past event
Employment and Jobs

Building a Democratic Economy: How Do We Create Prosperity for All?

About this Event

While our economy continues to grow, our country’s prosperity is not broadly shared. Although unemployment is low, too many working people still struggle to make ends meet or build enough wealth to provide for a stable life for themselves and their families. How do we create a new economic system that builds prosperity for all, helping to ensure that everyone shares in the wealth that our economy generates?

A new book, The Making of a Democratic Economy by Marjorie Kelly and Ted Howard of The Democracy Collaborative, explores this question by looking at organizations and individuals across the country working to reshape our economy to make it more equitable and to restore power to individuals. From worker cooperatives to socially conscious investing, these leaders are creating different approaches to capitalism that can serve as models for others. The book outlines a set of principles for this new economy that can help guide efforts to address the challenges that many people still face.

We host a discussion with the book’s authors and some of the leaders they describe, whose policies, programs, and business models highlight opportunities to make our economy more equitable. This event explores these new approaches to capitalism and identified practical lessons for others looking to build a more just economic system.


Join the Conversation

Join the conversation on Twitter by following @AspenWorkforce, @Aspen_BOI, and @DemocracyCollab and tweeting with the hashtag #talkopportunity.

While our economy continues to grow, our country’s prosperity is not broadly shared. How do we ensure that everyone shares in the wealth businesses generate?

A new book by @marjorie_kelly & Ted Howard of @DemocracyCollab looks at the people who are working to reshape our economy and restore power to individuals. This event by @AspenWorkforce & @Aspen_BOI discussed the book and its implications.

From #employeeownership to socially conscious investing, leaders across the country are advancing more equitable approaches to capitalism.



Karla Bruce

Karla Bruce
Chief Equity Officer, Fairfax County Government

Karla Bruce has over 20 years of local government management experience and is known as a driver of innovation in public service delivery, bridging the efforts of local government with the collective action of residents and broad networks of partners to strategically address issues facing vulnerable populations and neighborhoods. Karla currently serves as the chief equity officer for Fairfax County, Virginia where she successfully championed the adoption of the One Fairfax Racial and Social Equity Resolution and Policy and provides overall management of the One Fairfax strategic framework, advising and supporting the Board of Supervisors and executive leadership in shaping and directing policy and practice to foster equitable opportunity for all Fairfax County residents.

Marjorie Kelly

Marjorie Kelly
Executive Vice President & Senior Fellow, The Democracy Collaborative

Marjorie Kelly is the senior fellow and executive vice president of The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) a nonprofit research organization founded in 2000. TDC is a research and development lab for a democratic economy. She is cofounder of Fifty by Fifty, a network initiative to catalyze 50 million employee owners by 2050, for which she has led research on “next-generation enterprise design.” For her research on the role of capital in taking employee ownership to scale, she was named the Robert J. Beyster Research Fellow by Rutgers University. Her other work at TDC has included working with community foundations on place-based impact investing, and leading The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a five-year project working with Native American organizations to build wealth in Indigenous communities. Kelly is coauthor of The Making of a Democratic Economy: Building Prosperity for the Many, Not Just the Few (July 2019, Berrett-Koehler Publishers).

Harold B. Pettigrew, Jr.

Harold B. Pettigrew, Jr.
Executive Director, Wacif

As Wacif’s executive director, Harold leads one of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area’s leading Community Development Financial Institution’s (CDFI) and is responsible for Wacif’s overall strategic direction, financial management, and performance.

Harold has spent his career in economic development, with nearly 20 years of experience in small business development, venture capital investing, transportation and transit, workforce development and public sector management. Prior to joining Wacif, Harold was the director of entrepreneurship for Prosperity Now (formerly the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED)), where he led the organization’s national efforts to advance policies and programs that increase business success for low-and moderate-income microbusiness owners throughout the United States. In addition, Harold has served as a technical advisor to the National League of Cities for its Equitable Economic Development Fellowship, an initiative to help 6 major cities pursue more equitable and inclusive economic development policies and programs in traditionally underserved communities; and, as advisor to the World Bank on private sector development strategies focused on small business development and commercial licensing for Somaliland and greater Somalia.



Joyce Klein

Joyce Klein
Director, Business Ownership Initiative

Joyce Klein is the director of the Business Ownership Initiative, which advances business ownership as an economic opportunity strategy. Ms. Klein assumed the leadership of BOI (formerly FIELD) in 2012, after working as a senior consultant since the program’s inception in 1998. She is recognized as a leading expert on the field, speaking at national and regional industry conferences and being quoted in a variety of news media including The New York Times and National Public Radio’s Marketplace. Joyce has more than 20 years of experience studying and supporting microenterprise and entrepreneurial development programs in the United States, and has authored or co-authored numerous publications, including funder brief and strategy guides, evaluation and research reports, case studies and policy briefs. She has also designed and managed grant programs aimed at supporting innovation in the practice of microenterprise development in the United States.


Learn more

This event is part of the Opportunity in America series, an ongoing discussion series hosted by the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. We are grateful to the Ford Foundation, Prudential Financial, and for their support of this series. For more information, visit

The Economic Opportunities Program advances strategies, policies, and ideas to help low- and moderate-income people thrive in a changing economy. Follow us on social media and join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on events, publications, blog posts, and more.

Event information
Wed Nov 13, 2019
12:00pm - 1:30pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
2300 N Street NW Suite 700
Washington DC 20037