Category Archives: Regen Updates

The Buen Vivir Fund / El Fondo Buen Vivir

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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!

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Defund Police and Fund Black Futures

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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.

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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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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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