Buen Vivir Fund Interested Investors webinar

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Earlier this month, Regenerative Finance hosted a webinar call on the Buen Vivir Fund for interested investors. What follows is an audio version as well as notes from the webinar.  If any of this is of interest to you, we’d love to be in deeper conversation with you! Please send me an email at ari@regenerativefinance.org.

Scaling impact through telling our story

We’re telling a different story than what’s happening in the impact investing sector, and controlling this narrative is powerful.  We’re intentionally using this storytelling to scale the project rather than scaling initially through growing the monetary value of the fund.  We see this as a key role for investors: to share this story with your network and use it as a way to deepen the impact of your involvement and the fund itself.  We’re excited to work in this way with you!

History of IDEX/Thousand Currents

IDEX, soon to be renamed Thousand Currents/Miles de Afluentes has a 30 year track-record of challenging dominant philanthropy.  Much of philanthropy looks like paternalistic relationships that maintain power dynamics, and IDEX offers itself as an alternative to this method of international development.  Specifically one way they do this is to build deep relationships with partners and offer long-term general operating grants — that is, grants that go toward anything in the organization rather than to a specific and limited program which is the vast majority of grantmaking.

IDEX broadly supports partners in their movements and centers the work and ideas of their partners in their own work.   This means supporting solidarity economy work as a movement, in addition to supporting their partners as well as realizing the ideas of the partners in moving the work forward.  The idea of the Buen Vivir Fund came from partners who asked IDEX to move past challenging philanthropy to also challenging loan capital financing and impact investing.

The Buen Vivir Fund

The idea of IDEX starting a revolving loan fund came from a request from several partners who are looking for a different kind of financing than grants.  The name “buen vivir” comes from a complex concept that’s difficult to define, but generally translates to “living well.” It encompasses well being at individual and community levels and centers relationships (rather than entities).  It often expands to include the entire universe in thinking about “buen vivir” – a scale that is huge and, personally, way beyond what I normally find myself cognizant of.  (For more information, check out IDEX partner’s María Estela Barco Huerta’s Masterclass on Buen Vivir.)

Many of IDEX partners have been doing alternative economic work for decades and bring this knowledge in co-developing the terms of the fund. The founding investor circle includes 7-8 members and are each bringing $125,000 in investing capital loan funds. While the exact terms are still being developed, we know it will require new approach to being involved: investor involvement will be more than signing money away. Thinking more broadly about what investors are getting out of the process, beyond a financial return, and more about a knowledge exchange that could be brought back to our communities.

We know from our movement hero Gopal at Movement Generation that the global south has been ahead of the U.S. in coming up with solutions or alternatives to extractive capitalism.  We in the U.S. can learn deeply from this work and bring it back to incorporate into our communities.

First convening in Mexico City, October 2016

The first gathering happened earlier this year in Mexico City: partners from Mexico, Nepal, Guatemala, India and South Africa and investors from U.S.  (Listen to my podcast on it!) It was our first learning exchange together. We investors thought we’d be coming out with terms, but we welcomed the surprise of building strong relationships and leading with love. Who are you, who am I, and how can I relate to you?  We asked questions like how the fund can serve us, as well as digging into some brainstorming around structures and terms of the fund.  We continue to do this work remotely.

My political analysis of this is that it’s inherently anti-colonial to center love and relationship building in this work (of co-creating a revolving loan fund), and it upends the power dynamics of traditional investing.  I am humbled and grateful to be a part of it.

Decolonization

We’ve decided within Regenerative Finance to add a core value to our original 10 that proclaims our solidarity with decolonization and indigenous sovereignty.  Adding this brought up several questions about what this meant for us, and we continue to sit with these. We ran an internal praxis group and are putting together a curriculum to share broadly. We are figuring out what it means to commit to decolonization in these sorts of finance campaigns.

Specifically, we don’t think of decolonization as a metaphor.  When we talk about decolonization, we literally mean relinquishing settler control of land and re-locating this control to people indigenous to that place.  For more information, check out the article Decolonization is not a metaphor (and/or my summary of it) as well as this extensive primer that Ari and Jay put together.  For even more information, get in touch with us 🙂

How the Buen Vivir Fund is Decolonial

Several partners specifically work on indigenous sovereignty – a network of indigenous people defining the terms of ecotourism on their lands in Mexico; empowering displaced women in South Africa and learning what place means for displaced people; a women-led cooperative of artisans relocating value in their ancestral homelands – to name a few.

