Evergreen Cooperatives

A working group of Cleveland-based institutions, including the Cleveland Foundation, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University, and the municipal government.
United States
A programme for creating employment cooperatives owned by people with difficulties to access meaningful employment. It builds a network of for-profit, social community-based enterprises with a strong focus on sustainability.
What solution does the innovation propose?

The model grew out of Cleveland’s Greater University Circle Initiative, a strategy aimed at breaking down the barriers between wealthy and less well-off communities in the area. Based on the Mondragon model, Evergreen works with the aim of fostering grassroots economic development. By supporting the creation of employee-owned cooperatives based in low-income neighbourhoods, the initiative contributes to creating green jobs that keep financial resources within the community. Three main businesses have been launched:

  • The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry.
  • Ohio Cooperative Solar: a business that installs solar panels on institutional, government, and commercial buildings.
  • Green City Growers: a hydroponic greenhouse.

Impact evidence

  • 3 for-profit social enterprises created.
  • 120 people employed.
  • Evergreen wages average 20% higher than competitors, in addition to a robust benefit package. 
  • Due to the ownership structure, employee retention rates are much higher than industry standards.
How does it work?

Evergreen’s business model leverages procurement from local anchor institutions to catalyse the development of green, community-based businesses. Once the cooperatives have been created, Evergreen recruits and trains local residents to take the jobs. After a one-year eligibility period, employees may decide to join their respective cooperative, gaining the voting rights and eligibility as board members, in addition to access to profit-sharing and a robust benefit package which includes ownership-specific training, a health insurance, and access to Evergreen’s home buying programme among others. Evergreen does not only create new businesses but also focuses on job retention for small and medium sized businesses without a succession plan. In order to avoid the effects of closing, the organisation assists retiring business owners to use employee ownership models and create winning succession plans.

Geographical scope

Where was initially developed
Cleveland, United States.
Where has been implemented so far
Implemented in Atlanta, Springfield (Massachusetts), Washington (DC), Jacksonville (Florida) and New Orleans.
Last updated: 
March 2019