The Evergreen Cooperatives Initiative

The Evergreen Cooperatives Initiative are a network of cooperatives in Clevehand, Ohio, working to create jobs and develop the local economy in low-income neighborhoods.

Mission and Purpose

The Evergreen Cooperative Initiative creates living-wage jobs in six low-income neighborhoods of Cleveland. Rather than training workers for employment that doesn’t exist, it focuses on building a local economy by catalyzing new cooperative businesses. Examples include Evergreen Energy Solutions, Green City Growers and the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry.

The initiative thus starts by creating jobs, and then recruiting and training local residents to fill them. The model has been successful in creating new cooperatives, redirecting local profits to local communities, preventing outsourcing, giving ownership to employees, and further consolidating profits within the community.

Origins and Development

The initiative was founded in 2008 by a group of local institutions including a local hospital, university and local government. It was developed as an alternative to trickle-down economics in the Cleveland area, by focusing on creating local jobs and worker-owned businesses rather than employee training [1].

Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding

The initiative consists of a specific organizational model made up of worker-owned cooperative businesses, including a laundry, green energy business and vegetable growers. All employees of these businesses are also part owners.

It is partly funded by a partnership between the local government, philanthropic community and university partners, known as the Greater University Circle.

Specializations, Methods and Tools

The Evergreen Cooperatives Initiative pioneered an approach now known as the Cleveland Model, which is a form of cooperative management that aims to implement cooperative principles at a larger scale than many traditional cooperatives [2].

Its associated businesses are all designed to be sustainable in both the economic and environmental sense, with the aim being to keep the profits, jobs and benefits of the businesses in the communities that need them [3].

Major Projects and Events

The main businesses of the Evergreen Cooperatives Initiative are:

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The initiative's approach has attracted significant accolades and media attention since it was launched [4]. It is particularly noteworthy because the Cleveland Model has scalability and replicability built into its design [5], with the hope being that the model could be implemented in other low-income, post-industrial communities in the US.

Whilst other initiatives have been launched around the country, it is worth noting that in Cleveland, a specific set of circumstances may have contributed to Evergreen's success there. In particular, the enthusiasm for alternatives to capitalism following the 2008 financial crisis, along with supportive allies and access to funds, enabled the initiative to start strong [6]. Nonetheless, Evergreen stands as a leader and inspiration for the cooperative economy in the United States.


See Also


[1] Evergeen Cooperatives Initiative (2020). About Us. Available at: (Accessed 29 July 2020).

[2] Community Wealth (n.d.). The Cleveland Model—How the Evergreen Cooperatives are Building Community Wealth. Community Wealth. Available at: (Accessed 29 July 2020).

[3] Democracy Collaborative (2014). The Cleveland Model: How the Evergreen Cooperatives Build Community Wealth [YouTube]. Available at:

[4] Community Wealth (n.d.). The Cleveland Model—How the Evergreen Cooperatives are Building Community Wealth. Community Wealth. Available at: (Accessed 29 July 2020).

[5] Rowe, J.K., Peredo, A.M., Sullivan, M. and Restakis, J. (2017). Cooperative Development, Policy, and Power in a Period of Contested Neoliberalism: The Case of Evergreen Cooperative Corporation in Cleveland, Ohio. Socialist Studies. 12(1). pp. 54-77. Available at:

[6] Ibid.

External Links


The first submission of this Participedia entry was adapted from an entry by the Institute of Development Studies as part of their research project 'Linking Participation and Economic Advancement’ licensed and reproduced under Creative Commons (CC BY 3.0):