Cooperative Economics | "Impact-First" Investing | Transformative Leadership

Neighborhood Economics to Livable Future Investing: 12 Hints of an Emerging US Economy of Francesco

As we continue the work of mapping the growing Economy of Francesco movement ecology, I wanted to share a list of 12 nodes that have been on my radar.

What are you seeing?

Join us this Friday November 20th at 12 noon ET. We’ll get the conversation started with a pioneering farmer, an industrial co-op organizer, and one of the largest Catholic Impact Investors… but then we’ll turn to you for discussion.

At the end, I’m going to ask for your help to continue the on-going work of mapping this growing movement. 

RSVP for the Nov 20th 12 noon ET call here

I hope this list gives you some ideas as well as a sense of encouragement and inspiration.

  1. Neighborhood Economics: Healing our Communities. A new economy of interdependence is emerging all around us. Faith+Finance is convening a two day virtual gathering November 17 & 18th. I’ll be speaking at a session called “Everybody an Owner” about co-ops in the “Catalyzing Creative Capital” track (other tracks: entrepreneurship, religious assets in transition & creating culture of change). I’ll be joined by Gerg Brodsky from and Franzi from Project Equity.  Here’s a no-cost registration link for the full conference or the Wednesday Nov. 17, 1:00pm ET session.
  2. The Equitable Economy Fund (by is a much-needed equity fund (there are lots of great co-op loan funds out there) designed to provide capital that can accelerate the growth of cooperatively owned companies.  Investments will be sourced from the accelerator for seed-stage businesses as well as growth-stage/market-validated shared ownership businesses. Part of what makes me so excited about this fund is that I’ve spent the better part of the past couple years doing my own diligence on investments I’ve made in folks like Drivers Seat Co-op, Obran Co-op, RedHen Collective. If this at all sounds of interest, this Slide Deck is worth a quick glance. Schedule time with me here, if you’re ready to have a serious conversation about it. Chheck out the website for an overview
  3. Exit to Community is an effort to develop alternatives to the standard model of the startup “exit.” Rather than simply aiming for an acquisition by a more established company or a public stock offering, could startups aim to mature into ownership by their community of stakeholders? Through policy research, popular education, and partnership with interested startups, MEDLab Fellow Danny Spitzberg in collaboration with Zebras Unite are exploring pathways for making the answer a yes. Exit to Community: A Community Primer, is now available for free, digitally and in print.  Nathan Schneider writes more about it here: “Exit to Community,” Noema (August 27, 2020)
  4. Inclusive Capital Collective: A group of over 90 community fund managers and entrepreneur support organizations who have been designing and developing shared technical and financial infrastructure for aggregating and deploying capital and resources to BIPOC communities. A joint project of Common Future and Zebras Unite, and funded by the Surdna Foundation, the ICC is motivated by the need for better “plumbing” to drive capital to BIPOC entrepreneurs. Its purpose is to overcome systemic racism through the equitable access to capital. The ICC achieves this by aiding and amplifying the ingenuity of capital innovators and service providers. The ICC has just concluded a 6 month strategic road mapping process, and we invite you to join us for conversation about its next phase of implementation. November 17, 11 am – 12:30 pm Eastern (Register here); December 1, 1:30 pm – 3 pm Eastern (Register here).
  5. Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) is growing it’s set of resources, programming, collaborative due diligence, sourcing and other capacities. Founded by John O’Shaughnessy, CEO/CFO of Franciscan Sisters of Mary, there’s a great advisory board (including Jessica Cook, Managing Director of Ascension Investment Management who will be speaking at our  Friday Nov 20th 12 noon ET our Economy of Francesco call), and set of resources. Check out this Racial Equity Investing Call to Action (list of resources) to get a taste of their work.  
  6. Liturgy & Communion Economy. A new online collaboration between In My Backyard (a Catholic Worker House in Portland) and Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life. The free course is aimed at uncovering possibilities for a social economy of communion in our own parishes and neighborhoods. From Bert Fitzgerald, the organizer: “Opening our minds to see the Body of Christ as a living, social organism, and opening Scripture to see how its economic dimension has been lived and developed over Judeo Christian history.” (More details here.)
  7. Setting a Shared Ownership Agenda. Elizabeth, Jennifer, Phil, Todd and I spent most of August commenting on more than 200 blog posts from our 35 participants in this dynamic workshop. Here are a few of the many incredible posts: My Table and What to Do with It by Sarah McBroom, The Power to Amend by Andrea Miller,  Of Stone Soup & Spinning Wheels by Geoff Gusoff,  Unlearning and Doughnuts for All (Ken Reed-Bouley, Creighton University), Building Solidarity Economies (Geoff Gilbert, The Working World). Most of my Economy of Francesco organizing efforts were poured into two workshops Spiritual Community Building for a New Economy in April and this August Shared Ownership Workshop. This Shared Ownership workshop overview only begins to tell the story. The hope and sense of possibility I left August with are still overflowing inside me. We’ll be facilitating more workshops in 2021. Stay tuned in our Francesco Economy Slack channel
  8. Armchair Tour of Co-op Ecosystems. The Industrial Commons has been convening a dynamic network of cooperative developers to visit ecosystems from Spain to Finland to Quebec, and back again. The focus has been on the early stages of these ecosystems (ie – the Mondragon of 1955, not 2020). Elements we’ve been focused on include their infrastructure (finance, education, networks), context (policy environment, economic context, regionalism), and social capital (social identity, solidarity between institutions, community connections). Stay tuned for Margaret Lund’s research paper examining best practices across these impactful cooperative ecosystems. Let me know if you’re interested in my quick take on the Mondragon visit we had and I can share a draft of a piece I’m developing. 
  9. Reflections from Fr. Arizmendi (Founder of Mondragon): Elias Crimm, Editor & Publisher of Solidarity Hall is raising funds to publish the first English-language version of Fr. Jose Maria Arizmendi’s Reflections. The Spanish language version is incredible, but there hasn’t been a quality English translation until now. Elias has hired a great worker-owned translator co-op and you can see a mockup of the book here. Might you consider a donation to help Elias close the few thousand dollar gap to be able to publish the book? He’d be happy to send you a copy… Email Elias here. Please consider a donation to this terrific project.
  10. Zebras Unite & their culture-shifting Pivot to People. If you haven’t yet heard about this founder-led, cooperatively owned movement creating the culture, capital & community for the next economy… you’ll want to take a look. Their 2017 Zebras Fix what Unicorns Break rejects our overwhelming pursuit of Unicorns and argues we must work together like Zebras (in a heard). They’ve gathered more than 6,000 entrepreneurs, are developing alternative capital taxonomy, and are now transitioning into a multi-stakeholder co-op. I’m excited to be joining on the ground floor and hopeful for where they might lead us. 
  11. Let’s chat about our Personal Investing. Last month, I sold 80% of the money I had in the stock market AND made my biggest investment in co-ops yet.  I’m convening a few friends and colleagues to discuss our own personal investing on Friday, December 4 at 12 noon ET. Most of the time will just be candid Q&A and small group discussion about the things you’ve done that have felt most aligned and where you’re feeling the furthest from where you want to be. Join us with this zoom link
  12. Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is perhaps one of the most tangible manifestations of the Economy of Francesco. Through the annual November collection, CCHD brings in and gives out about $10 million per year. They fund hundreds of low-income community organizing & cooperative economic development projects. Their 50th Anniversary is coming up and they’re beginning to plan regional gatherings and are asking us to help. We want to recognize CCHD as one of the US Catholic Church’s most concrete manifestations of the Economy of Francesco in our midst. More to come in 2021.

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