An initiative of the Center for Cultural Innovation


We will generate and share information and knowledge about what, who, and how activities are taking place at the intersections of Alternative Economy efforts, economic and social transformations of communities of color, and involvement of artists working towards sustainable financial opportunities.


We want to share what is influencing our work. This is not meant to be comprehensive, and we will continue to add over time. Select a category for a corresponding resource.



Frontline Communities

Sustaining Economic Paradigms


CCI not only values artists and cultural producers in shaping society but we also recognize that economic systems and financial instruments must work for them. Artists are key to begetting cultural change, and they undergird community identity in place-based and identity-based ways, in real reality and online. Artists are the progenitors of the growing numbers of gig worker and, through them, we can ensure that economic solutions work at community levels and for all those who share artists’ challenging financial conditions.

Who we’re learning from: Cornell University’s Gig Economy Data Hub, Economic Security Project, Every Dollar, Independent Drivers Guild, Smart, Stanford University’s Basic Income Lab, Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, The Freelancers Union, Y Combinator.

Artists and Arts as Economic Influencers

Anchor Institutions

Steve Dubb analyzes a new report from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City looking at the economic power of arts organizations as anchor institutions:
Dubb, S. (2019, August 21). Can arts and cultural partners help anchor institutions find their soul? Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from Link

Music Industry

Grateful Dead are a model for how to financially succeed in the music business:
Green, J. (2010, March). Management secrets of the Grateful Dead. The Atlantic. Retrieved from Link
Artists as the Progenitor of Today’s Gig/Independent Worker and Prototypical of Their Challenging Financial Conditions

Building Emergency Savings

Building Emergency Savings:
Legislation introduced by US Senators Cory Booker and Jerry Moran - S. 2797 “Refund to Rainy Day Savings Act”: (2016, April 13). Booker, Moran introduce bill empowering taxpayers to defer refund for rainy day savings. Retrieved from Link
Three steps to building emergency savings:
Despard, M., Friedline, T., & Birkenmaier, J. (2018, May). Policy recommendations for helping U.S. households build emergency savings. Grand Challenges for Social Work, No. 11-3. Retrieved from Link

Smoothing Income Fluctuations

On income volatility as the new normal—The Aspen Institute Expanding Prosperity Impact Collaborative:
Financial Security Program. (2016, May 1). Income volatility: a primer. Retrieved from Link
Universal Withholding that would work for employees and contract workers:
Erickson, A., & Meyer, I. (2016). Economic security for the gig economy: a social safety net that works for everyone who works. Retrieved from Link

Contract Worker Protections

A look at how changes in self-employment tax, health insurance tax breaks, and extended protections will support gig workers:
Mulcahy, D. (2018, July 23). How U.S. law needs to change to support the self-employed and gig economy. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from Link

Independent Worker-Centered Benefits

Senator Elizabeth Warren on how the diminishment of employer-based worker protections requires fundamental changes to worker protections that confer benefits to individual workers:
Warren, E. (2016, May 19). Strengthening the basic bargain for workers in the modern economy. Retrieved from Link
Examples of Portable Benefit legislation/ideas in Washington, New York, and from Service Employees International Union (SEIU):
Quinton, S. (2017, February 23). With growth of the gig economy, states rethink how workers get benefits. Insurance Journal. Retrieved from Link
A proposal for a new legal category, “independent workers,” for those who occupy the gray area between employees and independent contractors:
Harris, S. D., & Krueger, A.B. (2015, December). A proposal for modernizing labor laws for twentieth-first century work: the “independent worker.” The Hamilton Project. Retrieved from Link
Portability of benefits conferred on individual vs. institutional/employer levels:
CA SB1234 : Senate Bill 1234 (2018). Retrieved from Link

