Marjorie Kelly is Distinguished Senior Fellow at The Democracy Collaborative (TDC), a nonprofit working to catalyze the creation of a democratic economy, where people reclaim control from extractive capital, and where all economic institutions are designed for justice. She is a leading theorist in democratic economy design, including next generation enterprise, place-based impact investing, and a next system of capital.
Kelly is the author of four books, the most recent of which is Wealth Supremacy (Berrett-Koehler, September 12, 2023). Her first book, The Divine Right of Capital, was credited with inspiring the creation of the B Corporation movement and named one of the Library Journal‘s 10 Best Business Books of 2001.
Wealth Supremacy builds on The Divine Right of Capital, promising to launch a national conversation about the ways the wealthy extract from the rest of us, and how that overblown extraction (driven by the myth that no amount of wealth is ever enough) helps to drive economic injustice, society-wide fragility, and planetary-scale crisis. The book is written to reach a large audience. It is not a business or economics book but instead a public affairs book, speaking directly to the many crises of our day and unpacking for the general reader how wealth extraction invisibly feeds, benefits from, or exacerbates these crises.
Kelly comes from a business family and decades ago cofounded Business Ethics magazine, where she served as president for 20 years. Her aim was to celebrate only good businesspeople and ethical investors, who she believed could change the world. But she came to see that voluntary efforts aren’t enough, that the problems we face are systemic. She illustrates in Wealth Supremacy how the extractive system hurtles forward regardless of anyone’s intention. She shows how the democratic political-economic system we now so desperately need is already emerging all around us and explores how we can advance it.
Kelly’s other books are Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution (2012), winner of the Silver Nautilus Award, and The Making of a Democratic Economy (2019), co-authored with Ted Howard. Her writings have appeared in many publications, including Fast Company, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Harvard Business Review, Chief Executive, Boston Globe, Yes! and San Francisco Chronicle.
At TDC, Kelly work focused on advancing employee ownership, for example, working with her team to design and help launch the Fund for Employee Ownership at the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and convening leaders building a next system of capital. Her team also led research in “next generation private enterprise,” studying and convening 50-plus companies that are employee-owned B Corporations, delivering demonstrably superior social and environmental impacts. Her other work at TDC has included working with community foundations on place-based impact investing and leading The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a five-year project working with Native American organizations to build wealth in Indigenous communities.
Previously Kelly was a Fellow at the Tellus Institute, a 40-year old nonprofit research organization based in Boston, where she co-founded Corporation 20/20, a multi-stakeholder initiative to envision and advocate enterprise and financial designs that integrate social, environmental, and financial aims. She has advised private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission. She served as a member of the resource team of the Ford Foundation project WealthWorks, working for wealth creation in rural communities in Appalachia and the Deep South.
Kelly has served on a variety of advisory boards, including Boston Public Bank Working Group, the Center for Corporate Governance and Accountability at George Washington University Law School, the Strategic Corporate Initiative, CUNY School of Law’s Community Economic Development Clinic, Donella Meadows Institute, and Emerging ChangeMakers Network, and Salem Alliance for the Environment.
Kelly 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.
- Inducted into the honorary portrait gallery of “Americans Who Tell the Truth.”
- Named by Fast Company as one of “15 people at the forefront of reinventing our economic system.” Oct. 26, 2019.
- Divine Right of Capital named “One of 10 Best Business Books of 2001” by Library Journal.
- Owning Our Future winner of Silver Nautilus Award.
“To make the economy more fair, we need to make it more democratic.” Fast Company, Oct. 29, 2019. Profile of Marjorie Kelly and her work with the Democracy Collaborative to foster a more democratic economy—starting with employee ownership.
“Marjorie Kelly: Saving Capitalism from Itself,” by Ken Miller. The Nation, April 2012. A decade ago, the editor of Business Ethics magazine published a blueprint for a new, more humane economy. There has never been a better time to put her visionary plan into action.