There are currently an estimated 10 million employee owners in the U.S. What if that number grew to 50 million by 2050? What kind of impact could that have on individual lives, local communities and the national economy? One project aims to find out.

50 by 50 is an initiative designed to make employee ownership—through worker cooperatives, employee stock ownership plans, and other models— a "major part of the U.S. economy.”

Employee ownership (including platform co-ops) give workers greater control over their lives and work, create a workforce invested in a company’s success, strengthen local economies, and spread wealth more evenly.

Launched in early-2016, 50 by 50 is a project of the The Democracy Collaborative, in partnership with the Democracy at Work Institute and the National Center for Employee Ownership. Initial funding for the project was provided by Citi Community Development, a Citigroup program focused on “financial inclusion and economic empowerment.” The initiative is driven by a goal to create a five-fold increase in the number of employee owners through a number of interventions including:

  • Creation of a 50 by 50 network of leaders committed to a common strategy.
  • ​Launching a campaign to build awareness and change misconceptions about employee ownership.
  • Building a CEO Council to create a public face for employee-owned companies.
  • ​Growing the number of state and local employee ownership centers.
  • Build alliances with important national movements.
  • Working to make employee ownership the number one succession planning strategy for retiring business owners—particularly the seven million baby boomers business owners who will likely retire or sell their businesses in the coming two decades.
  • Creating new financing options that make it easier for business owners to transition to employee ownership.
  • Designing new or highlighting existing models for employee ownership. 
  • Work on strategies to increase employee ownership at public companies.

Reaching the ambitious goal of 50 million employee owners in the U.S. by 2050 will require new strategies, but the 50 by 50 vision to “begin to bend the curve of history toward an inclusive, community-based economy” is one worth pursuing.


Photo: David Siglin (CC0)

Cat Johnson


Cat Johnson | |

Cat Johnson is a content strategist and teacher helping community builders create strong brands. A longtime writer, marketing pro and coworking leader, Cat is the founder of Coworking Convos and