All posts by Kate Poole

Stand with Standing Rock: Moving from Divestment to Reinvestment

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On December 15th, Regenerative Finance hosted a webinar to discuss how to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock as we move from divestment to reinvestment. The powerful #DefundDAPL movement has divested over $37 Million dollars, and this remarkable shift embodies an opportunity to redeploy capital in service of indigenous economic sovereignty. We discussed why a commitment to continuous learning about decolonization is crucial, different strategies for reinvestment, and our collective plans for ongoing learning as we work towards being invested in indigenous economies and movements for liberation. One form that learning will take is a praxis group of interested investors who will be supporting each other in moving money and deepening their commitment to decolonization work through a series of six video calls over the next few months.

You can explore the themes from the webinar through these slides: 

And you can listen to our conversations through this recording:

If you have more questions about our work deepening our commitment to decolonization or being invested in the Buen Vivir Fund, I encourage you to read this detailed overview and follow the paths of engagement described in this post by Ari.

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SOCAP RECAP

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Regenerative Finance leader Kate Poole’s SOCAP Takeaways:

  1. Impact Investing is a huge spectrum, and Regenerative Finance’s approach is adding a new possibility–of sharing power, co-developing terms of investment, working in deep partnership, and, most uniquely, redistributing wealth.
  2. “Inclusion” is the word that investors and entrepreneurs are using to talk about diversity (see Ari’s blog on why “inclusion” isn’t enough). Explicitly naming “redistributing wealth to black communities” or “working with indigenous communities to restore control of land” is necessary to ground a commitment to racial justice. You cannot be held accountable if you don’t have explicit goals.
  3. The most transformative work in impact investing is being done by visionary black leaders like Jessica Norwood, Konda Mason, and Rodney Foxworth who are in deep partnership with black communities and racial justice movements.
  4. Leaders like Rha Goddess and BALLE’s Michelle Long pushed for connection and embodiment in order to shift the culture of SOCAP, and to challenge the way we’re replicating the old economy as we’re building the next economy (see our recap of COCAP, and especially Amaka Agbo’s keynote). At Regenerative Finance we’re trying to follow this leadership, and learn more about deep connection, embodied practices, and transformative honesty.
  5. There are creative tools for redistributing the wealth of investors, but without explicit conversations about race and colonization, impact investing will continue to build wealth for the wealthy. Radical redistribution of wealth is required to transform the economy, which means wealthy people need to make low and/or negative financial returns on their investments, and not market rate returns.

“Investors, like everybody else, can be organized. Ought to be organized!” Andrea Armeni, Transform Finance #SOCAP16

Part of the work of Regenerative Finance has been to position ourselves in contrast to mainstream impact investing. When we began organizing as a collective, over 3 years ago, we formed in opposition to mainstream “socially-responsible” investments.  Different members felt:

  • divesting wasn’t enough;
  • reinvesting divested funds in renewable energy companies owned by rich white men wasn’t enough;
  • there is no way to invest in the conventional sense and embody our political values of wealth redistribution;
  • there was no way to be an anti-capitalist investor;
  • there were no screened funds that managed to screen out the kind of exploitation we didn’t want a part in;
  • the impact investing world was a greenwashed wasteland of neocolonialism.

“When investors look at their holdings they go through shock first. Detoxification process is the first step. We can work with each other until advisors catch up.” Charly Kleissner, TONIIC #SOCAP16

We wanted to explore and promote “regenerative finance,” a set of values we were developing in partnership with Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation and Sha Grogan-Brown of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance / Climate Justice Alliance. We wanted to provide an opportunity for social justice activists who had dissociated from their investment portfolio to invest their money and their trust in communities most impacted by racial, climate and economic crises. We believe that not only should investors be moving money, they also need to trust and relinquish the decision-making power to those communities

I say this because we were mostly coming fresh into the impact investing landscape. I had been doing local investing work and research, but other collective members were coming from housing justice, climate justice, and racial justice movements. We trusted movements, but we didn’t trust finance. We built partnerships with the emerging Reinvest in Our Power Network, with the Working World, with Thousand Currents (formerly IDEX), and with the Southern Reparations Loan Fund.