Gig Economy & Artists

Leslie Hook, referenced jazz musicians from 1920s as popularizing the term “gig”:
Hook, L. (2015, December 29). Year in a word: gig economy. Financial Times. Retrieved from Link
Keeping labor laws and benefit expectations relevant:
Istrate, E. and Harris, J. (2017, November). The future of work: the rise of the gig economy. Retrieved from Link
Technology and the drive to lower labor costs are leading to a growing gig workforce:
Muhammed, A. (2018, June 28). 4 reasons why the gig economy will only keep growing in numbers. Forbes Magazine. Retrieved from Link
As the number of freelancers and self-employed increase, cooperatives, trade unions, and mutual organizations can help ensure they have access to needed resources and benefits:
Conaty, P., Bird, A. and Ross, P. (2016). Not alone: Trade union and co-operative solutions for self-employed workers. Co-operatives UK. Retrieved from Link


AmbitioUS takes advantage of the displacement of old systems and practices due to generational attitudinal changes, demographic shifts, and technological disruptions. We exploit this moment of disruption to afford upstream-facing investments in structural solutions that work better for artists, cultural workers, creative entrepreneurs, and cultural producers. If anyone needs convincing that this is a moment of tremendous change and opportunity, and artists can be a part of new solutions, take a look here.

Who we’re learning from: Movement Generation, New Economy Coalition, Partners for a New Economy, Platform Cooperative Consortium, R Chain Cooperative, Resonate, Robin Hood Cooperative, The Next System.

Just Transition

Disrupting Capitalism for Environmental Sustainability

Ted Howard, The Democracy Collaborative, addressing Environmental Funders Network, on why environmental change requires economic change:
Howard, T. (2018, April 2). Addressing the systemic challenge at the heart of escalating inequality and environmental destruction. The Next System Project. Retrieved from Link
In this political moment, at the brink of both economic and environmental collapse, it is time to look towards the next system. This paper looks at what is necessary to create a “Joyful Economy”:
Speth, G. (2017, April 17). The joyful economy. The Next System Project. Retrieved from Link
The solidarity economy offers pathways that serve people and planet:
Kawano, E. (2018, May 1). Solidarity economy: building an economy for people & planet. The Next System Project. Retrieved from Link
Market Failures and Opportunities

Nonprofit Funding

An important illustration of nonprofit funding and the differences between for-profit and nonprofit financial management:
McCambridge, R. (21 November 2019). Pizza and a laugh--A reminder about your nonprofit financial stress level. Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from Link

Opportunities in Digital Creative Economies

A look at how virtual reality can augment purchases in the future. This article is still based in a capitalist market, gives an opening to think about how to build a new economy in VR and AR spaces:
Shuster, B. Could virtual reality revitalize the economy? Wired. Retrieved from Link
This white paper presents findings from interviews and research on the impact of emerging technologies on the creative economy:
McKinsey & Company & the World Economic Forum. (2018, February). Creative disruption: the impact of emerging technologies on the creative economy. Retrieved from Link

Fintech Solutions that Align

An infographic that highlights how Fintech is disrupting the global finance industry:
Desjardins, J. (2016, August 3). How fintech is digitally disrupting the financial world. Visual Capitalist. Retrieved from Link

Platform Coops

It is still possible to democratize the internet and ensure it is working for users rather than corporations:
Scholz, T., & Schneider, N. eds. (2017). Ours to hack and to own: the rise of platform cooperativism, a new vision for the future of work and a fairer internet. New York, NY: OR Books. Retrieved from Link
Open-source platforms, alone, are not shifting the current economic paradigm:
Schneider, N. (2016, May 21). Platform cooperativism as a critique of open-source. The Internet of Ownership. Retrieved from Link
Platform Cooperatives can ensure humans have the ability to continue to earn income as technology phases out the need for human workers:
Rosenblatt, G. (2018, April 20). When robots take our jobs, platform cooperatives are a solution. Yes! Magazine. Retrieved from Link
In depth look at who is benefiting from the “sharing economy” and why we shouldn’t settle for VC economic control:
Scholz, T. (2014, December 5). Platform cooperativism vs. the sharing economy. Retrieved from Link
A look at platform cooperatives and a community investment model that will help them scale:
Borkin, S. (2019, February). Platform co-operatives - solving the capital conundrum. Nesta and Co-operatives UK. Retrieved from Link

