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Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution Paperback – June 4, 2012

5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“This magnificent book is a kind of recipe for how civilization might cope with its too-big-to-fail problem. It’s a hardheaded, clear-eyed, and therefore completely moving account of what a different world might look like—what it already does look like in enough places that you will emerge from its pages inspired to get involved.”
—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

“This book is not only brilliant but also tremendously important. It’s one of those rare books that opens our eyes to the fact that something we’ve taken for granted is actually intrinsically destructive and can be replaced by alternative, healthier forms of organization. I found it exhilarating.”
—Fritjof Capra, physicist and author of The Tao of Physics and The Hidden Connections

“As a serial entrepreneur who’s started three traditional shareholder-owned businesses, I know from experience what’s wrong with that model. The future belongs to the alternative forms of ownership Kelly writes about. This is a book the world desperately needs.”
—Jeffrey Hollender, cofounder and former CEO, Seventh Generation

About the Author

Marjorie Kelly is a Fellow at Tellus Institute and Director of Ownership Strategy with Cutting Edge Capital. She consults with private companies and leads research projects for the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and others. She co-founded Corporation 20/20, a project to create the vision for the future corporation. Kelly was the co-founder and for 20 years president of Business Ethics magazine. Her writings have appeared in publications such as the Harvard Business Review, Utne Reader, Chief Executive, Tikkun, E Magazine, and Yes Magazine. Foreword Author David Korten is an author, president and founder of the People-Centered Development Forum, and board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE). He is an associate of the International Forum on Globalization and a member of the Club of Rome. Some of his bestselling titles include The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World. He is a regular guest on talk radio and television and a popular speaker at conferences around the world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1 edition (June 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605093106
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605093109
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #155,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marjorie Kelly is a fellow with the Tellus Institute, a 35-year-old nonprofit research and consulting organization in Boston. She holds a dual appointment as director of ownership strategy with Cutting Edge Capital, a national consulting firm (http://cuttingedgecapital.com/). Kelly advises private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission.

She specializes in ownership and financial design for the "mission-controlled enterprise," a term she devised to define the companies - including many large corporations in both the U.S. and Europe - that maintain a primary focus on social mission, even when they might be publicly traded. Some do so through such mechanisms as dual class shares, which Kelly calls "mission shares," which can be held by a foundation, by a trust, by a nonprofit, by employees, by a family, or by key executives. Some enterprises use other designs, such as bicameral governance, with advisory or governing boards representing stakeholders such as employers, producers, and community members.

Kelly is co-founder of Corporation 20/20 (www.corporation2020.org), a multi-stakeholder initiative to envision and advocate enterprise and financial designs that integrate social, environmental, and financial aims. Over five years, this project brought together hundreds of thought leaders from business, finance, labor, government, law, and civil society for meetings, research, and two national conferences.

Kelly also leads a variety of consulting and research projects in corporate social responsibility, rural development, and impact investing. She is a member of the resource team of the Ford Foundation project Wealth Creation in Rural Communities (www.CreatingRuralWealth.org). As part of that project, she co-authored the reports Keeping Wealth Local: Shared Ownership and Wealth Control for Rural Communities, and Impact Investing for Rural Wealth Creation: Investing for Financial Returns and Community Impact. Also as part of that project, Kelly is working with Emerging ChangeMakers of Mobile, Alabama, helping the group create a new rural impact investing fund and network for local wealth creation in the poorest counties of the state.

Kelly is author of the new book, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution, to be released June 2012 by Berrett-Koehler. In it, she explores many experiments with new forms of ownership, which she calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for life for many generations to come. To understand these emerging alternatives, Kelly reports from all over the world, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work. And she explores how they may hold the key to the deep transformation that our civilization needs.

Kelly was co-founder and for 20 years president of Business Ethics magazine, known for its annual ranking of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Social Investing Awards. She has experience working in many forms of ownership design, including cooperatives. She was president of the board of the William Street Grocery Cooperative, where she helped lead the store to double its size and revenue. She was also director of Great Neighborhoods Development Corporation, a nonprofit real estate developer in an under-served community of Minneapolis. She served on advisory boards for the Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability at George Washington University Law School, the Newsweek listing of the Greenest Big Companies in America, the Strategic Corporate Initiative, and other projects.

