In many regards, I was raised in and engaged in a communal culture and experienced first-hand the abundance created through the sharing of resources, ideas, sufferings, and joys of those around me. Diversity, inclusion, mutual care are all values that from a very early age were instilled in both my understanding of and engagement in the world around me. A Sicilian mother, a father from England, raised in Queens, NY and educated in an international school that celebrated the strength of differences, I often find it difficult to identify or situate myself in the context of clearly defined and delineated social, political, and economic systems. If I had to describe my experience or my perspective of how the world works, a kaleidoscope would paint the perfect picture – a model of logic in the realm of wonder.
In the context of economic life, of how we as individuals become actors/actresses in a market of encounters, I find it even more so important to embrace this logical wonder. Can we as a society use the strength of our diversity to properly distribute resources? Can we move beyond the idea that to give means a subtraction of resources from one to another rather than a multiplication of goods? How do our systems (social, political, economic, and cultural) interact to support or maybe even actively fight against a large-scale re envisioning? What policy, legal structures, funding models, or cultural norms are needed for not only the acceptance of but participation in a new ecology?
These are often questions I reflect upon in working to build a sustainable and equitable model of economic inclusion for women returning from incarceration and reimagining how we as a society define wrong-doing, pursue justice, and reconcile pain. Project Lia is an attempt to shift the narrative that criminal justice institutions use to criminalize women and perpetuate the stigmas of incarceration but also consciously create a business that promotes environmental sustainability and community engagement. Much of this narrative frames itself within shared ownership and cooperative economic models and provides an alternative for individuals to explore and engage in an economy rooted in abundance, dialogue, civic engagement, and innovation. However, how do we use the intersection of community, policy, and resources to not only sustain but scale a triple bottom line effect – a kaleidoscope of social impact, environmental impact, and financial sustainability?