Sustainable Blockchain

The electricity required for a bitcoin transaction results in hundreds of thousands of times as much CO2 emission as a credit card payment:
Jordans, F. (2019, June 14). Correction: bitcoin-carbon footprint story. Associated Press. Retrieved from Link
An introduction to blockchain and how it works beyond digital currency:
Kazmierski, M. (2018, June 13). Blockchain the key to our new economy. Reno Gazette Journal. Retrieved from Link
The future of blockchain, it’s ability to be an economic disruptor and what can go wrong:
Tapscott, D. (2016, May). How blockchains could change the world. McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from Link
How blockchain can revolutionize the digital art marketplace:
Bailey, J. (2017, December 27). The blockchain art market is here. Artnome. Retrieved from Link

Frontline Communities

The current economic paradigm of free market capitalism has left people and the planet struggling. The quest for “profit over all else” has particularly hurt Native American, African American, rural, and immigrant communities. For us, economic justice is racial justice, and both are necessary conditions that can lead to robust communities that are self-determining financially and taking care of their physical environment.

Who we’re learning from: Cooperation Jackson, Cooperation Richmond, Cooperative Community of New West Jackson, Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard, Evergreen Cooperatives, Next City, The Runway Project.

Efforts Overcoming Institutionalized Racism

Relationship to Land

Native communities across the Americas continue to demonstrate resilience and resistance to violent efforts to separate them for their land, culture, and one another. U.S. Department of Arts of Culture created this guide to acknowledging the traditional Indigenous inhabitants of the land as one way to show respect to Indigenous people's history, culture, and current existence:
U.S. Department of Arts and Culture. (2017). Honor Native land: A guide and call to acknowledgment. Retrieved from Link

Racial Wealth Gap

The U.S.'s particular form of capitalism and the economic culture of speculation descend from slavery:
Desmond, M. (2019, August 14). In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Link
The sugar industry not only benefited from slavery but continues to discriminate against African American farmers and farm laborers:
Gibran Muhammad, K. (2019, August 14). The sugar that saturates the American diet has a barbaric history as the 'white gold' that fueled slavery. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Link
Nikole Hannah-Jones discusses the ties between the ongoing fight for Black liberation and freedoms for all who call the U.S. home:
Hannah-Jones, N. (2019, August 14). Our democracy's founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Link
Jeneen Interlandi shares how federal and state policies have intentionally and systematically continued to prevent African Americans from accessing affordable, quality, health care:
Interlandi, J. (2019, August 14). Why doesn't the United States have universal health care? The answer has everything to do with race. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Link
The wealth gap between White and Black Americans continues to grow as the government continues to deny reparations for slavery:
Lee, T. (2019, August 14). A vast wealth gap, driven by segregation, redlining, evictions, and exclusion, separates back and white America. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from Link

Black Commons

In 2011, brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels refused to leave their land in North Carolina. As an "heirs property" having the deed and a court order declaring that the land was theirs wasn't enough for the brothers to prove ownership:
Presser, L. (2019, July 15). Kicked off the land: Why so many black families are losing their property. The New Yorker and ProPublica. Retrieved from Link
J.T. Roane explores histories of the Black commons:
Roane, J.T. (2017, February 28). Towards usable histories of the Black commons. Black Perspectives. Retrieved from Link

Emergent Economy

An overview of how The Runway Project is working to overcome institutionalized racism in lending:
Abello, O. P. (2016, October 25). Closing the “friends and family” capital gap for entrepreneurs of color. Next City. Retrieved from Link
Rodney Foxworth, BALLE, on the need to lean in to an emergent economy that works for all:
Foxworth, R. (2018, February 18). Wealth inequality and the fallacies of impact investing. Retrieved from Link
Reclaiming Ownership