People really build the Social Capitals conference (SOCAP) up, it was described to me as a zoo, as a frenzy, as the center of the universe, and as a place Regenerative Finance should both absolutely avoid and mandatorily show up for.  When I was invited to speak at COCAP (a pre-SOCAP day-long gathering on radical redistribution of wealth through impact investing, see our post here), it felt both strategic and overwhelming to also attend SOCAP. I spent all three days cycling through sweet connection and total overwhelm. I struggled through the language of “inclusion” and “equity” to locate what investors and entrepreneurs actually believed.

I’m sharing cartoons and quotes from investors, organizers and entrepreneurs who inspired me. There was plenty said that challenged and angered me. Other SOCAP recaps that I enjoyed can be found here:

Hippies vs. Capitalists at SOCAP – Capitalists Win?
A New Funding Tool Aims to Fill the ‘Friends & Family’ Gap for African American Entrepreneurs
SOCAP Offical Blog

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“Our role as people with access to capital is to bring people in. Equalize power and decision-making process.” Aaron Tanaka, Ujima Fund #SOCAP16

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“There’s a difference between networking and collaboration, collaboration is values based, relationship based, bringing people together in holisitic ways. How can we create a culture of intimacy? Of vulnerability?” Rha Goddess, Move the Crowd #SOCAP16  rodneyfoxworth

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COCAP 2016: Redistributing wealth through impact investing

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cocap

Community Capital
Radical Redistribution of wealth through Impact Investing
Impact Hub Oakland  9/12/16

Kate and Ari from Regenerative Finance went to COCAP yesterday – the theme was “radical wealth redistribution through impact investing,” which was so exciting, because that’s what Regenerative Finance is all about!  COCAP was filled with many brilliant people and ideas–and, wonderfully surprisingly, for an event focused on impact investing, organizers Konda Mason and Jenny Kassan gracefully grounded the whole day in discussions of race, equity, and reparations.

Nwamaka Agbo (Movement Strategy Center‘s Next Economy Fellow) had one of the morning’s first keynotes, speaking about her family’s experience as Nigerian immigrants, and how to create an economy free of racism we need to create space for healing and wholeness.

Reparations are about making a community whole again.

She cited Bryan Stevenson: “People are hurt. You want to make them whole.”

2 questions she asked the audience:
What practices can we embody to unearth racism?
How do you see habits from the old economy showing up in the new economic movement and what can we do to shift that?

nwamakaNwamaka Agbo talking about how the new economy is being disproportionately shaped by wealth white folks who have the leisure time, disposable income, and risk tolerance. And these folks are repackaging indigenous societal structure in an extractive way. #notesontheneweconomy #cocap2016

Michelle Long (BALLE) gave a warm playful talk on changing how we relate to each other in order to create real economic change. She talked about love as expansion of the self to include the other (an idea from Charles Eisenstein).

Transformation is not like moving from vanilla to vanilla bean, or even vanilla to chocolate.  It’s like moving from vanilla to music.

She also shared that in order to move into a love-centered economy BALLE is creating a movement of “connection circles.” You can sign-up here and we were moved and inspired by Michelle’s warmth and are going to try out a connection circle here at Regenerative Finance.

PANELS

It was so special and sweet for Regenerative Finance to be a part of an all-woman panel, an incredibly powerful all-woman panel, on impact investing. Investors should check out all of these women and the organizations they’re a part of!


Kristen Hull, of Nia Community Foundation, talked about Marie Kondo (who wrote The Life‑Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and tidying up our money. She shared a quote “Money is like manure–when you spread it around it’s wonderful, when it’s piled up in one place it stinks.” Kristen shared her strategy of supporting projects through loan guarantees as a way to leverage wealth and privilege, essentially taking a risk and signing up to cover losses in order to help businesses access more capital. Regenerative Finance is excited to learn more about that!

Dana Lanza talked about how we assume that rich investors are finance experts, but she has seen time and time again, with billionaires even, that there’s no rich-person-DNA-magically-making-us-financially-savvy. That wealthy people, along with everybody, need to learn to speak the language of finance. She asked women especially to challenge the patriarchy by building the “financial knowledge to be able to contend with the current power structure.”

