Could a “progressive” financial system change the power structure?

In studying the materials for this week there was a lot for me to learn. I’m so grateful for all these resources that are new to me. I’ve only begun to scrape the surface and need more time to reflect, so here are my random thoughts and reactions. I found Donella Meadows’ examples in her article especially enlightening to help me understand not just leverage points but how systems work positively and negatively, the complexity involved, and the need for counter-intuitive thinking, all of which is quite a challenge! I have been involved with some folks in thinking about how to organize a financial system that truly uses “progressive” principles instead of the current financial system which uses progressives’ money to support conservative principles. We already have a system of credit unions, community development banks and community development financial institutions which are based on values of justice, common good, racial equity , democracy, etc. , what Donnella calls “shared interest”. So I began to think abut how to use her insights within that system to create a full financial system. I have gleaned ideas from another book “Organized Money; How progressives can leverage the financial system to work for them, not against them”. and then I think about the folks in this workshop who are working in various organizations and they too are the seeds of a new financial system. Then there are the faith-based investors who do community development investing, the new energy around “impact” investing, etc.

I am focusing on the first part of the prompt, how to use power effectively. I was struck by examples that showed the power of a new idea, like Ronald Reagan’s “get government off your backs”. What is the new idea that will capture people today? As David Korten would say , what is the new story that will captivate us to change from a system that exploits people and planet? I want to read the Poor People’s campaign materials to glean their vision for a new economy. One thing I believe is that it has to involve those who are suffering from the current situation, it can’t just be academics or thinkers. I just read an article in our local paper about how organizations are including formerly homeless folks on their advisory boards and how effective it is in addressing the underlying issues. And how do we connect all these organizations to focus on effective leverage points in a very complex system? I see how mapping will help but right now the images have confused rather than clarified things for me. I just need more time to understand it.

In some ways I feel like a bumble bee, buzzing from group to group, tasting of their ideas and visions, sharing what I learn from others, spreading ideas around like pollen and gathering more pollen. My own resistance is that there is so much I don’t know. I’m willing to talk with others and learn, share my own experiences, but I’m not ready yet to act. I know the time will come when I need to find the hive where all this pollen can germinate and eventually provide nourishment for the future generations. I trust that when the time is right for me I will act. But if it is truly to be a “shared” or “collective” power, it is not all up to me. So right now I want to keep learning and listening, relating to others and reflecting on it all.

Reflective Script

So what if we created cooperatives for financial management? by pass all the wall street firms and create a firm that used ESG principals, gave priority to cooperatives, and could invest equity, venture capital ,etc. but based on cooperative values and any profits could be used for advocacy, or returned to members or… ? Shared Capital in MN has cooperatives investing in other cooperatives, which is one of the cooperative principles. The national cooperative bank was started to provide loans to cooperatives and spun off Capital Impact Partners. Maybe working in conjunction with CDFI’s and credit unions we could create a shadow system to the current financial system and eventually overshadow it? Use the principles of the doughnut economy?

There are so many ideas and I want to begin combining them somehow into a system. Create our own stock exchange? I know this uses the tools of the current economy but I’m trying to see what we can learn from it and what to use to advance different values. And really thinking through who holds the power in such a system would be very important. My peer learning group discussion about power highlighted the issues from our cultures and how we’ve been formed by capitalism to think about power as well as how important relationships are. The need for transformation, personal as much as systemic, is key. Does the system shape us or do we shape the system? probably both/and.

Who shapes the vision? Who creates the story? So many ideas ! I feel like we’re in a very experimental time so the more things get tried the better. Each will have lessons to build on. And I need more time to learn and synthesize them.

Published by Corinne Florek

I am very interested in promoting the cooperative model for workers as well as consumers. I think we need to change the infrastructure of our economy and cooperatives are my preference. I have been involved in community development investing for over 40 years and now that it is called Impact investing I want to critique what is wrong in the current thinking.

4 thoughts on “Could a “progressive” financial system change the power structure?

  1. “In some ways I feel like a bumble bee, buzzing from group to group, tasting of their ideas and visions, sharing what I learn from others, spreading ideas around like pollen and gathering more pollen. My own resistance is that there is so much I don’t know. I’m willing to talk with others and learn, share my own experiences, but I’m not ready yet to act.”

    This struck me- I like you honestly and vulnerability. My gut say that with 40 years of experience you have amassed a lot of knowledge about many different things. Maybe your hesitation to act is more deliberation, patience, and intention. What do you think would influence you to act? Do you think a pollinator has a major role to play, could this be your action?

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  2. I am moved by your images, experience, and desire to keep working for the common good and to change or invent new structures. I have already been a flower benefitting from your buzzing around and commenting on my posts! (I just purchased the Korten book you recommended about changing the story.) Have there been other times in your career that you needed to learn new and complex information before acting? What did you do? How did it turn out? Is there anything you can learn now by reflecting on that similar time and experience? Thank you for your humble and thoughtful post.

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  3. There are a lot of BIG thoughts here! I love the passage about Ronald Reagan. I’m glad that people are thinking about that magic phrase or idea with the power to create a generational paradigm sift. You also are thinking about an entirely “new financial system.” Wow!

    I found myself desiring some more specifics on that last point. “I have been involved with some folks.” Involved in what capacity? What folks? I think one of the best parts of this workshop is the potential to push each other’s ideas forward. Even if your work on the financial sector is unformed — what ideas do you have so far? Maybe the group could help you brainstorm new leverage points that you hadn’t thought of, and thus provide some of that “collective power” you spoke of.

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  4. Thanks so much for your post, Corinne!

    I am very interested in this sentence that you wrote: “I have been involved with some folks in thinking about how to organize a financial system that truly uses “progressive” principles instead of the current financial system which uses progressives’ money to support conservative principles.” I’m wondering, do you have any thoughts on what a financial system that uses progressive principles might look like? I would love to hear more about this from you, either here or in our small group discussion, if you are up for it.

    My working within Seed Commons has prompted me to think about this question of principles of finance. A couple of things stand out to me. First, the non-extractive piece of Seed Commons’ practice of finance – Seed Commons will not take any amount of capital from a coop that the coop didn’t already have access to before the beginning of the financial relationship. Second, I think Seed Commons’ approach to the “credit check” portion of the “underwriting” process is very interesting. Rather than running a credit check, Seed Commons seeks to enter into relationship with prospective coop borrowers and assigns (at least) one person who works with the borrower to create and pitch, through an iterative process, to Seed Commons’ credit committee (a representative body of the different local organizations that are the controlling members of Seed Commons) a sustainable business plan. If the “credit committee” believes that the pitched business plan is sustainable, then Seed Commons moves forward with the financing.

    I’m wondering if and how the practices I describe above might fit into your vision?

    Also, I am deeply interested in story telling and imagination as positive forces for changing our world, and I, too, am super interested in the stories that might captivate people and drive change today. I’d love to explore this further, too, if you are feeling up for it.

    Thanks again for sharing this post!!

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