We spent a day to visit one of the partners – Ñepi Behña – in central Mexico, just north of the megalopolis that is Mexico City.  After a 5 hour bus ride we arrived at a very arid region with lots of varieties of cactus, big and small, chubby and skinny, some bearing fruit and some hosting nets – all covered in spines.  During the ride, we learned about how this particular community was affected when many of the men left to go to the United States looking for economic security for their families, leaving women and children behind, and how these women learned to become economically self-sufficient by starting a cooperative.  One of their main products is knit sponges made from the fibers of the giant maguey cactuses.  They walked us through a sped-up version of the process, cutting the maguey leaves (or arms more like), softening the skins with fire, fermenting them, a tool they developed to extract the fibers, and finally the several steps required to process the fiber into something that is knit-able.  This whole lengthy process is one that their ancestors have been practicing for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  This cooperative – now of over 250 women – is a reclaiming of traditions on their ancestral lands.

Making maguey into knit sponges: Represents indigenous sovereignty, women's empowerment, community determination, and other general badassery
Making maguey into knit sponges: Represents indigenous sovereignty, women’s empowerment, community determination, and other general badassery

One of the amazing moments was a seed exchange that happened.  Another partner from Rajastan, a similarly arid region of Northern India, was curious about whether or not these same plants could be grown there and help to restore value to land and people through this process.  The thousands of miles that the seeds have since traveled represent a genetic and knowledge exchange to share practices on the other side of the world.

The Buen Vivir Fund has been co-designed from its inception.  (Read more on this process in my other blog post.)  For some partners and/or investors it may have had a few slow moments, but this co-design process is anti-colonial in that it blurs the boundaries of hierarchy and the partners and investors have equal impact in the designing of the fund.

Q & A from the Webinar

Are we talking about philanthropy, a revolving loan fund, or traditional investment with returns on investment?

Currently the details are unclear. It looks like a revolving loan fund, seeded by investment capital from investors and there has been a gift capital component of 10% as well to support the work to get the fund off the ground. When we talk about shifting the terms: Regenerative Finance does 0% interest loans, as we see interest as a tax on not having capital. We are changing the words to think that a “0% return” is actually a 100% return of capital.  Additionally, the Buen Vivir Fund offers us a chance to broaden the definition of “return” beyond the financial.  Finally, we also see investors as sharing in the “impact” by sharing the story, concept, and shifting narratives within the sector.

Who would be receiving money from the loan fund? The partners, or other organizations in the network? Who makes decisions about who receives money?

The partner projects that IDEX has selected are the initial recipients of the funds, and eventually we hope to include additional partners as funds are returned to the revolving fund.  However, most of the focus so far has been on starting the fund and the current round. The current proposal is that there will be advisory council made up of partners and investors that will decide which projects get financed.

What lessons have you learned already?

Many!

  • This is long-term work and long-term relationships. The worlds we envision probably won’t emerge overnight. This is radical, revolutionary work, and we are undoing the damage of centuries, so we need patience for this work/
  • Trusting the process.  Part of the role of investors in this project is to step back and appreciate the process, not try and control it nor assume we know exactly where we’re going.
  • Centering of love and heart in the work.  I was surprised (and enchanted!) to hear movement leaders in Mexico City speak about romantic love in the context of a revolving loan fund.   This represents and requires a very welcome shift in thinking.
  • I’m working on connecting this amazing article that positions decolonial love at the center of decolonial reparations.  For now, you can read the article, and look forward to some writing on it in the next few months.  (In  the meantime, let’s chat: ari@regenerativefinance.org if you’re interested!)
  • We are challenging our connections to capitalism by going for particular terms that Regenerative Finance has been pushing (eg. 0%/100% returns, no collateral, sharing risk, etc.). This has pushed the other investors in the circle, changed the course of the fund, and built trust and solidarity with movement partners.  We hold the question: to what extent does this fund need to engage in capitalism?

