With gumption, insight, and brilliant use of social media, a few guys in Virginia built an operation that makes what could be the world’s finest toolbelts. In the process, they have also built a community that is bringing new respect for those who work in the trades.
Story by LORRAINE SANDERS
Photography by SOPHIA BAIN
While COVID restrictions shutter businesses right and left, a more positive picture is emerging from worker-owned companies like Mondragon, the Spanish enterprise that’s become the world’s largest co-op, and Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio. Both operations keep proving that, during economic crises, co-ops adapt better than traditional companies, and they continue paying their workers more equitably as well. Why don’t more businesses follow “the Mondragon model”?
By ROBERTO LOVATO
Everyone in the fashion world wants to find a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to make cotton clothing—or a benign (and equally comfy) alternative to it. In Scandinavia, an enterprising cadre of materials scientists is on the brink of succeeding. But almost no one appreciates these innovations’ social costs.
Story and photography by ALDEN WICKER
For a brief time in the mid-1970s, a British economist named E.F. Schumacher changed the conversation across the Western world with a daring book entitled “Small Is Beautiful.” Schumacher argued that the push for endless growth was destroying the foundations of meaningful work, and it was doomed to fail. Although Schumacher died before he could develop his ideas, a center founded in his name has tried to continue his legacy. Might his message be even more timely today?
By BRYCE T. BAUER
You’ve read the news: traditional 9-5 jobs are in decline; a patchwork, “gig economy” of contract workers is rushing in to take their place; and colleges can’t keep up with these changes. The resulting chaos creates at least one unaddressed challenge: In a world with fewer shared ladders for advancement, how do tomorrow’s workers build pathways to success?
By TODD OPPENHEIMER
On the Northeastern coast of Italy, not far from meccas of refinement such as Bologna and Florence, an unusual drug treatment community named San Patrignano has grown and thrived for more than 40 years. The program’s methodology? Teach addicts high-level artisanal skills, and slowly but surely, confidence and pride fill what was once a desperate void.
By LAURA FRASER
In a small, indigenous Mexican community in the mountains of Michoacán, a band of determined women led the overthrow of a criminal cartel. Their victory gave the town a new sense of purpose by reviving its traditional livelihood, its capacity for self-government, and its communal spirit.
Story and photography by ANDREW SULLIVAN
Like many American cities, Durham, N.C. has been turning once-abandoned factories into tech hubs and microbreweries. Over the decades, it has also been building a shared commitment to the poor, the disenfranchised, and people of color. Barry Yeoman, a veteran journalist who has lived in and loved Durham since 1985, digs into the city’s soul. And he discovers an architecture underneath this community with some unusual layers.
Story by BARRY YEOMAN
Photography by ALEX BOERNER
Every few years, discussions about using straw as a building material, in bale form, come up again. Now, as our environmental challenges mount—from wildfires to hurricanes—straw bales seem to offer an answer to a good many of them. As we step into October, and the one-year anniversary of Northern California’s first wave of historic fires, it’s time to ask: Has the straw bale’s time finally come?
By MEA MCNEIL