Updated: Jan 22
A bold visionary with a healthy dose of reliable pragmatism, Clark Arrington used his legal training to address capital formation issues for worker cooperatives. From developing standardized bylaws for worker cooperatives that established capital accounts to pioneering preferred stock offerings that raised capital while maintaining democratic control, Arrington’s work has had a foundational influence on today’s worker cooperatives.
Deeply committed to the Civil Rights Movement and economic democracy, Clark began his first alternative financing venture while in law school at Notre Dame bringing capital to minority-owned small businesses in South Bend, Indiana through the Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Company (MESBIC). Upon graduation from college, a job at the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) expanded his understanding of capital formation and its regulation.
But it was economic development, not regulation that motivated Clark and he took a job at the Center for National Policy Review where he worked on creating community owned venture capital and loan funds. It was at CNPR where Clark’s interest in capital formation would encounter the cooperative model. Clark was assigned to a project involving the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Minority People’s Council on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway, a grassroots community-based organization advocating for Black people to fully participate in a $2 billion public works project.
Following a stint in private practice, Clark joined The ICA Group as General Counsel providing legal services to an increasing number of worker-owned businesses seeking capital for expansion. Clark worked with a team to develop model bylaws that codified and elucidated the practice of internal capital accounts for worker-owned cooperatives, which are used by worker cooperatives across the U.S.
He also tackled a problem that vexed Equal Exchange and other worker cooperatives: how to affordably raise capital for expansion without endangering the workers’ control of the organization. Drawing upon his experience at the SEC and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Clark spearheaded the idea of offering non-voting equity shares to the public that allowed for growth while keeping the business true to its cooperative principles.
A consummate co-op educator, Clark has spent most of his professional life teaching courses related to cooperatives, business law, and community economic development at more than half a dozen institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Beginning with a teaching job immediately after college in Chicago, Clark went on to The University of Southern New Hampshire, The Open University of Tanzania; and Kampala International University-Dar es Salaam College.
In his current role at Seed Commons, Clark works to develop nonexploitive equity and debt financing that assures cooperative membership and member benefit are at the center of all legal and financial deals. As a member of The Working World’s Director’s Committee, and a veteran elder on staff, Clark is a valuable mentor and resource on cooperatives for his colleagues.
An innovator in cooperative finance, Clark has played a critical role in leveraging millions of dollars of new investment for social justice cooperatives. Clark’s bold vision, reliable pragmatism, and tireless efforts are key to promoting and developing innovative financing structures that are sensitive to the cooperative principles of member ownership, control and benefit.