Economic Justice

Communications that support efforts to eliminate poverty and strengthen economic equality:
(2017). Talking about economic justice. The Opportunity Agenda. Retrieved from Link
A broad-based coalition of British business, trade union, civil society, and academic professionals agree, the economy will be more successful if it is fair:
Kibasi, T. (2017, September 6). What is economic justice - and why does it matter? New Statesman America. Retrieved from Link
What would happen if collective bargaining wasn’t limited to discussing workers’ wages and benefits, but also included rent control and other tools for increased community-power:
Brady, M. (2019, September 14). Workers and renters of the world, unite! Jacobin. Retrieved from Link
In November 2019, Philadelphia City Council passed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights guaranteeing domestic workers breaks, paid time off, and other civil protections. It also includes the first mandate to create an employer-funded portable benefits system for domestic workers:
Abello, O.P. (2019, November 7). Philly sets new gold standard for domestic worker protections. Next City. Retrieved from Link

Sustaining Economic Paradigms

AmbitioUS draws a connection between the movement for Alternative Economy, currently known to most as New Economy (i.e., sustaining and sustainable without exploiting or extracting) and the need for artists of all types, backgrounds, and levels to afford their practice. In short, we envision not only a future wherein the economy works better for people and planet over institutions but also a satisfying world wherein creativity, imagination, and engagement are not marginalized “leisure activities” but are structurally supported. With this lens, we prioritize worker ownership and protections and community-based control of assets.

Who we’re learning from: Boston Ujima Project, Common Future, Democracy at Work Institute, Democracy Collaborative, ICA Group, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Loconomics Cooperative, National Center for Employee Ownership, Next City, P2P Foundation, United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives.

Culturally Defined Community-Based Economies

Maker Economy

The maker economy is a growing industry with real economic potential:
Magdaleno J., Meyer I., Preuss I., Robbins E., and Wellington L. (2017, November). Discovering your city’s maker economy. National League of Cities. Retrieved from Link
Localism and Community Capital

Community Wealth Building

Deborah Frieze discusses how localism is the way forward:
Frieze, D. (2015, December 17). How I became a localist | Deborah Frieze | TEDxJamaicaPlain. Retrieved from Link
Drawing on the work done in the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, Stephanie Gutierrez explores how a systemic approach to inclusive local economic development needs a process of active translation to resonate with the traditional values at the core of Native communities:
Gutierrez, S. (2018, November). An indigenous approach to community wealth building: a Lakota translation. The Democracy Collaborative. Retrieved from Link
Next City looks at year one of the SEED Fellowship, which educates small-business owners on how to craft succession plans and convert to employee ownership:
Larson, S. (2019, July 15). Can employee ownership preserve legacy businesses in communities of color? Next City, Retrieved from Link
Post Growth Economics

State Investments

Mariana Mazzucato has demonstrated that the real driver of innovation isn't lone geniuses but state investment. Now she's working with the UK government, EU and UN to apply her moonshot approach to the world's biggest challenges:
Medeiros, J. (8 October 2015). This economist has a plan to fix capitalism. It's time we all listened. Wired. Retrieved from Link

Future of Work

Thomas Piketty demonstrates how the main driver of economic inequality threatens to generate other extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values:
Piketty, T. (2014, April 15). Capital in the Twenty-First Century. (A. Goldhammer, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Belknap. Available online Link
Statistical analysis shows that protecting labor (wages, benefits, and protections) is effective in reducing wealth inequality:
Jackson, T., & Victor, P. (2018, April). Confronting inequality in a post-growth world: Basic income, factor substitution and the future of work. Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Property, Working Paper No. 11. Retrieved from Link
While critics argue that a universal basic income (UBI) reduces incentive for people to find a job, participants of a UBI trial in Stockton, Calif. spend their money on food and clothing:
Bendix, A. (2019, October 5). A 29-year-old mayor gave his city's poorest residents $500 a month. Here's how they spent their money. Yahoo! News. Retrieved from Link
As freelancers shift to cooperative practices rather than competitive ones, conflicting voices raise as there is no agreement on the definition of what the category “freelancer” should encompass across Europe:
de Heusch, S. (2018, September). Working together, but not with anybody. European Freelancers Week. Retrieved from Link
While SMart started out in one country as a small non-profit organization, its growth from the artistic sector to a wider group of freelancers across the service economy is linked to the challenges and solutions it addressed form the start:
de Heusch, S. (2018, November 12). A smarter way to freelance. Royal Society for the engagement of Arts. Retrieved from Link
Graceffa and de Heush present the development of the "uberisation" of work and explore how the world seeks ways to guarantee sustainable and accessible social protections:
Graceffa, S., & de Heusch, S. (2017, August 10). Reinving the world of work. Transfer: European Review of Labour and Research. Retrieved from Link
Shared Ownership