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Nina Robinson spoke about the importance of helping entrepreneurs of color build wealth. She broadened the debate on reasonable rates of return and grounded it in the experience the entrepreneur. How can we support entrepreneurs as they succeed and build wealth for themselves, their employees, and their communities. She also spoke on the investing methodology of funding good jobs–how as businesses reach new benchmarks they incentivize certain business practices–like offering a lower interest rate on a loan if the business provides healthcare to their employees.

graphic-recordingMore from the graphic recording of #COCAP2016 by Jenny Seiler.

After lunch, there was a panel of entrepreneurs speaking about their experiences seeking funding, and different definitions of success. These women entrepreneurs shared that success might mean not opening a second restaurant, so the owners can travel to Mexico and visit family for the months a year.  It might mean having the agency to decide what to do with your life.  It could mean taking care of yourself or your family.  It doesn’t necessarily look like measures of success that are typically used to evaluate startups, like ability to scale, ROI, or an anticipated buy-out.

For investors that want to be in authentic relationship with the businesses they’re invested in, asking about an entrepreneurs’ definition of success is a great way to understand what kinds of investment terms are appropriate.

LAND

At Regenerative Finance we are asking more and more questions about land. Ari has led our collective in a decolonization study group, and we are continuing to ask questions about how to be in right relationship to land, as settlers and as investors. We were grateful to meet Brenda Salgado at COCAP, and learn more about her work connecting spirit, indigenous cultural reclamation, and movement strategy. At the end of the day Ari asked COCAP organizers to bring land into the conversation–you can read more about land as investment and regenerative finance in this blog post by Ari.

CLOSING

The closing panel, focusing on solutions that are actively radically redistributing wealth through impact investing. Rodney Foxworth of Invested Impact, talked about the importance of investing in African American entrepreneurs, especially at the friends and family earliest stages of growing a business. Jessica Norwood, of Emerging Changemakers network, spoke about the Runway Project, a new fund to support African American businesses in the early stage, and she pointed out how ridiculous it was to ask African American entrepreneurs who are coming from poor families to seek funding from their friends and family first. Rodney Foxworth pointed out that these early loans are given at a time and at terms that prove the investors care about success. He pointedly asked what it means when white wealthy investors only take a chance on their friends and family, asking “who do you think we should take a chance on?”

Much of the work we’re doing in Regenerative Finance is figuring out how to build organizational and personal relationships, so that we can invest in and trust in community-controlled loan funds. So that we can transfer power and capital to historically looted communities of color so that they can make decisions about how to allocate resources, so they can support emerging businesses of their friends, their family, their community.

Kate is headed to SOCAP tomorrow, so shoot her an email if you want to connect!

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Centering Racial Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty in the New Economy

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Reflections from CommonBound

I’m moved by the organizing that’s happened in the New Economy space, led by people of color, to center racial justice and the work of wealth redistribution and economic sovereignty in all facets of the New Economy. The New Economy Coalition provided buses for folks to go to the local Black Lives Matter protest, and they opened the CommonBound conference with a panel on decolonization, racial justice, and sovereignty. Racial justice was at the center of every single plenary, and many of the panels. You can feel the strong shift–it’s visceral, it’s immediate, it’s powerfull.

Transferring power

I was grateful to attend the Reinvest in our Power peer network gathering. The Reinvest in Our Power Network are powerful innovative allies doing grounded earth-shaking economy-shifting work. Regenerative Finance has been growing in partnership with the Reinvest in Our Power Network over the past two years. Organizers that have been instrumental in shaping and guiding us, including Sha Grogan-Brown of Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Gopal Dayaneni of Movement Generation, and Ed Whitfield and Marnie Thompson of Fund 4 Democratic Communities, are leaders of the network and are doing powerful work to draw down resources and sink divestment capital into community-controlled radically inclusive funds. You should fund them.

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I was lucky to be a part of the panel on Democratizing Finance with Ed Whitfield, Brendan Martin, and Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan. You can watch it here, our panel starts at 6:46:57:

Resourcing community sovereignty

A highlight of the Reinvest gathering was that communities need funding to resource their economic development work. They need funding for infrastructure and building capacity, and usually they need this funding in the form of gifts and grants.

Where is this money going to come from? One answer is through impact investors, like the Regenerative Finance community. If impact investors stop extracting from the communities they believe they’re positively impacting, and instead return profit to community control, then we can fund community capacity.  If I want to help a poor black youth-led business in Philadelphia, and they’re running a granola bar company with very low margins, I don’t want to lend them money at 6% if they can’t afford it. They end up taking their profits and sending them to me, a white rich person, instead of paying themselves a living wage.

