Greg MacLeod’s Legacy

This morning the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation sent out a notice (below). For those of us in the Master’s program at St. Mary’s we knew his work From Mondragon to America: Experiments in Community Economic Development (1997), which provided a major update to the Whyte’s Making Mondragon and Morrison’s We Build the Road as We Travel. He was one of the first to bridge the Atlantic and discuss how that Basque experiment could be brought to these shores.

In Memoriam: Dr. Greg MacLeod

The Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation/L’Association Canadienne pour les Études sur la Coopération (CASC/ ACÉC) mourns the May 3, 2017, loss of a great co-operator, friend, priest, academic, and activist, Dr. Greg MacLeod, who leaves a remarkable legacy of innovative institutions and actions based on both Christian social teachings and principled entrepreneurial thinking within and beyond his beloved Cape Breton.

Ordained a Catholic priest in 1961, Greg MacLeod was a founding member of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Xavier College, where he started teaching in 1963. After completing doctoral studies in philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium, he went to Oxford University for post-doctoral studies before returning to teach at Xavier College in 1969.

He was among leaders who worked hard to transform Xavier Junior College into the University College of Cape Breton (now Cape Breton University [CBU]) and to promote Mi’kmaq studies there. He retired from the university in 2001, although his remarkable work ethic and commitment to action remained unabated even in his final days. As recently as April 2017 he added TriCouncil funding to the $1 million he had already earned.

When Cape Breton faced an uncertain future with declining fish stocks and the closure of coal mines in the 1960s, Father Greg mobilized resources in the university and in the community and galvanized people to build capacity and ensure economic resilience and sustainable livelihoods for community members.

Founder and former director of the Tompkins Institute for Human Values and Technology at CBU, a leading authority on community economic development, member of the Order of Canada, and recipient of honorary degrees from Dalhousie University, The Atlantic School of Theology, and Saint Francis Xavier University, Greg MacLeod was a long-time friend and supporter of CASC/ACÉC.

He was winner of the 2011 CASC Award of Merit—a surprise for Greg who had just presented his keynote address on how throughout his career he had managed contradictions and divisions concerning social economic reform: “Theory versus Practice”; “Idealism versus Pragmatism”; “Profit making business versus non-profit business,” and so on. He wanted both to change the world and make a difference at the local level; he was an academic who would become an activist for the benefit of the community, putting theory into practice.

The award was presented to Dr. MacLeod at the CASC-ANSER banquet on June 2, 2011, by his good friend Ian MacPherson who concluded, “You cannot separate Greg from Cape Breton. He is as much a person of place as anyone I know. His commitment to his community and to the island where it is found enfolds his life’s work.” When Cape Breton faced “a crisis of economics,” it was also “a crisis of ethics and values” for this “chief modernizer of the theories of economic and social development associated with the Antigonish Movement.”

In support of his community work, Dr. MacLeod founded BCA Community Venture Finance Group, a CED investment fund that raised over $2 million in community investment, and New Dawn Enterprises, Canada’s oldest community economic development corporation and founding member of the Canadian CED Network. In 1983, he founded New Deal in Sydney Mines, Greg’s hometown where some of his family still lives, “to come up with new approaches,” as he put it, “suited to community survival in the future by designing new ways of doing business.” New Deal is involved with many projects including the development of several housing co-ops.

Committed to local ownership and control, he was a champion of place-based development.

Greg’s publications include From Mondragon to America: Experiments in Community Economic Development (1998) about the worker-owned industrial co-operative based in Spain, and New Age Business: Community Corporations that Work (1986). Influential in Mexico and around the world, his work has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.
Today, the legacy of Dr. Greg MacLeod is clear not only in the institutions he founded but in the CBU’s Master of Business Administration program based on his research on community economic development as well as in the ongoing commitment of CBU faculty engaged in “community-oriented research” with the Tomkins Institute, a laboratory and incubator for alternative models of the social economy.

Greg MacLeod, his energy, ethic, and vision, will be sorely missed.

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-ops in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University.
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