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The Foundation for Enterprise Development Launches Film Trailer for "We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream"

A new documentary about the power of broad-based employee ownership created to educate and inspire the next generation of students, educators, and business leaders about the "art of the possible"

Published 05-07-12

Submitted by The Foundation for Enterprise Development

Who should own the business? What does it mean to be an “owner?” These questions are explored in the documentary film “We the Owners: Employees Expanding the American Dream.” Produced by The Foundation for Enterprise Development and directed by Passage Productions, the trailer for the film opened the 2012 National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO)/Beyster Institute Conference held recently in Minneapolis. The film is scheduled for release in the Summer of 2012. Educational materials and trailer are now available for free at www.wetheowners.com.

The trailer was viewed by more than 1,000 attendees - including bankers, professional ESOP service companies, employee owners, and company representatives considering ESOPs or other forms of broad-based employee ownership. Their immediate responses were overwhelmingly positive:

  • "Very moving, powerful, inspirational."
  • "Intelligent. Honest. Unlike anything done before."
  • "A game changer. A powerful authentic idea presented with the full magic of cinematic art."

Integrating art, business and education, We the Owners captures a rare insider's view of employee ownership at work at Namasté Solar, DPR Construction and New Belgium Brewing Company, demonstrating out-of-the-box thinking by founders and employees who dared to share both responsibility and wealth. Their stories show that -- even in times of economic hardship -- long-term, sustainable growth strategies can be based on the voice, vote and commitment of employees. 

Viewers also said the film will help with training employees, educating board members and founders. The employees' message is:

  • Ownership matters to all types of employees and companies
  • Participation and responsibility are essential and integral to ownership
  • Employee ownership -- in various forms -- is key for success

"The research on the impacts of employee ownership is clear and compelling, but we finally have a film that shows its human side by showing the faces and telling the stories of employee owners,” said Loren Rodgers, executive director, National Center for Employee Ownership. “We the Owners looks at the challenges as well as the strengths of shared ownership.”

In addition to being recognized by third-party organizations for their top performance and innovation, the three companies featured in the film represent a broad swath of the workforce including blue-collar and white-collar workers, illustrate a mix of ownership forms, and use broad-based employee ownership as a key driver of the triple-bottom-line of people, planet and profit. 

Experts report that broad-based employee ownership is a meaningful piece of the equation that can help a company be successful.  As one recent MBA graduate points out in the film, “There’s a gap right now between that being taught in business schools and the need for it in business schools.”  We the Owners was created to help fill that educational gap.

While company owners, employees, and business advisors will all find valuable principles, approaches and lessons revealed in the film, academic thought leaders in this area also point to the important role it can play in the classroom. Says Joseph Blasi, J.R. Beyster professor, School of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers, "Almost half of American private-sector employees participate at some level in shared capitalism which, according to my research and the research of others, is generally linked to increased productivity, stronger profits, better pay and job security when done in a serious fashion. We the Owners does an excellent job of using this type of research and expert insights as a springboard for a deeper exploration into the inner-workings of well-organized employee-owned companies."

Students will learn first-hand about the power that’s unearthed when employees are engaged as owners, and they can draw from this insight as they start their own ventures or select a company to join.  Importantly, they will be able to test their own assumptions about business and not take core work principles such as freedom, responsibility, and fair reward for granted.

Says Bill McIntyre, executive director, Ohio Employee Ownership Center, “While traditional educational tools such as books, case studies, and videos share a great deal of information with students, using a documentary film in the classroom will enable professors to take their teaching to the next level by giving students a true under-the-hood look at employee ownership at work.”

For more information on We the Owners, to view the trailer, or to pre-order the film, please visit www.wetheowners.com.

The Foundation for Enterprise Development logo

The Foundation for Enterprise Development

The Foundation for Enterprise Development

The Foundation for Enterprise Development (FED), established in 1986 by Dr. J.R. Beyster, is a non-profit foundation focused on helping the sustainability and growth of U.S.-based science and technology companies through its research, education, and services that advance innovation and broad-based ownership.

The FED strives to increase awareness of ownership and management principles among students, entrepreneurs, and business leaders through educational curricula. The FED also creates and engages in research and education programs that inspire innovation and entrepreneurship for solving problems of national and global importance.

The FED encourages entrepreneurs to foster a culture of innovation within their company and is also committed to fostering business principles that support the creation of an ownership culture with employees who grow the company. Our guiding principles include:

  • Give employees the freedom to create the kind of business and environment they would be passionate to work in.
  • Encourage entrepreneurship and superior performance, and give employees ownership of the organization and rewards commensurate with their contributions.
  • Create an empowering culture where employees have a say in the policies and management of the company, know how the company makes money and is performing, and take actions for sustainable long-term and short-term performance.

The FED is working with universities across the nation and in particular we support the Beyster Institute at University of California San Diego, which is teaching graduate-level courses, conducting webinars, running the leading national employee ownership conference, presenting at numerous conferences, and consulting directly with more than 100 companies on employee ownership. We also collaborate with Rutgers University, a leading research university in employee ownership and administrator of an international fellowship program on employee ownership.

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