A note on my intended audience: for now it is you, my fellow participants, and I (Jon Hokama) hope to lay the groundwork for an article for the Focolare Living City Magazine (or Plough Publishing) to equip small business owners, like those of the EoC, and others with the conceptual tools necessary to articulate and persuade others toward a shared ownership economy.
When I step back from my life, I find it ironic that I feel a soul-weariness. On the one hand I am seeing how lovely my “business as usual” has been and, largely, still is. I realized how privileged I am. My wife and I have home-based businesses and can still work from home. (Our business revenues have been depleted by COVID but we have sufficient savings to live and have been exploring ways to be of service). I live in a comfortable yet modest neighborhood on the outer edge of Denver. Our block still has a culture of 1950s neighborliness—most neighbors are on our group-text chat to share news and needs (“Did you hear the gunshot sounds?” “Anyone need hand sanitizer?”). We share ladders and chop saws and have block gatherings like our annual co-op Halloween trick-or-treat party where we provide one-stop treat-gathering for the neighborhood kids. We live are like we belong to a small town within the city. We are a couple blocks from excellent restaurants, our bank and our grocery store. My wife and our two adult daughters were born at the hospital two blocks away. Even our church is a mere ten minute bike ride away. Since the lock-down began, I am happy we’ve been able to provide space for family and friends who have needed shelter during this pandemic.
As I reflect more on what contributed to my “business as usual” life, I am aware of the depth and breadth of my “wealth.” My college-prep, Episcopal boys’ school and professional-track orchestral training –especially playing in string quartets!– prepared me well for UCLA (B.A., English), Denver Seminary (M.Div.) and CU Boulder (M.A. economics). I am indebted to the intellectual and social capital I enjoyed from my Japanese American community roots, my multi-cultural life in Hawaii, my medical school professor and mentor Dad, and my church organist Mom. Being a campus minister for an inter-denominational college ministry (InterVarsity) taught me skills in building missional relational communities in dorms and other living arenas—more on this later.
Maybe my weariness is from working past my indifference and becoming sensitized to and entering into the suffering of others nearby. This COVID pandemic is starting to take the scales from my eyes. I spent time with a neighbor on the next block. A week later, first his wife and then he contracted and then recovered from COVID-19. The boyfriend of a young adult friend works at a meat packing plant that was a COVID hotbed earlier in the pandemic; he’ll be returning to Mexico soon to avoid inevitable deportation. We participated in an on-line JACL civil rights demonstration and heard about an ICE facility in our city. A couple weeks ago we visited that ICE facility to learn more about the plight of the incarcerated immigrants to see how we might serve them.
Like my business owner clients, I used to be so busy and entrenched in “business as usual” that I would rarely take the time or luxury to ask meta-questions about their businesses. Occasionally I did get to ask questions like,
- How does your business support your personal life purpose?
- Do your employees also get to flourish holistically in their roles?
- Would you consider an ESOP to transition your business to them?
- What ESG criteria might best suit your business?
Usually they hired me to deal with a problem employee or create a strategic plan or help them fine tune some aspect of their strategy or leadership and that is what I worked on. Some owners knew their “strategic plan” was a entrepreneurial spasm generated by whatever their strength was—working hard to find new clients, seeing and seizing a market opportunity and taking the first-mover advantage, excelling at leadership and execution of plans, managing cash flow and capital structure adroitly, leveraging expert R&D to create a better widget. But in the current pandemic, none of us can any longer practice “business as usual.” Everyone’s strengths are tested by the disintegration of fundamental business assumptions that now showing the nakedness of the emperor’s new clothes: all the certainties of business context have been disrupted by the mudslide of human behaviors flooding our landscape with the vagaries of COVID. It boggles our imagination to see the jobs created since the last recession evaporate within days after the end of the longest bull market in history. The economic, health and emotional well-being of the poor and POC are a catastrophe that points to social, economic and political structural weaknesses in our society that cannot be ignored.
I’m no longer interested in going back to doing the same business advising with the same kind of clients. I now intend to work with clients who intend to change their lives, their businesses, to address some aspect of the political/social/economic/planetary crisis. But now I want to build on the vitality of my current relational fabric and the potential of relationships in this group, I am committed to continue practices that I’ve started during the pandemic. I will continue to ground myself in a daily contemplative practice; I intend to take time daily to tend to my vegetable garden. (Like Kentucky poet and farmer Wendell Barry, I will tend to my one patch of ground—taking the care of our home and grounds for the time when we’re able to reopen our business). Wondering out loud,
- might some of my former work building missional communities be repurposed into community building, creating a “Felicita publica” (Helena Marujo, https://hstalks.com/article/5425/enhancing-collective-happiness-in-the-city-felicit/)?
- might my work as business advisor and economist be retooled to focus on relationship as the integrating hub for business (the EoC “Guidelines”) ?
Prompt 2: “Really, I’m Not Wishy-Washy”
IFC = Impact Finance Center MHM = Mile High Ministries
FPA= Financial Planning Association EoC = Economy of Communion
B-Corp (CoPeace) EoFrancesco = Economy of Francesco
ESOP= Employee Stock Ownership Plan Bruderhof = Christian community
C.U. = Credit Union member Center for Action and Contemplation = I am a TA there
These organizations in my part of the shared ownership movement cluster around two poles: the religious and business/financial.
Being steeped in faith communities from childhood, I am drawn to both the Alternative and the Personal Transformation models. In order to be an integrated human being, I have always held the conviction that I needed to “walk my talk” by living an Alternative way of life. But whether it was as a campus minister, an executive in a Fortune 50 company, or a business owner advising business leaders I found I was a hypocrite. My own foibles and blind spots made it difficult for me to live as authentically as I wished. (I’ve been drawn to study the Enneagram extensively and have found it to be a helpful tool to increase my self-awareness, self-compassion, and, I hope, my transformation).
During my work in corporations, I found myself gravitating to the institutional transformational model, insider variety. I sought to be a change agent as an insider and found this posture to be the most comfortable. After ten plus years of trying, I was disappointed at the paucity of my results in bringing about change: I had hoped to deepen the famous “HP Way” of leading and managing people by building an internal coaching network. The then CEO conducted herself and the business in such a way that human flourishing was increasingly difficult to cultivate as an internal executive coach–especially when one gets laid off. (In hindsight, I was idealistic and my aspiriations grandiose).
That being said, I am not wishy-washy in my approach to social change! While centered in the Personal Transformational/Alternative models, I am truly excited to learn from others of you about Institutional Change approaches that are not familiar to me—structure organizing and mass protest.
Given my strategic planning bent, I am eager to help a movement create healthy institutionalization.
I love what Mark McKibben wrote in his preface to This is an Uprising:
The jiu-jitsu of unearned suffering lies at the heart of the potential of nonviolence—this is the counterintuitive atomic charge that Gandhi happened upon, though it must be said that Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, seemed to have a prescient understanding of the technique. Turning the other cheek turns out not to be a weak stance, nor does it need to come from a moral commitment to pacifism; the data and experience catalogued in This Is an Uprising make it clear that it is instead the tactically sound choice….
Successful uprisings demand a dozen other features surrounding that alchemical core, of course: enough structure to allow protest to continue and grow, enough messaging ability to avoid crippling backlash, enough discipline to prevent adventurers and agents provocateurs from taking over.
I have been wondering how the current protests might be sustained until change happens – love together with non-violence seems to be the answer.