Her first book, The Divine Right of Capital, was named one Library Journal's 10 Best Business Books of 2001. Kelly's writings and op-eds have appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, New England Law Review, Chief Executive, Boston Globe, Yes! Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle.

Kelly is from a business family, where her grandfather founded Anderson Tool and Die from his Chicago basement during the Depression; her father founded and ran Graphic Engraving, a supplier to the printing trade, in Columbia, Missouri, where she grew up; and many of her uncles were also in business for themselves. She holds a bachelor's in English, cum laude, and a master's in journalism from the University of Missouri, where she received the Penney-Missouri Award for most promising young magazine journalist.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many of us wonder if we, our children and grand children will even have a future much less own some part of one.

Marjorie Kelly, in this important, brilliant and compelling book illuminates in her own inimitable, story telling way that all can understand, not only how we got into the financial and environmental messes we are still mired in but also how we can get out of them and how it's the system itself that is at fault and must be changed not just a few bad apples we seek to blame.

In spite of what we are told, Kelly says there is an alternative (to capitalism or socialism). She shows us that already existing generative ownership companies not only survived but many thrived during the economic meltdown caused by the extractive system.

Briefly, we the people as well as the creation itself are suffering from the cancer of our current capitalist or dominator ownership system which Kelly labels an extractive ownership system, the sole purpose of which is to extract as much wealth (=maximize corporate profits) as possible from our labor and the environment at the least possible risk (=deregulation) and least cost to itself (=lowest possible wage for us) as quickly as possible (=short term thinking and strategies). Every one else (that`s us), the environment and the future be damned. The sub prime mortgage shenanigans, the root of our current economic problems, are a classic example of the way the extractive systems create boom and bust cycles.

Kelly's solution is the generative ownership model in which everyone has an ownership stake, shares in the profits (which will not be excessive as they now frequently are) and takes responsibility not only for themselves but also their brothers and sisters world wide and the very creation itself, our environment.
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Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a beautifully written book that shows how we just might make our economic system fairer and more sustainable, this is it. Buy it, read it and pass it around.

I've been a fan of Marjorie Kelly since her 2001 classic, "The Divine Right of Capital." This is a brilliant sequel. It eloquently reminds us that getting ownership right is the key to solving our most pressing economic and environmental problems.

Ownership, Kelly explains, is what undergirds our economic system and tells it what to do. Right now our dominant ownership structure is the publicly traded corporation. The people who manage these corporations aren't evil; they simply do what their ownership structure requires them to do: maximize short-term return to absentee owners. The larger consequences of this behavior -- destruction of nature and community and concentration of wealth at the top -- follow inexorably from the requirements of this ownership structure. More government regulation won't sufficiently change that. If we want different outcomes, we need different ownership structures.

What such structures could look like is the thread that runs through this book. Kelly walks us through a rich diversity of alternatives: employee-owned businesses, resident-owned trailer parks, mutually-owned banks, community-owned windmills, trust-owned conservation easements, and more. Each story is interesting in its own right. Together they depict a genuine wealth-building economy that's waiting to be built.

Kelly's personal journey is interesting. For years she wrote about efforts to make corporations more "socially responsible." This book began in the same vein. In the process of writing it, however, she realized this approach was off-target.
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Format: Paperback
I thought Marjorie Kelly's first book "The Divine Right of Capital," published about a decade ago, was one of the most important and paradigm-shifting books I'd ever read, and was also an easy and enjoyable read. So, when I heard about her new book, and its provocative title, I was intrigued enough to order it as soon as it was published (something I rarely do).

I'm happy to report that, after spending the subsequent decade continuing to explore key issues raised in her first book, Kelly has followed up with another very readable and important book, which I devoured in 2 days, making notes and underlining along the way.

Building solidly on foundations laid in her first book, "Owning our Future" sheds new and important light on the emerging "generative" ownership models that can take us beyond the increasingly obvious and painful dysfunction of the over-financialized "extractive" economy that not too long ago brought us to the brink of global economic collapse.

Presented from multiple and complementary perspectives, the book's narrative threads blend easily together into a clear, compelling and insight-filled drama/analysis that speaks to both the mind and the heart. One of the book's subtitles is "Journeys to a Generative Economy," and you really do get a sense reading it that you're traveling through a new frontier with Kelly, who reminds me of an explorer mapping and charting new terrain, to the benefit of those eager to move beyond the extractive economy, but not sure how to proceed, or where it will lead.
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