Back in 2018 the Kendeda Fund, a philanthropic foundation based in Atlanta, decided to make a series of big bets in areas that were both critical and timely. One of those areas was employee ownership and the investment made by Kendeda was historic. Over 5 years a total of $24 million dollars was provided to 4 employee owner support organizations. Those organizations include The Evergreen Cooperatives Fund for Employee Ownership, ICA Group, Nexus Community Partners, and Project Equity. The investment was made with four broad goals in mind – grow the number of employee-owned businesses, use patient capital to leverage investments, strengthen core elements of the employee ownership ecosystem, and amplify media coverage of employee ownership. Upon entering the 5th year of the grant, Kendeda contracted with the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to carry out a reflection process that looked back on what these four organizations where able to achieve, assess what they learned, and identify future actions that would further develop and expand employee ownership in the US. The reflection process relied on numerous forms of data collection including in-person meetings, long form one on one interviews with grantees, selling owners, and new employee owners, analysis of transition data, and comparisons of the four grantees models for transitioning companies to employee ownership. The culmination of our findings was then published in a narrative report that drew on the insights of all stakeholders involved, which we encourage you to read. However, like all reports, we could not include every bit of information we gathered. But we strongly felt it necessary to provide grantee organizations with the space to explain, in their own words, how and why they do the work they do, how Kendeda’s investment helped them expand their impact, and where they see their work going in the future. So, this interview with David Hammer of ICA Group, is one in a series of interviews we carried out with organization that received support from the Kendeda Fund.
David Hammer is the Executive Director of the ICA Group and a leading practitioner in the employee ownership field. He has assisted in the conversion, launch and growth of dozens of employee-owned firms and social enterprises. Dave speaks frequently about the potential for employee ownership to address income inequality and improve job quality and is an experienced trainer on the nuts and bolts of employee ownership and business strategy. He is the author of numerous publications and resource guides, including Co-op Conversions at Scale: A Market Assessment for Expanding Worker Co-op Conversions in Key Regions & Sectors; Building Assets, Saving Jobs: Employee Ownership as a Job Stabilization Strategy in Massachusetts Gateway Cities; and The Framework for Democratic Control: An Introduction to Articles of Incorporation & by-Laws for Democratic Firms. David joined the ICA Group in 2008 and served as a Senior Business Consultant until assuming the position of Executive Director in June 2013. He has spent his career supporting workers in their efforts to achieve meaningful economic control over their lives. Prior to joining ICA, he served as Assistant Director of Research of 1199SEIU, the largest health care union on the east coast.
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 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.
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