An initiative of The Democracy Collaborative, Fifty by Fifty is aimed at creating a more inclusive economy through employee ownership. Our goal is to catalyze a movement with the knowledge, resources, and skills to grow the number of employee owners in the U.S. from 10 million to 50 million American 2050.
Millions of Americans already have an ownership stake in their workplace. More than 7,000 U.S. companies are owned wholly or in part by their employees—the people who work there every day. Several thousand of these companies are majority employee-owned. These employee-owned businesses are more connected to their communities, better for their workers, and are measurably more stable and productive than traditional investor-owned corporations. They represent the seedbed of a new kind of economy based on democratic participation, shared prosperity, and a shared sense of responsibility for our communities and workplaces.
Growing employee ownership to roughly a quarter of our future workforce will require sharing our best analysis, thinking, and strategies. It will also demand an unprecedented level of focused collaboration among both traditional leaders in the employee ownership field, as well as with non-traditional partners, so we can create a broad ecosystem of support for employee ownership. The Fifty by Fifty initiative is designed to facilitate the deep collaboration needed to make employee ownership— through structures like worker cooperatives, ESOPs, and other models— a major part of the U.S. economy. Its aim is to begin to bend the curve of history toward an inclusive, community-based economy, where millions more families enjoy financial stability, increased income, and greater retirement security, and where more Americans can control their economic destiny.
Jessica Rose is co-founder and director of Fifty by Fifty. She also serves as the COO of the Democracy Collaborative and a strategic advisor for the Evergreen Cooperatives Corporation Fund for Employee Ownership.
Marjorie Kelly is co-founder of Fifty by Fifty and also serves as the executive vice president of The Democracy Collaborative. Kelly has been a long-time critic of shareholder capitalism and is leading Fifty by Fifty’s work on Next Generation Enterprise Design.
WHAT WE DO
Through our online publication, Employee Ownership News, we are showcasing employee-owned companies, disseminating research and analysis, and providing a forum for employee ownership practitioners to share best practices. In addition, Fifty by Fifty is providing thought leadership through op-eds placed in the business and consumer publications, interviews, and presentations at conferences around the country.
Build Strategic Partnerships
Fifty by Fifty has convened several stakeholder meetings to strengthen collaboration across the employee ownership field.
- June 2016: hosted a gathering of key leaders in the national ecosystems of support and advocacy around employee ownership to develop collaborative strategies to accelerate growth in the number of U.S. employee-owned firms.
- January 2017: convened experts in the impact investing field to consider how to educate the social impact investing community about the benefits of employee ownership and to develop the infrastructure and tools needed to scale up investment in EO firms or firms converting to EO.
- April 2019: hosted an invitation-only meeting with employee-owned B Corps and benefit corporations to explore ways to scale employee ownership within the B Corp/benefit corporation community.
These convenings have contributed to growing interest in employee ownership as a strategy to reduce wealth inequality and to preserve local businesses in the face of the wave of retiring baby boomers.
Research and Analysis
With support from Partners for a New Economy, Fifty by Fifty has conducted a year-long research project exploring the relationship between employee ownership and sustainability. Our research comparing employee-owned B Corporations to B Corps that are not employee-owned—and to conventional corporations—demonstrates that employee ownership is often vital to maintaining social and environmental mission in the face of outside pressures. This research provides the basis for our working hypothesis that the employee-owned benefit corporation is the enterprise design best adapted to meet the social and environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Champion Investment Models to Drive Scale
Fifty by Fifty believes that one of the barriers to bringing employee ownership to scale is the lack of agency in capital markets—no one is incentivized to promote conversions in a way that can compete with conventional mergers and acquisitions. Fifty by Fifty explored the investment landscape in a research paper by Mary Ann Beyster, and then worked with the Evergreen Cooperatives Corporation to launch an investment fund—The Evergreen Fund for Employee Ownership—to acquire companies and convert them to employee ownership.