Tag Archives: just transition

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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