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Economics From the Bottom Up: Designing Strategies, Making Alternatives

Springfield's Wellspring Collaborative worker-owned upholstery shop brings jobs, training

Talking with Emily Kawano, Co-Director, Wellspring Cooperative Corporation

Interviewed by Steve Dubb, Research Director, The Democracy Collaborative

March 2015

Emily Kawano is Co-Director of the Wellspring Cooperative Corporation, which is seeking to create an engine for new, community-based job creation in Springfield, Massachusetts. Wellspring’s goal is to use anchor institution purchases to create a network of worker-owned businesses located in the inner city that will provide job training and entry-level jobs to unemployed and underemployed residents through worker-owned cooperatives. Kawano also serves as Coordinator of the United States Solidarity Economy Network. An economist by training, Kawano served as the Director of the Center for Popular Economics from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, Kawano taught economics at Smith College, worked as the National Economic Justice Representative for the American Friends Service Committee and, in Northern Ireland, founded a popular economics program with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Could you talk about your background and how it led to doing economic justice?

I have been interested in social justice and economic justice issues from a young age. I decided to go to graduate school in economics because it seemed like something that I couldn’t learn on my own. I wanted to get a background in economics in order to be a more effective activist. But while I did some teaching, I found that there was a continual pull back to activism and being involved in a social justice organization.

While I was in graduate school at UMass, Amherst, I joined the Center for Popular Economics, which is a collective of economists. Our target audience is grassroots organizations and activists who can be more effective by understanding the economy. I have been a member for about 25 years. When I finished graduate school, I worked at the American Friends Service Committee, doing economic justice work. Then I did popular economics education work in Northern Ireland for five/six years. Continue reading Economics From the Bottom Up: Designing Strategies, Making Alternatives