As I listened to the gospel of Matthew 4:19 this weekend inviting us to be “fishers of men” — I heard not only Jesus’ voice, but also Pope Francis’s invitation:
“I ask you to be protagonists of this transformation… I ask you to build the future, to work for a better world.” ~ Pope Francis
I’d like to invite you to join me in developing our response to Pope Francis’s 2019 letter and invitation to people of good will everywhere.
Where We’re At
- 2,500+ young economists and entrepreneurs responded to Pope Francis’s invitation to meet with him in Assisi, Italy March 26-28, 2020 — here’s the event website.
- 250 friends responded with interest to an invitation to gather that Elizabeth Garlow, Elias Crimm, and I sent out in November & December 2019
- 155 people gathered virtually on December 16, 2019 – see video here. Speakers included:
- Amy Uelman – “Pope Francis’ Inspiration for a New Economy: the Economy of Communion as a Case Study”
- Nathan Schneider – “Cooperatives as Alternative Economic Praxis”
- Melissa Hoover, Democracy at Work Institute – “The Emergence of Alternative Praxis”
- Brian McLaren: “The Signs of our Times: Finding roots for a more just Economy.”
- More than 50 of the attendees stayed on for an additional 30 minutes because they wanted to get more involved
- 142 people have joined the collaborative Slack workspace – you can join here as well. Thinkers, practitioners, observers — all are invited.
- Conversations about Laudato Si, “Parishes-as-nodes”, “Mapping What’s working”, “Churches and Co-op Link Asset Mapping”, impact investing, changing the narrative, neighborhood projects, reading circles, are well underway — and looking for new voices and contributors.
What I’ve learned
I’ve spent the last 8 years organizing faith communities and schools to work together on their economic life. Mostly I’ve focused on where they spend their money (www.CPA.coop) and how they can make better decisions by coming together with peers wrestling with similar questions.
I’m excited to bring this learning to the broader movement-building space that Pope Francis has invited us to convene.
One Lesson Learned: The more we can hone in on exactly what problems we are wrestling with and specifically what difficult decisions we are facing, the more we can empathize, learn from, and join together with peers to make more powerful vehicles for change.
(For example, our CPA purchasing co-op has helped 121 participants come together on $17.3 million in contract spend and shift 58% of that to local small businesses — see our 2019 Impact Report here)
What I enjoy the most
I want to help unleash people’s big project ideas, especially in this world of new economic praxis.
- For example, I’ve loved accompanying Greg Brodsky as he launches, shepherds and brings on a co-director for Start.coop.
- I love helping organizers and entrepreneurs get the resources they need to make their big ideas come to life.
- I met Hays Witt in 2014. He advised me on a few things and we stayed in touch regularly. In 2018 he told me he wanted to go to business school. I tried to dissuade him and instead encouraged him on his passion project. He was about to incorporate as an LLC in late 2018, but I told him I’d help him find money if he did a co-op. He got into the first cohort at the Start.coop accelerator, which gave him $15,000 and the business frameworks he was seeking.
- In 2019, Drivers Seat — a driver-owned cooperative committed to data democracy — came to life.
- “We empower gig workers and local governments to make informed decisions with insights from their rideshare data.”
Virtual Workshops can Unleash New Projects
I created a CPA Incubator Workshop in October 2019, and from that have launched a new CPA Co-op in Boston and supported entrepreneurs in Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, Lancaster, and Chicago in discerning whether this model might be for them. (You can meet the amazing cohort (see some of their faces above) by reading their work here.)
Right now, I’m looking for leaders in Boston and Chicago to help us with a multi-regional effort to aggregate our electricity consumption to build a powerful vehicle for change in our energy sector. We’re calling all churches, schools, and any community-oriented property owner to submit their electricity bills to join us.
Here’s a 1-page flyer: “Power in Group Purchasing” – for folks in the Chicagoland region.
Movement Ecology: Where do you want to be?
I’ve learned that it’s helpful to consider the broader Movement Ecology. Where do you most want to contribute your gifts? I’ve learned that where I like to play the most is with people that want to create real alternatives.
I’ve begun to see and feel what leadership development really looks like. I’ve begun to learn what good facilitation tools feel like in practice — from Seth Godin’s Akimbo workshops to Technology of Participation (ToP) Methods for group Action Planning to deeper reflective spaces with Peter Block’s 6 Questions.
I’ve begun to try to take a more “Emergent Strategy” approach to my work — thanks to the wonderful wisdom adrienne maree brown shared in her book: Emergent Strategy.
Here are some ways you can get involved:
- We gather again on February 19, 2020 at 7:00pm ET (virtually via video / Zoom) – RSVP here so we can keep you informed — even if you aren’t able to make it: http://bit.ly/FrancescoEconomyUSFeb19
- March 2020 – I will be headed to Assisi with a few others and will be sharing some videos / quick 1-2 minute interviews with others I meet — likely via LinkedIn — feel free to connect with me there, if we aren’t already connected.
- April 2020 – We’ll likely have another virtual video call in April.
- May 2020 – Several of us may be at this Faith+Finance gathering in San Antonio: https://faithfinance.net/
- June 2020: I hope to launch a workshop for leaders and investors hungry to actualize their most important work. (Email me if you’re interested – firstname.lastname@example.org)
- October 6, 2020 – We’ll be gathering in Washington DC. Please Save the Date. The National Coop Business Association has their Co-op Impact conference on October 7-8, 2020.
So, where does that leave us?
My sense is that people are looking for others with an idea, a plan, and a deep desire to make something worth talking about.
We’re soliciting your ideas to lead a small group session on February 19th — share your pitch here.
I look forward to seeing you there.