Public Institution Ownership (e.g., banking)

Policy support is needed to support Black Banks in addressing the racial wealth divide:
Abello, O. P. (2018, February 2). Why black banks need policy support, not just deposits. Next City. Retrieved from Link
Banking with community wealth-building in mind:
Abello, O. P. (2018, February 6). How this bank merger will preserve storied Portland bank’s community mission. Next City. Retrieved from Link
Working to address the stark racial divide in savings and investment Floyd Tyler manages a Black-run mutual fund in Memphis:
Thomas, W. C. (2017, November 30). Investor deposits lessons in financial literacy, freedom for a new generation. Center for Community Change. Retrieved from Link
Julian LaRosa explains why public banking may be the best solution to create a safer, more sustainable financial alternative to the current system of major banking institutions:
LaRosa, J. (2019, September 30). Open Forum: Public banking in California would help create an economy that works for everyone. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from Link

The Commons

David Bollier, Commons Strategies Group, on the “commons” as a post-capitalist paradigm that integrates social, cultural, ecological, and economic needs:
Bollier, D. (2016, April 28). Commoning as a transformative social paradigm. The Next System Project. Retrieved from Link


Through the study of African American cooperatives Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard illuminates how institutional racism has continued to economically oppress African Americans and offers inspiration for change:
Gordon Nembhard, J. (2014). Collective courage: a history of African American cooperative economic thought and practice. Pennsylvania, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Available online Link
Minnesota Indigenous Business Alliance developed a coop development guide for Indian Country:
A guide to tribal community co-operative development. (2018). Minnesota Indian Business Alliance. Retrieved from Link
Center for Family Life created a cooperative start-up guide to support people interested in developing their own cooperative enterprise:
Coop startup guides. (2019, May). Center for Family Life. Retrieved from Link
The international model and gold standard for cooperative structure and movement, Modragon Corporation. Founded in 1956, is now Spain’s 10th largest business group:
(2018). About us. Mondragon Corporation. Retrieved from Link
The Emilia Romagna region of Italy is a hotbed for employee ownership and cooperative businesses (57% of residents are coop members). Progressive laws and access to capital fuel their success:
Logue, J. (2006). Economics, cooperation, and employee ownership: the Emilia Romagna model. Ohio Employee Ownership Center. Retrieved from Link
Melissa Hoover shares how employee ownership has gone from a utopian idea to an “immediate, practical intervention” in an unstable economy:
Hoover, M. (2019, April 12). Using employee ownership to build a more equitable future for work. Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from Link
As full-time, salaried employment is harder to come by workers are coming together to ensure a positive economic future. This report outlines eight positive innovations being used by workers in the UK:
Conaty, P., Bird, A., & Ross, C. (2018). Working together: trade union and co-operative innovations for precarious workers. Cooperatives UK. Retrieved from Link
Study using international data on worker-owned businesses in Europe, the US, and Latin America finds that worker-run businesses not only benefit the employees but also have positive impacts on productivity and the economy:
Pérotin, V. (2016). What do we really know about worker co-operatives? Cooperatives UK. Retrieved from Link
Cooperation Jackson is working to create an alternative to capitalism in Jackson, Mississippi:
Moskowitz, P. (2017, April 24). Meet the radical workers’ cooperative growing in the heart of the deep South. The Nation. Retrieved from Link
An interview with Doria Robinson and Gopal Dayaneni of Cooperation Richmond about their work and why cooperatives are important in black self-determination:
Raymond, R. (2018, March 15). How Cooperation Richmond is empowering marginalized communities to build an equitable economy. Shareable. Retrieved from Link
A report on why there is resistance against unionizing in one of the oldest and largest co-ops in the country:
Bellafante, G. (2019, September 20). They tried to unionize the Park Slope Food Coop. Guess what happened. The New York Times. Retrieved from Link