Artwork by Cori Lin

Community Wealth Building: The Chicago Way

Community Wealth Building (CWB) promotes community ownership and democratic community control of local businesses, housing, land, and commercial corridors. In contrast to traditional economic development, CWB places power and resources into the hands of the community.

In November 2021, the City of Chicago made a historic $15 million commitment to invest in Community Wealth Building. While other cities have adopted CWB strategies, Chicago’s approach prioritizes strengthening and deepening the local cooperative ecosystem essential for generating real community wealth. Watch the video to learn more.

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Community Wealth Building Models

We focus on four priority models of community wealth building to promote local, democratic and shared ownership of community assets, and to create a more sustainable and equitable economy:

Worker-Owned Cooperatives

Values-driven businesses that are collectively owned and democratically operated by their employees. Worker Cooperatives generate worker and community benefits.

Limited-Equity Housing Cooperatives

Housing that is collectively owned and democratically managed by residents and that aims to maintain permanent affordability, accessibility, and stability.

Community Land Trusts

Community-based nonprofits that acquire and steward community land and assets for the explicit purpose of preserving affordability and mitigating displacement from residential and commercial properties.

Community Investment Vehicles

Legal mechanisms for community investment in neighborhood assets based on shared values and development goals. In its ideal form, CIVs are designed, majority-owned, and majority-controlled by residents or local members.

Explore Chicago's
Community Wealth Building Ecosystem

Community Voices

The CWB grant is a really incredible opportunity because there's not a lot of pre-development funds out there. This is an important moment for us as we're hiring an architect to support us around design for the building, and the grant also covers some of the expenses associated with getting the necessary land surveys and environmental reports. So in terms of having a physical building, the pre-development part of this grant is really game-changing.

Andrea Yarbrough, Co-Founder and Worker Owner at Cooperation Racine

So after years of fighting against exploiter workers that were stealing the wages, that had people working under really dire conditions, we decided that we needed to create good jobs in the community. And that's how we realized after doing research, well there's an alternative. We can create our own alternative communities. We want to change the way that things are done on the Southeast Side. We want to create an alternative economy where people can have a say so, and have a vote, and they can decide their own economic future.

Maricela Estrada, Senior Economic Justice Organizer at CTU

I like the cooperative because it is about supporting each other as women; working in the hours we have available because we are mothers, there is time to go to the hospitals, take our children to the doctor, take turns, and establish a place where we can help each other to get ahead.

Esmeralda Gutierrez, Maden Cleaning Cooperative

Every dollar that is invested in a cooperative goes to numerous worker owners, right? It doesn't go to one majority owner at the top of a corporate ladder sort of thing. All of these businesses in the community wealth building initiative are focused on dispersing money throughout their community, and throughout their group of worker owners. So it's a dollar that goes a lot farther invested than in the traditional business where you're trying to help a business startup, but then most of that business kind of ends up funneled up on top.

Andrew Tschiltsch, Co-Founder and Worker Owner at HAZ Cooperative Studios

I think it's important for funders, for leaders, as we bring other partners in, for people to really be grounded in that value. That this is not parachute philanthropy. This is not sort of band aid, election year politics. This is actually relationships, and it's not like we are here to save anybody. Because that is a way that traditionally a lot of people have engaged in certain neighborhoods, North Lawndale and Englewood being two of those.

Saleem Hue Penny, Co-Founder and Worker Owner at Cooperation Racine

Chicago Community Wealth Building Ecosystem Impact


Non-Housing Cooperative Enterprises


Working Group Meetings Held Since May 2023


Technical Assistance Providers


Emerging Community Wealth Building Projects

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