Marjorie Kelly is a Senior Fellow and Director of Consultancy Services with The Democracy Collaborative, a non-profit research organization founded in 2000. Kelly is Project Director of The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a year-long collaboration spearheaded by The Democracy Collaborative and supported by the Northwest Area Foundation. She is also an Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, a 35- year old nonprofit research organization based in Boston, and the director of ownership strategy with Cutting Edge Capital, a national consulting firm. Kelly advises private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission.
Kelly is author of the book, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution, released June 2012 by Berrett-Koehler. In it, she explores many experiments with new forms of ownership, which she calls generative: aimed at creating the conditions for life for many generations to come. To understand these emerging alternatives, Kelly reports from all over the world, visiting a community-owned wind facility in Massachusetts, a lobster cooperative in Maine, a multibillion-dollar employee-owned department-store chain in London, a foundation-owned pharmaceutical in Denmark, a farmer-owned dairy in Wisconsin, and other places where a hopeful new economy is being built. Along the way, she finds the five essential patterns of ownership design that make these models work. And she explores how they may hold the key to the deep transformation that our civilization needs.
She specializes in ownership and financial design for the “mission-controlled enterprise,” a term she devised to define the companies – including many large corporations in both the U.S. and Europe – that maintain a primary focus on social mission, even when they might be publicly traded. Kelly is co-founder of Corporation 20/20, a multi-stakeholder initiative to envision and advocate enterprise and financial designs that integrate social, environmental, and financial aims. Over five years, this project brought together hundreds of thought leaders from business, finance, labor, government, law, and civil society for meetings, research, and two national conferences.
Kelly also leads a variety of consulting and research projects in corporate social responsibility, rural development, and impact investing. She is a member of the resource team of the Ford Foundation project Wealth Creation in Rural Communities. As part of that project, she co-authored the reports Keeping Wealth Local: Shared Ownership and Wealth Control for Rural Communities, and Impact Investing for Rural Wealth Creation: Investing for Financial Returns and Community Impact. Also as part of that project, Kelly is working with Emerging ChangeMakers of Mobile, Alabama, helping the group create a new rural impact investing fund and network for local wealth creation in the poorest counties of the state.
Kelly was co-founder and for 20 years president of Business Ethics magazine, known for its annual ranking of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Social Investing Awards. She has experience working in many forms of ownership design, including cooperatives. She was president of the board of the William Street Grocery Cooperative, where she helped lead the store to double its size and revenue. She was also director of Great Neighborhoods Development Corporation, a nonprofit real estate developer in an under-served community of Minneapolis. She served on advisory boards for the Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability at George Washington University Law School, the Strategic Corporate Initiative, and other projects.
Her previous book, The Divine Right of Capital, was named one Library Journal’s 10 Best Business Books of 2001. Kelly’s writings and op-eds have appeared in many publications, including Harvard Business Review, New England Law Review, Chief Executive, Boston Globe, Yes! Magazine and San Francisco Chronicle.
Kelly is from a business family, where her grandfather founded Anderson Tool and Die from his Chicago basement during the Depression; her father founded and ran Graphic Engraving, a supplier to the printing trade, in Columbia, Missouri, where she grew up; and many of her uncles were also in business for themselves. She holds a bachelor’s in English, cum laude, and a master’s in journalism from the University of Missouri, where she received the Penney-Missouri Award for most promising young magazine journalist.