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  • Chelsea Robinson

Scaling Stewardship: Our Research Questions

It's no secret that the United States economy is long overdue for a shift towards equity and democratic wealth building. As interest in alternative business models that share wealth and power more evenly grows, the surrounding legal and financial structures remain stubbornly resistant to change, concentrating gains and control in the hands of a few.


To tackle this challenge head-on, Purpose and Common Trust partnered with One Project on an extensive research project. Our driving motivation? To uncover the infrastructure needed to scale shared ownership and stewardship models, making them accessible and competitive in the face of the dominant extractive economy.


Key Questions:

Our research zeroed in on the concept of "collaborative value networks", a phrase we coined to describe the concept we were pursuing. We defined this as financial, digital, and social networks that link projects with different goals and stakeholders to increase the resilience and competitiveness of individual projects and the network as a whole.


We dug deep to answer three key questions:


1. Can we generate and sustain shared value through collaborative value networks, and if so, through what models?

2. When something produces distributed value rather than investor value, how can we make it competitive in a context that often suppresses shared value?

3. Can we identify models that are networked and modular for scaling shared and steward ownership?


Throughout our research, we explored lesser-known corporate forms and financial structures that leaders can leverage to enable widespread transformation. We compiled case studies showcasing an alternative economic paradigm in action, homing in on the potential of shared ownership forms as the core instrument for business ownership and community asset stewardship.


The Path Forward:

To transition from extraction to equity, we need progress on three interconnected fronts:


1. Shared Ownership: More people need a direct financial and decision-making stake in the enterprises that shape their lives.

2. Stewardship: Institutions and assets need legal safeguarding from the pressure to maximize outside shareholder profit over stakeholder wellbeing and sustainability.

3. Connective Infrastructure: Transformed enterprises need to weave together into supportive consortiums, shared services vehicles, and investment funds.


By linking efforts and building mutually reinforcing ecosystems, we can grow an economy that produces good livelihoods while recycling wealth back into our communities.


Read the book:

After months of research, we decided to write the findings into a book. You can now access the book “Assets in Common” at sharedownership.us.


Through this work, we dug deep to uncover the infrastructure needed to support the growth of these kinds of networks and accelerate the transition to a more equitable and sustainable economic system.  Transforming the U.S. economy from one of extraction to one of shared ownership and stewardship won’t be easy, but this research illuminates some pragmatic paths forward. By innovating with alternative corporate structures, forging collaborative value networks across enterprises, and rethinking how we distribute and govern economic value, we can start building a more balanced and resilient economic paradigm. 


This transition won't happen through rhetoric alone. It will require rolling up our sleeves and getting into the legal, financial, and operational nitty-gritty to construct a new economic infrastructure from the ground up. The good news is the building blocks already exist - now it's about strategically combining and connecting them into systems that can eventually outcompete the extractive model. 


"Assets in Common" drives home the powerful idea that pooling resources and sharing ownership is a path to creating an economy that works for everyone. Through detailed case studies and actionable advice, this book will open your eyes to new possibilities for building resilient businesses and communities. In a world that often feels stacked against the little guy, "Assets in Common" provides a much-needed dose of hope and practical solutions for leveling the economic playing field. 


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