A second answer, highlighted in the powerful workshop on the Ujima Fund in Boston, is investment can be democratized by adding “need” as a component when assessing who gets what level of return. So that poor, working class and middle class investors can receive higher returns, while rich investors can take higher risk and receive lower returns. The panel on their transformation work starts at around the 30 minute mark.


A third powerful answer is reparations. Individuals, corporations, and governments paying reparations.

Reparations

I went to an incredible workshop on reparations led by Ed Whitfield and Aisha Shillingford of Intelligent Mischief and Beautiful Solutions. After Ed briefly and forcefully made the case for reparations, Aisha offered a design methodology and we broke into 8 small groups by sector (land/housing, finance, justice system, education, art and culture, philanthropy, international development, and business). The prompt was:

What are the ways the harms of slavery shaped this sector? How are the harms of slavery continuing today in this sector?

There are lots of photos of beautiful solutions for reparations that emerged, and here’s a snapshot of some of our finance post-its about how to work on the harm of predatory lending. I was particularly surprised and taken by the idea of creating a racial justice harm reduction assessment tool for financial institutions.

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Check out Intelligent Mischief’s Instagram for more of the collaboratively generated ideas for reparations. #intelligentmischief #beautifulsolutions #commonbound

Thinking critically about wealth accumulation

In closing, I wanted to share one neat activity that was part of the Divestment Student Network’s session on the Reinvest Network. We took an assumption that we come up against in our reinvestment work and flip it around. I ended up choosing “it’s normal to accumulate wealth,” and flipped it to “it’s violent and extractive to accumulate wealth.”

As we work to shift the narratives in the mainstream economy, and question it’s assumptions, it’s crucial for the new economy field to focus on the leadership of communities of color who are powerfully fighting for justice. I’m grateful I was able to attend Commonbound, and that the conference organizers centered racial justice and indigenous sovereignty. Until next time!

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Investing in a Just Transition in NYC

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On March 31, 2016, as leaders Jay Saper and Andrew Meeker put the finishing touches on their Regenerative Finance presentation in sun-dappled Washington Square Park, they ran into a gaggle of NYU Divestment activists. As Jay and Andrew shared about Regen’s work on investing in a Just Transition, they learned that the group had already heard about Regen! While half of the students were headed to a direct action that night, the other half were excited to learn how the reinvestment work of Regen could be used as a model for reinvestment at the university level. That little piece of kismet shows how powerful our emerging work is as a precedent setting model, and how important it is to share our practices publicly, beyond philanthropy conferences.

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That night in the upstairs community space at the Patagonia store in SoHo, over 65 people gathered to learn about Regenerative Finance. Andrew shared the just transition framework, and the basic ways the Banks and Tanks economy operates.

 

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Jay shared our 11 Regenerative Economy principles, and examples of cooperative businesses that embody those values, like CERO Waste Cooperative, Black Mesa Water Coalition, and Renaissance Community Coop.

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Andrew broke down the differences between extractive and non-extractive finance.

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Kate Poole stepped in to help bring out the wisdom of the audience and facilitate a lively discussion. The audience asked so many brilliant questions!!

Why focus on local communities in the U.S. when there’s so much poverty and need globally?

How do you save for retirement if you are investing at 0% interest?

Who are the rich people that are redistributing wealth?

What do you say to a rich person to convince them to invest differently?

What does it look like for a community to control capital?

Is charging interest always wrong?

We’ve thought through all these questions, and are continuing to evolve our answers. Watch video excerpts of Andrew and Jay in action sharing about Regen here:

We’re excited to continue sharing our model. If you’d like to have Regenerative Finance present our work in your city, reach out to info@regenerativefinance.org.

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Regenerative Finance goes to Confluence Philanthropy

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Last week Margot Seigle and I attended Confluence Philanthropy’s Democracy and Finance conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We were honored and delighted to be moderating a panel on Regenerative Finance. Panelists explored how investors can directly support community-controlled economic development through non-extractive finance.