We’re currently raising $125,000 in investment capital and $12,500 in gift capital.  If you are interested in investing and being invested in this fund please reach out to me!

 

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Stand with Standing Rock: Moving from Divestment to Reinvestment

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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.

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

The Buen Vivir Fund / El Fondo Buen Vivir

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail
Participants in the Buen Vivir Fund, Mexico City, October 2016
Participants in the Buen Vivir Fund, Mexico City, October 2016 from all over the world: India, Nepal, South Africa,  Guatemala, Mexico, and the United States (From Regenerative Finance: Ari Sahagún and Emily Duma)

I’m happy to announce publicly that the Buen Vivir Fund is  Regenerative Finance’s next investment-raising project!

We’re partnering with IDEX, a foundation that has been around for 30 years, dedicated to “investing in initiatives led by the women, youth, and indigenous people who are solving our world’s most pressing problems.”  Recently the took on the task of looking at the impact investment sector as they’ve been relating to the philanthropy sector: how can these giants serve IDEX partners and grassroots work all over the world?

This project is co-designed, which means that  grassroots partners from all over the world and investors from the U.S. are co-developing the terms, governance structure, technical assistance, and measurements/returns.  In other words, a huge undertaking that, so far has been powerfully radical.  (I wrote a different post on that co-design process here.)

Listen to a podcast I created that sums up the week below (woohoo! baby’s first podcast!!) FYI I use some strong language.

For more info, stay tuned here, and also check out:

Buen Vivir Fund Founding Circle

In its pilot phase, the Buen Vivir Fund is bringing together a “founding circle” of investors, grassroots groups, and ally-advisers. IDEX is partnering with Transform Finance on this initiative. IDEX is honored to announce that all of these people and organizations have been selected for their exceptional commitment to, and leadership in, developing forms of investment that support people, communities and the earth to thrive.

Investors:

1. Dietel Partners
2. Libra Foundation, with Pi Investments
3. NoVo Foundation
4. Regenerative Finance
5. Swift Foundation
6. Tan Giving
7. Wallace Global Fund
8. The Whitman Institute

Investees:

  1. Guatemala: AFEDES: Women’s Association for the Development of Sacatepéquez
  2. Guatemala: ISMU: Institute for Overcoming Urban Poverty
  3. India: GRAVIS
  4. Mexico: CIELO: Federación Indígena Empresarial y Comunidades Locales de México
  5. Mexico: DESMI: Social and Economic Development for Indigenous Mexicans
  6. Mexico: EduPaz
  7. Mexico: Ñepi Behña
  8. Nepal: Women’s Awareness Center Nepal
  9. South Africa: Ubunye Foundation
  10. South Africa: Whole World Women Association

Ally-advisers:

  1. Fred Berkowitz & Sasha Rabsey
  2. Cynthia Jaggi, GatherWell & Living Economy Advisers
  3. Brendan Martin, The Working World
  4. Whitney Mayer, Hershey Company
  5. Movement Generation
  6. Carmen Rojas, The Workers Lab
  7. Jorge Santiago, expert and author on solidarity economy
  8. RSF Social Finance
  9. Joel Solomon, Renewal Funds

What’s next?

The first round of funding for the Buen Vivir Fund is $1 million.  We’re raising $125,000 in investment dollars as well as $12,500 in gift capital to assist in the development of the fund.  (You can think of that as a 90% return if you’d like to contribute to both.)

If you’re interested in learning more or becoming invested, please email ari@regenerativefinace.org!

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

What it means to “trust the process” (& why we do it)

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail
This post is a cross-post from one I wrote for IDEX before attending the first convening of the Buen Vivir Fund in Mexico City — it ended last week (10/8), so stay tuned for updates.  For now, here are some introductory thoughts:
Version en español aquí.

Ari Sahagún

Ari Sahagún

 

First, let me introduce myself. I’m part of the founding circle of the Buen Vivir Fund on behalf of an organization called Regenerative Finance. Our official statement of purpose is to shift the economy by transferring control of capital to communities most affected by racial, economic, and environmental injustices. We do this in 3 ways: by moving capital, providing political education to investors, and shifting the impact/socially responsible investing fields.

What is the Buen Vivir Fund?

The Buen Vivir Fund is a process-driven, decolonizing project that’s trying to challenge narratives of international development at its core. This project is composed of a mixed group of people coming from a lot of perspectives in three categories: a set of individual investors and foundations in the U.S.; a group of grassroots lending, credit, and enterprises created for and by communities in the Global South; and a cadre of alternative economy advocates and practitioners from around the world.

So far our involvement in the Buen Vivir Fund has been in a two-month long co-design process. So far, our founding circle has not yet met. Though it might seem like “we haven’t done anything,” I’d like to share some reflections on taking these two months for design, supported by the time and dedication of Joanna Levitt Cea to collect all of our thoughts. From the perspective of my organization, we’ve been hesitant to share out what we’re doing, because sometimes we don’t know what to share that feels “substantial.”  So I wanted to write something and reaffirm us, myself, and you readers, that there’s actually a very powerful substance being co-incubated here.

Why does “trusting the process” matter to Buen Vivir founders?

1) Dedication to good process can be decolonizing, anti-oppressive, and liberatory.

Power is created and reinforced by making decisions and planning. Who gets to be at the table or in the room (metaphorically or not) affects the outcomes of plans, how successful they are, and what success even means.

biowatch-biodiversity-wheel

BioWatch, South Africa

Here’s an example: Get a handful of people in the room, plan out the project, maybe even make a Gantt chart. Later, do some “user testing” or “market research” – that is, see how your potential audience responds. This super simplified process is the modus operandi of a lot of business, non-profit, and government projects. Some groups are now realizing that these processes are…well, I could say biased…and are wanting to be more inclusive in their work.

I don’t think inclusivity is the solution. In a nutshell, inclusivity at its heart never aims to shift the status quo. Bringing underrepresented voices into a previously constructed process that was never designed by or for them simply does not work. The power dynamics set up by the premise of inclusion don’t welcome new ideas. Think about it: who is being included? And by whom? And most importantly: why?

A different way of approaching the Buen Vivir Fund involves affected parties from the beginning of the project, gathering advice from all of them, and working together from this perspective. Putting attention on the process, who is involved, and what success/impact means will result in an outcome that benefits more people.

2) We must overcome the capitalist tendency to ignore process for efficiency’s sake.

Our socio-economic reality promotes a tendency to be efficient, to get things done, to deliver products, to hack it together.

I live across a bay from San Francisco, California, one of capitalism’s global hubs. San Francisco was built by colonization and exploited labor: the City’s oldest building was built by native Ohlone slave labor, la Missión Dolores. Today there’s SO much coffee consumed here and so many things produced – these days in the form of apps and technology: google, facebook, uber, apple.

Nowadays labor is best harnessed through continuous self-improvement. In other words, you should always be reflecting on how you can become your most optimal, most productive. The same applies to your work product.

IMG_0948

IDEX with Women’s Awareness Center Nepal

You can see this trend signified by the word “hack.” It might be otherwise read as “improvise,” to quickly make something that is useful but not perfect, to make something with what you have, even though it’s not ideal (which, by the way is what most people in the Global South do all the time).

In the San Francisco area, you can “hack” anything. Seriously. There are “hack-a-thons” – marathon hacking events where people get together for a weekend or longer and make stuff, usually apps or some other tech thing as quickly as they can. You can “growth hack” your business, or “hack consciousness.” You can hack your bike. And yes, you can definitely hack your life, there’s a huge website dedicated to it).

All of this is to say you can hack together – or, in other words, bypass the details of the process – just about anything to find the quick fixes.

I suggest we stop this.

The question is: Who bears the burden of responding, rebuilding, etc. when the quick fix fails?

3) Having a different relationship to process is possible.

Perhaps not surprisingly, coming to value process is a process in and of itself. We have to be mindful of the tension between: distance/objectivity/thinking-mind & myopia/urgency/action-orientation. Let me explain that and give a little disclaimer.

IDEX with Institute for Overcoming Urban Poverty, Guatemala

IDEX with Institute for Overcoming Urban Poverty, Guatemala

Getting stuck in the process, stuck in a thinking-only phase, can keep privilege in its place and look a lot like apathy. The objectivity, the “stepping back” from somewhere in order to engage in a process-oriented phase, inherently represents privilege. So if you’re in a position of privilege or several like I am, it’s also important to be wary about the comfort you may feel in the thinking phase of things. There are some ways that it benefits me not to act; living in an economically well-off country that benefits from exploiting labor definitely has its perks.

On the other hand, if we are aware of these power imbalances, there might be a large, ominous sense of urgency that accompanies them. And rightfully so! (Stop the destruction of nature! Stop killing black people! Stop … a lot of things!) Sometimes, though, this urgency can cloud our thinking and lead to short-term outcomes that aren’t deeply connected to our vision, or might bypass important process-work.

5 tips to help you embrace “the process.” 

For me it helps to regularly remind myself of the long-term vision for a particular project. I find this to be a grounding, affirming activity that can help me feel balanced between thinking and doing. How can I develop a healthy relationship between these two? How do I benefit from non-action or from urgent action? Here’s five tips that have helped me grapple with these questions:

  1. Give yourself permission to be inarticulate as you try and communicate thoughts that aren’t fully formed.
  2. Notice as your feelings arise. They are likely very related to the content. Feeling unsettled? Maybe it’s because you’re decolonizing. Feeling vulnerable? That’s probably where your most authentic work comes from.
  3. Find and commit to an accountability buddy. Learn how to support each other in the process.
  4. Read! Write! Draw! Meditate! Walk! Do whatever you do to integrate emotions and new understandings, and try new things.
  5. I find the Five Wisdoms of Buddhism to be helpful here, particularly richness and spaciousness. Right now, I’m making spaces for each in my life.

I am so grateful to the Buen Vivir Fund for giving me a chance to reflect on the deep, restorative, revolutionary power of process. It’s inherently connected to world-sized vision this project embodies: to usher in a healthier way of relating to ourselves, each other, and the planet — the true definition of buen vivir. I’m excited to continue in this process together, through the smooth…and the rough parts.

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

SOCAP RECAP

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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

kali

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

joyanderson

“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

konda

wacinque

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

COCAP 2016: Redistributing wealth through impact investing

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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.”

investor-perspective-cocap2016

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!

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Land as investment

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Take-away points

  • Remember to broaden frame of investment/wealth beyond cash assets
    • SRI and impact investing will tend to focus on cash.  Continuing to ignore other types of assets is colonial.
  • Investment in land seen as “safe.”
    • Doesn’t depreciate, doesn’t require maintenance, tangible asset
  • Investing in land is reliant on historical and continued genocide, forced assimilation, colonization.

Commodification of nature

Capitalism rooted in colonialism erases or downplays the importance of land and “natural resources” as foundational to growth.  One of the major ways to turn land into a natural resource is called commodification — or the process of turning something into a commodity by converting it from its original form to a value that can be measured in dollars.

Take a tree for example, a complex living being that can do many amazing things: turn what we breathe out into oxygen; produce a huge variety of delicious tasting fruits, nuts, syrup, and berries; provide a home for birds, mammals, and other animals; can induce a sense of awe in us if we pay attention (see: redwoods, live oaks in the south of the U.S., bristlecone pines that are 5,000 years old); I could go on.  In his book Cradle to Cradle, architect William McDonough illustrates this point too:

“Imagine this design assignment: design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates, changes colors with the seasons, and self-replicates.

Why don’t we knock that down and write on it?”

All of this is a long-winded way of saying that trees are – for a variety of reasons – magical.

Capitalism takes these magical beings and turns them into something that can be traded on a market – paper, lumber.  Occasionally, economics can understand “environmental services” – more of the things that McDonough was getting at – the valuing of sequestering carbon, and then complicate the tree’s value, as well as make a stronger economic argument to keep it alive and healthy.

By the way, this is all reliant on a lot of separations within nature.  Trees are separate from birds that live in them, separate from the soil and water and fungal networks that nourish them.  We are separate from them.

So…commodification turns parts of nature into things that can be traded on markets, and made money from the sale of, based on an agreed upon value.  “Raw materials.”

This relies on separating us from nature, from our other ways of relating, and the interrelatedness of its parts.

Other related ideas include water investment and privatization, carbon trading and treating land itself as property.

If you’re interested in any of these things, I highly recommend watch Tom B.K. Goldtooth’s video on Youtube:

History of the land under the United States

United States history is different than the history of the land that the U.S. currently occupies.  Who was here before the “start”?  How is their deep history erased by current narratives that start history at 1776?  How does our understanding of the U.S. as one nation erase the hundreds of other sovereign nations that also currently inhabit this land?

histories-of-the-land
Here’s a quick timeline to illustrate the 1.5% of history since European settlement of the land as contrasted with a conservative under-estimate of total human habitation of the land, 20,000 years ago. It also includes what our current timeline calls “0.”

“Counter to the western stories that we’ve been here 12,000 years, we’ve been here over 60,000 years, likely over 100,000 years, and there is a great deal of evidence to support that,” says Paulette Steeves, director of the Native American Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

A more complicated understanding of history that many of us did not receive in school is necessary to understand the depth of relationship that indigenous people have had and many continue to have with this land currently called the United States for thousands of years.  In contrast, the colonized period of this land is relatively small, a few percent of total peopled time.

Land as Investment

Investing isn’t just about money.  All capitalism relies on commodification of nature and land and the genocide required to do those things as well as direct investment in land.

Wealth redistribution tends to focus on dollars and donation of money.

International land grabs are kind of a big deal too.  The Oakland Institute has some great resources on that topic.

It’s imperative that our interpretation of investment be broadened to also encompass land.  Investment in land doesn’t have to look like owning a real estate property, there are lots of ways to invest.  And certainly all of capitalism happens on land anyway.

The process of commodification – turning trees into paper, into an abstract commodity that can be bought and sold – is the process of disconnecting ourselves from place, of literally uprooting ourselves and nature and abstracting it into something else.  In its very nature, this is colonial — it is void of a sense of place, a sense of context, history, and connection.

There’s a strong connection to present-day gentrification and displacement – these are not new concepts.  This is also super connected to the gentrification that’s happening around the country (and many parts of the world) as people move around.  The idea that people are movable, easily displaced, that a value connected to a place will drive people out of being able to live there — rooted in racialized colonialism.

Land Reparations

Land is not arbitrary.  Things like “equal redistribution of land” or “land as commons”  are colonial concepts that continue to erase deep relationships of indigenous people to *specific* places.

For a really basic idea of what I mean here, think about a place you call home.  About how it smells, about the plants that live there and how they change over the course of a year.  About all the people you are connected to in that place.  That place can’t be anywhere, it’s a specific place to you with many histories.  Multiply that by 20,000 years and then it might be similar to indigeneity.

One example of a land reparations project I’m familiar with locally is an indigenous women led project called the Sogorea Te Land Trust. It asks settlers on Chocheño Ohlone land to pay a “tax” to fund the purchase of land to be stewarded and used in ceremonial practices.  There are several other indigenous led land trusts around the country.

Finally on a related note, it can’t be left unsaid that this country’s histories of slavery and (forced) immigration complicates our relationship to land in the present.  (For more on this, see my summary of an academic paper called Decolonization is not a Metaphor.)

 

I’m going to leave you here with a few resources, some questions to consider, and let you know some of the questions we’re currently holding as Regenerative Finance.  Want to be in conversation with us?? Far out!  Drop us a line.

Some Resources

Questions to consider

  • Do you have investments in land? What does that look like? REITS, a home you live in, homes you don’t live in, relationships to real estate developers, buildings, infrastructure, …?
  • Do you have investments that are involved in the commodification of land?
  • Whose land are your investments on or in? What’s your relationship to those people? What’s your current relationship and ideal relationship?
  • What has your family’s historical relationship to land been?
  • All of our wealth was extracted from land, what were the steps in that process, and how does that feel? What are you going to do about it?

Questions we’re dealing with as Regen

  • How does land fit into regenerative investing?
  • If a project we work with is not indigenous-led, what would it need to do to be decolonized?
  • Given that so much wealth is accumulated through direct investment in land, what are we doing about that?
  • How do we take this message as settlers to other settlers?  How do we continue to bring this topic up in the impact investing scene?

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Defund Police and Fund Black Futures

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Last week, beginning on what would have been the fourteenth birthday of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was murdered by police in 2010, protesters shut down police stations and unions all across the country. The Movement for Black Lives called for this wave of #FreedomNow actions to “create a future where Black children live in peace and possibility, not under a police state.”

 


In New York City, Black Youth Project 100 and Million Hoodies blockaded the entrance to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association to directly challenge the union’s ongoing role in defending officers who end Black lives. The protesters locked themselves together with chains and refused to move until they were arrested.

The protest happened just days after the second anniversary of a police officer in Staten Island choking Eric Garner to death. It happened just two weeks after a police officer in Brooklyn murdered Delrawn Small while he drove his girlfriend and children to the park to watch Fourth of July fireworks.

While Black Youth Project 100 and Million Hoodies have called for the immediate firing of Officers Daniel Pantaleo and Wayne Isaacs, these protesters believe that only taking action against individual officers once they kill Black people is not enough. Through signs, shirts, and song they made a broader demand, “Defund Police and Fund Black Futures.”


Police departments are not made up of good and bad cops, but rather are systems of racist violence that cannot bring safety to Black communities.
The contemporary police force is the direct descendant of slave patrols. Originating in South Carolina, slave patrols defended the economic order of slavery through returning and punishing those who were forced into bondage and dared to escape to freedom.

Last year, the white Dylann Roof slaughtered nine Black congregants during Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When officers apprehended Roof, they dressed him in a bulletproof vest, demonstrating deeper concern for Roof’s safety than that of the community he just unleashed terror upon.

Meanwhile, the day after police in Brooklyn murdered Delrawn Small, police in Baton Rouge killed Alton Sterling while they pinned him to the ground. The day after police murdered Alton Sterling, police in Minnesota killed Philando Castile while he complied with police during a traffic stop. Lavish Reynolds courageously livestreamed the murder of her boyfriend while her young child watched from the back seat.

Those most impacted by this racist violence are at the forefront of bringing about lasting change. They act from a deep tradition that dates back to and precedes Denmark Vesey, organizer of the 1822 slave rebellion and founder of the same Charleston church where Roof opened fire.

 

Those who are not Black still have an important role to play and a tradition from which to act. To demand justice for Philando Castile, white people and non-Black people of color in Minneapolis united together to shut down the city’s largest highway during rush hour and directed press to a Black spokesperson from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.

 

In New York City, Regenerative Finance collective members Andrew Meeker and Jay Saper were arrested as part of a #FreedomNow action with Showing Up for Racial Justice that shut down the New York Police Department’s First Precinct. The solidarity action was called for by the Movement for Black Lives, who urged white people to “get your John Brown on.”


Just as white people and non-Black people of color are joining Black folks in putting bodies on the line, so too must those with class privilege show up with our full selves for the movement. Digging into our pockets should not be regarded as a substitute for taking to the streets, but very much a necessary complement to doing so. There were twenty two people in John Brown’s army that carried out the raid on Harper’s Ferry. There were also the secret six who funded the courageous act.

Today’s police and putrid economy are the product of yesterday’s plantation. We may not have chosen the hour to which we were born, yet at this hour we may choose how we respond. We can leverage our money for long overdue reparations.

We must stop this racist violence. We must defund police. We must build the world we need. We must fund Black futures.

Please reach out to Regenerative Finance if you are interested in making a non-extractive loan to the Financial Cooperative that houses the Southern Reparations Loan Fund. If you would like to make a gift, we encourage you to support Cooperation Jackson, a Black-led project building Black futures in Mississippi.

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Centering Racial Justice and Indigenous Sovereignty in the New Economy

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

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.

IMG_8252

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.

IMG_8243

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!

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Investing in a Just Transition in NYC

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

regenerativefinanceblog1

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.

regenerativefinanceblog2

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.

 

regenerativefinanceblog3

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.

regenerativefinanceblog4

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

regenerativefinanceblog5

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.

Like this post? Share it!

Facebooktwitterlinkedinmail

Want more like this? Follow us!

Facebooktwitteryoutube