Season 4, Episode 4: Unpacking the Meanings of Ownership

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Summary

If one thing is true, its that the word ownership has baggage – every person has a different conception of what it means. In this episode we speak with Chris Mackin, who has worked in the employee ownership community for decades, to talk about a recent article he published on the multiple meanings of ownership. We discuss how being aware of these multiple meanings can inform the work we do on employee ownership whether that be at the company level in the context of training or ESOP plan design, or at the societal level in the context of public policy making. Chris wears many hats, practitioner, researcher, teacher, and more recently public policy entrepreneur and our conversation reflects that. As should have been expected, an interview initially intended to talk about the recent article included numerous excursions into conversations including the movement for employee ownership in the mid 18th and 19th centuries, how capital ownership structures our current economy and the possibilities for expanding employee ownership, and the Employee Equity Investment Act (EEIA) a piece of legislation that (after the interview was recorded) was introduced with bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate.

Guest Bios

Christopher Mackin works as a practitioner and a scholar in the field of employee ownership. His applied work has taken place primarily through Ownership Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a merchant banking firm called American Working Capital, headquartered in Chicago. Chris also serves as a Ray Carey Fellow at the Rutgers Institute for Employee Ownership And Profit Sharing. He is a member of the core faculty of the Harvard Trade Union Program at the Harvard Law School. He writes regularly for journals and opinion magazines on economic policy topics. Chris holds an Ed.D in Human Development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where he wrote a thesis in 1984 called The Social Psychology of Ownership: A Case Study of a Democratically Owned Firm.

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The field of broad-based employee ownership within corporations is a specific application of the foundational topic of property ownership. It is situated at the intersection of a broad range of scholarly disciplines including economics, law, finance and management. Each discipline contributes vocabulary and distinctions describing this field. That broad spectrum of disciplinary inquiry is a strength but it also lends a “ships passing in the night” quality to discussions of employee ownership. This paper attempts to unravel the narrative diversity surrounding this topic. Four meanings of ownership are introduced. Those meanings are in turn embedded within two abstract models of the corporation; the corporation as property and the corporation as social institution.

SPONSOR

This episode of the Owners At Work is sponsored by Blue Ridge ESOP Associates, Blue Ridge is the largest independent ESOP and 401(k) Third Party Administration and Recordkeeping firm. Blue Ridge ESOP Associates employs the finest professionals in the business and has over 30 years of experience providing quality third party administration services.

About the Podcast

The Owners at Work Podcast is a continuation of the biannual Owners at Work Newsletter which ran for 19 years (1990-2019). We are hoping to continue the same conversations and focus on providing updates on everything employee ownership. We plan to interview practitioners with expertise in different facets of employee ownership, academics doing new and interesting research, and most importantly, individuals who have a personal experience with employee ownership, including current and former employee-owners, mid-level to C suite management, and selling owners.

We Want to talk to YOU!

We want to produce a show that engages with relevant questions and provides practical lessons and information. We want this podcast to include the voices of those who practice employee-ownership each and every day. To that end we want to hear from you! We want to highlight what you are doing, whether you are an employee-owned company, a practitioner, or researcher.

***Please reach out via email: oeoc@kent.edu

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