Ed Whitfield, of Fund for Democratic Communities, talked about the history of wealth accumulation in this country and what reparations could look like.  Aaron Tanaka, of Center for Economic Democracy and Boston Impact Initiative, spoke about concrete examples of non-extractive finance and how participatory budgeting can democratize local government spending.  (Video and audio coming soon!)

margotconfluenceMargot Seigle shared her own experiences as a regenerative investor redistributing her wealth. She also stood up in the community forum to question the dominant discourse of wealth accumulation. Chris Lindstrom spoke about the philosophical need to see ourselves as a part of the collective rather than just as individuals, and shift wealth accordingly.

Attending the conference was a wonderful learning experience for Margot and I–we met really interesting folks doing all kinds of impact investing all across the spectrum. There were a lot of keynotes and panels talking about maximizing your impact  while maintaining market-rate returns. The panel on Regenerative Finance was a break from that framework, where we were able to reconsider where wealth comes from and how wealth can be returned to the communities it has been historically extracted from. Margot and I also asked lots of questions and were able to connect with dozens of powerful organizations working with institutions and wealth individuals to invest in a just transition and redistribute wealth to communities fighting for racial and economic justice.

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As I said at the end of this comic–our experience at this impact investing conference is making me excited to build community and start cohorts of folks interested in organizing for wealth redistribution and radical investing in impact investing and socially-responsible investing spaces. Want to join us? Email kate@regenerativefinance.org.

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How will you Invest in a Just Transition?

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Wowzers! Regenerative Finance just got back from Resource Generation’s annual conference Making Money Make Change (MMMC) and we are feeling inspired to act, excited to follow-through on commitments and challenged to dig deeper in confronting racism in our economy and in our lives.
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This year Regenerative Finance partnered with Resource Generation on the Igniting Action booth. The purpose of the booth was to allow participants (who spent 4 days exploring how to leverage their access to resources towards a just and equitable world) to ground their learning and commit to taking action in the world!
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Through this exercise we tried to demystify finance and show the ways it distances us from our complicit participation in the extractive economy. When we draw connections–from mountaintop removal to luxury gated communities to prison labor–we can better understand what we mean when we say “extractive.” Similarly, as we imagine and visualize the economy that we want and need, we can take inspiration from the work that many are already doing, and set bold goals to help us get there. We were thrilled to partner with Resource Generation on this project, as their recently released 40 year campaign vision is very aligned with this shift. At MMMC we collectively visualized what is possible when we organize to invest resources in a just transition together, and our collective commitments embody a small but significant step towards shifting control of capital.

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As pictured, we had two maps in conversation with one another. On the left was the extractive economy, and on the right was the just, sustainable, democratic economy we are growing towards. The goal was to have people draw a connection between their vision for a healing, sustainable economy and their investments. We define investments as resources (time, energy, money, love) that can be put towards something in order to create change. This definition moves beyond the mainstream understanding of investments strictly as putting your money towards something in exchange for financial return. We asked people to center racial justice as they identified how their money was accumulated and then pledged to make investments that could heal the legacies of harm that exist as a result of wealth accumulation.

And participants leaned in…

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Dug deep…

 

And challenged themselves to make meaningful commitments to helping create a different economy.

We closed the conference with over $38 million in commitments to invest in a just transition!!! Commitments included:

“I will invest $1,000 in Cooperation Jackson to build a just world”
“I will invest $5,000 in food sovereignty to build a nourished world
““I will invest $30,000 in indigenous sovereignty in Canada to build a reindigenized world”
“I will invest $200 and my whole life in healing justice to build a more well, just world”
“I will invest in $15,000 in developing anti-classist compensation and personnel policy guidance for management to build a more economically just world”
“I will invest my labor in migrant justice to build a less fearful, more free world”
“I will invest $10,000 in POC-led orgs to build a safer, bolder world”
“I will invest $30,000 in Black Coop Economies to build a just, liberated world”

Regenerative Finance will be working hard to provide folks with the support they need to follow-through on the bold visions they set for themselves as one focus of our ongoing work.

If you were at MMMC and you put up a green arrow with your name on the back–you can look forward to hearing from us! If you didn’t put your name on your commitment but you want support–please reach out!! And if this email is inspiring you to take action, we’d love to connect with you.

P.S. If you’d like to see the lengths we went to for a just transition and to recruit folks to participate in the igniting action booth–check out this video of us singing at dinner.

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