racial equity; improving the quality of life for workers; and promoting community and local economic development, particularly for people who lack access to business ownership in the conventional business start-up formats. Worker cooperatives are a small, but growing, part of the economy in the U.S. and around the world. Given the general failure of traditional economic development strategies to address many of the community challenges faced by Baltimore residents, one inquiry of the course is the extent to which worker co-op development represents a promising opportunity for Baltimore. Research-and experience in other US cities-demonstrate that such enterprises can create quality, empowering jobs that provide people a path out of poverty, while anchoring strong local economies.

Students will explore structural models and entity options through case examples; draft, review and adapt bylaws and enterprise governance policies; learn about cooperative businesses' unique system of capital distribution to members; and consider state-level policies for a supportive ecosystem for community-wealth building businesses. Students will develop projects/papers, which may incorporate formation or governance documents or policy proposals; and will examine the model's merits and challenges through (1) community interviews with participants in extant models of cooperative enterprise in the greater Baltimore-Washington area, and (2) collective deliberation of the seminar members' findings.

Pre-requisites or Co-requisites: Business Associations, Business Planning recommended. Prior experience with cooperatives or other social enterprise welcome.

Current & Previous Instructors:
Barbara Bezdek;

This course is not currently scheduled.
Last offered Spring 2016.


Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course

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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Admissions: PHONE: (410) 706-3492 FAX: (410) 706-1793

Copyright © 2018, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved