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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Spring Regen Update

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Happy spring! It’s exciting to start seeing things regenerate outside (eh, eh?) and with that, we thought it would be an appropriate time to send you an update on where we’re at and what we’ve been up to these past few months. Some of the folks on our core team wrote updates about what we’ve been working on that we wanted to share to give you all a sense of where the project is at.

People’s updates are below, but I wanted to pull out a few of the tangible things that have happened over the past few months.

Perhaps the most exciting news is that the Renaissance Community Coop (our first investment project!) took a huge step forward earlier this month when the Greensboro City Council voted to support the project with a $250,000 economic development grant! After 3 years of hard work, this was a milestone. They anticipate work on the shopping center will begin soon, and that they will be able to start getting distribution in place, hiring a general manager, and designing the co-op grocery store. However, due to a lot of gridlock with the City Council, this grant is smaller than the RCC hoped, and as such they have asked ReGen if we could raise an additional $100,000 in investment capital. If you are interested in investing, please be in touch with any of us core members, or by emailing info@regenerativefinance.org.

In non-investment news, in February, Ari and Andrew attended the convening of the Reinvest Network in Jackson. This meet-up, convened by Our Power, pulled together organizations across the country who are continuing to work to create a regenerative economy. We are very committed to our ongoing partnership with Cooperation Jackson, and are excited to see the way their work continues to grow and develop. They opened their Lumumba Center in February, and the space is already being used as a community center/gathering space. In the future, it will also house Coop Jxn’s Sustainable Community Initiative, which is their strategic plan to establish a community land trust, a community development corporation and a number of worker owned cooperatives, all of which we hope will be supported by investment capital from ReGen folks.

Also in February, Kate and Leah attended a community development training led by the Opportunity Finance Network. We learned about the training through Kristen Cox, an RG alum, ReGen advisor and all around great person who works at the amazing Self-Help Credit Union. The training was designed to help participants better understand how to provide financing and financial services to communities left out of the economic mainstream. Check out Kate and Leah’s updates to hear more about what they learned! As part of the visit, Kate and Leah were also able to connect with the NC triangle RG chapter and share more info with them about ReGen, and also meet with Ed and Marnie from Fund for Democratic Communities, a Greensboro foundation that has been central in helping set up the Renaissance Community Coop. It is always powerful, as Leah mentions, to connect with our partners and be reminded of the ways that helping set up community projects is a tangible way we can work towards reparations for our shared history of divestment, extraction and racism.

We’ve also been continuing to flesh out our relationship with Resource Generation. Look for us at Transforming Family Philanthropy Retreat and the Transformative Leadership Institute this summer – we’ll be leading workshops/conversations at both of them! We’ve also been working with RG to develop a regenerative investing pledge AND perhaps most excitingly, a workbook on radical investment. We’ve been excited to build our own knowledge of investing through this work, and are always trying to figure out ways that we can share that knowledge and continue to push the socially responsible investing field to invest in truly transformative projects. We’re excited about the ways the workbook could make both of these goals a reality.

Last, for folks in Philly or Western Mass, ReGen Core Team Members Margot and Kate are setting up a local investment collective pilot project. Check out Margot’s update below if you’re in those areas and interested in moving investment capital in the near future.

Anyway, those are just a few highlights – hope all of your lives have been equally filled with inspiring moments. We’ll be in touch soon with more thoughts and actions for you all! Don’t forget to be in touch if you’re interested in investing in RCC, and, as always, if you have any questions or input, send ’em our way – we love hearing from you all, and can’t wait for things to continue to evolve.

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CORE TEAM UPDATES

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JAY: Last week I was on a call with Andrew for Friends of Cooperation Jackson, a group of folks in NYC, sharing what’s happening in Jackson as well as ways to support it. At the upcoming Left Forum, Cooperation Jackson will be doing a workshop and the friends of Cooperation Jackson will be hosting an event. For more information on what’s happening with Cooperation Jackson, check out their rad Facebook page.

I’ve been attending various events in NYC on regenerative economy, solidarity economy, alternative economy and local economy. I’ve been sharing how Regenerative Finance is catalyzing and connecting to the broader movement, far beyond us, but important for us to support. Laura Flanders, who I met last year at Jackson Rising, released her documentary “Own the Change.” It’s about democratizing the economy (including the story of New Era Windows) and she continually brings home the point of media and storytelling in any struggle for justice. It’s really important for us to highly the beautiful ways people are organizing economic activities, and loving them enough to hold them up and spread the hope in areas where folks feel beaten down or like there’s no other way to engage with capital.

I’ve also been really inspired this fall by the massive demonstrations, the shutting down of bridges, and the movement for Black liberation. When organizers from Ferguson came to NYC and shared their vision, the community they’re trying to build, I saw it was so in line with everything going on in Jackson, and everything we’re supporting. That showed me that Regenerative Finance isn’t a niche institution, our work and our aims overlap with the most necessary social movements of our time.

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KATE: Right now I am most excited about catalyzing local conversation around radical investing. I hosted a workshop here in Philly in early March that 17 folks attended (including my financial advisor AND my mom), where we discussed whether investing is ever ethical, how we want our money to be in the world, and what we’d ideally like to invest in (Worker Co-ops! Returning Citizens!). Wheels are turning here, and we’re putting together a proposal for how to move forward.

Towards the end of February I attended a delightful week-long training in Durham, NC with Leah on Community Finance. We learned about best practices of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). Lots of seeds were planted—how are community financial institutions accountable? How do you balance risk? We also got to talk to the NC triangle RG chapter about Regenerative Finance, and connect with Ed and Marnie of F4DC to talk about RCC.

Speaking of RCC, over the past few months I’ve worked with Andrew and Brendan Martin at Working World to finalize our investment in RCC!! Really inspiring stuff, and if you’re interested I’m happy to pass along the innovative agreement Working World is structuring with RCC, and documents about how RCC’s sources of funds are lining up. If you’d still like to invest get in touch!

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LEAH: North Carolina! I realized, in conversation with Kate, that even though the investment space is regulated, if and when we’re ready to launch different projects, I felt empowered to launch investment vehicles. Tools used for evil can be used for good! We also talked to Marnie and Ed of F4DC, and talked about investing versus giving. Ed responded that setting up sustainable community-based environments that are building community wealth is what reparations could really mean.

Liasing with Resource Generation to collaborate around coordinating workshops, developing a regenerative investing pledge for RG’s upcoming TFP, and resources.

What Regen is excited about doing, and what our broader collective have been excited about, what it feels like they want from us is reframing our goals to make them more actionable and more concrete, and researching.We’re still in that process, because we want to make sure the work we are doing is exciting to people, and that our goals align with people’s passions.

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MARGOT: I’m excited about the plans brewing for an investment collective pilot project, in which a group of us will come together to try out moving a chunk of our investments together with support & guidance of rad financial advisors. For years I’ve been trying to move on getting my investments out of the dirty economy but getting frustrated with the overwhelming amount of not so exciting options and feeling alone in the process. When I realizedKate was in a similar process of divesting and re-investing, I thought, “hey! why don’t we do this together!” And then together we thought of the idea of bringing in other folks to the process, praxis style. We are currently looking for folks to join the praxis from Philly or Western Mass chapter if you’re interested, and hope to be able to report back to ya’ll this summer.

It’s also been great connecting with the folks who have shown interest in ReGen over the past few months. Sometimes in the day to day grind of the work I forget the excitement of this project, so it’s super helpful to be reminded how many folks are pumped about our vision and trusting in our leadership.

As someone who helps hold down the organizational structure of ReGen, I’m excited that we’re getting more clarity on our concrete goals and for those to be public for all of you to check out in the coming months!

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ARI: My first involvement with ReGen was co-presenting with Andrew and Gopal on the Just Transition framework at RG’s MMMC in November. We heard from several people that this presentation was inspiring and activating, and it lead to a good open space discussion. I’m continuing to lead work on developing a political analysis of land and natural resources as they relate to investments; part of framework of decolonization.

I went to Jackson, MS for the convening of the Reinvest Network with Andrew in Feburary and have been still deeply inspired by so many great leaders, a sense of grace in creating a new economy, and by the collective efforts offered by all. I’m involved in the Movement Strategy + Narrative Working Group and helping the network understand where its capacities (e.g. technical assistance) and needs (e.g. like business development skills) exist and building bridges to connect them.

I’ve also co-written a proposal for a radical investment workbook, which we’ll soon turn into a crowd funding campaign …so watch out!

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EMILY:

The past few months have been quite busy for me – I’m doing a fellowship that has me moving around the country quite a bit! However, in February, I moved to DC, and will be here until the end of July. It’s been exciting to get connected to regenerative economy work here – there’s a committed group of people thinking about developing worker cooperatives here in the city, and plans to launch a Black Worker Center that supports organizing and cooperative development in the near future. I love seeing the ways this work is part of a broader, growing movement that exists all across the country.

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Black Lives Matter to Regenerative Finance

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Regenerative Finance recognizes that the racial wealth divide has emerged through and is maintained by the extraction of resources from communities of color. We support long-term wealth building in communities most impacted by systemic racism through investing in Black-lead cooperative enterprises that have emerged from grassroots organizing.

We are partnering with Cooperation Jackson and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project to create financial mechanisms that do not profit off of inflicting harm upon oppressed communities but instead explicitly serve interests of people in these communities.

In Jackson, the rest of Mississippi, and throughout the South, those most marginalized in our present economy are at the forefront of a grassroots movement to build the next economy. Their efforts are grounded in a tradition of Black collective action built on challenging racism and building community power.

As a collective of young people with wealth, Regenerative Finance seeks to support a future that puts Black and POC leadership at the center of the next economy. We support racial justice through mobilizing capital and leveraging our privilege to help movements build a world beyond an extractive capitalist economy. Join us by investing with Regenerative Finance today.

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Jews Standing With the South

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On the 50th Anniversary of Mississippi Freedom Summer, Jewish leaders from across the country, including Rabbis and Civil Rights Movement Veterans, are responding to a call from Black Southern leadership to stand with the South by making a financial contribution to the emerging next economy movement. We believe the act of moving gift capital to grassroots organizations that provide technical assistance to emerging cooperatives is a crucial step to building the model investment portfolio we envision.

We invite you to stand with us in supporting Cooperation Jackson and the Southern Grassroots Economies Project!

Want to organize your community to stand with the south?

Email info@regenerativefinance.org.

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