I know this is a daunting question.
I’m going to try to make it practical with 3 steps and 3 concrete invitations.
- Weds, April 7, 7pm ET: “Exploring how congregations might re-imagine their assets when long term sustainability is no longer an option.” with Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams – click here to RSVP and/or join)
2. Resource Generation just released their Transformative Investment Principles and is having a webinar tomorrow at 7pm as well
Learn more: https://resourcegeneration.org/transformative-investment-principles/ and in the 3 steps at the bottom of this post.
But first, allow me to start with some context.
In June 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates published The Case for Reparations in the Atlantic and it went viral.
In August 2014, Michael Brown was killed and #BlackLivesMatter emerged as a movement.
Markets Disconnect from Economic Reality
In March 2020, millions of Black, Latino and working class Americans lost their jobs, their economic livelihoods. The Government extended unemployment benefits and sent $1,200 checks to the tune of about $560 billion — while also extending $500 billion to corporations.
In April 2020, the Federal Reserve — the Central Bank of the United States — through it’s quantitative easing program purchased $3 Trillion in assets helping the the rich get richer by bolstering the stock market. [As you’ll see in this chart $3 Trillion is staggering given that just 13 years ago we had less than $1 Trillion on the Fed Balance Sheet. Also note how much bigger this is than the $560 Billion allocated to stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. For context on just how big 3 trillion is — consider for a moment ALL of the farmland in the US. I grew up in Nebraska and so you can imagine walking through and driving for hours across what feels like endless farmland. The total U.S. farmland — 900 million acres — is valued at around $2.9 Trillion)
The staggering reality I’ve just begun to wake up to and wanted to share with you is that we are experiencing and unprecedented de-coupling of the real economy (our lived reality for the vast majority of Americans) from what’s become an artificial economy represented by the Stock Market, which has traditionally been considered a barometer for general economic health. This chart begins to show this disconnection between the Nasdaq and the Earnings Per Share ratio — right along the same period in April 2020 where the Fed injected $3 Trillion into the economy
In Summer 2020, we began to see Black Lives Matter protests — some of the largest in U.S. History by many accounts. Considering the scale of how much wealthier the 1% has gotten — and frankly anybody with meaningful stock market / index fund exposure — you can see why the anger is rightfully pulsating through anybody half-consciously aware of the on-going injustice and inequity of our system.
Where do we look to find the root of this injustice?
I believe it’s critical to see and name this problem as “Capital Supremacy”.
Capital — our money — is in the supreme position so that it’s interests are maximized and reign high above the interests of all others. This has begun increasingly evident to me through our tax code, our legal system, and for me even more opaque our monetary policy (– this $3 Trillion our government just spent).
Capital supremacy shows up in every organization, church, and business. Our Publicly-Traded Corporations structure investor/shareholder interests at the top. The Board and the Management have to always manage their KPIs, Objectives towards the interests of capital. They take into account the needs and interests of their employees, producers, users, communities, the environment only to the extent that they relate to capital’s interests.
So, how do we solve this problem?
I think we must begin to see that we can re-structure business so that other stakeholders’ interests are put into reciprocal relationship — at the governance and ownership levels — with capital.
To me, the answer is clear:
- Employee Ownership
- Steward Ownership (Perpetual Purpose Trusts, Community Trusts, Land Trusts… and the like)
See my previous post on: Let’s Re-Structure Capital’s Extractive Role
To do this — there’s quite a bit of work — and that’s been what I’ve started turning an increasing portion of my focus and attention to.
This image helps give you a taste of the different aspects of that work:
For now, back to the subject at hand…
3 Steps Toward Making Reparations Practical
I’m going to write more about each of these — but for now — I’ll give a brief explanation in this 4-min video:
Step 1: Follow Black Leaders.
Last week, Rev. Dr. Sydney Williams from Crossing Capital Group invited me to join this panel conversation:
He explained the context of his career in investment banking, then as a missionary and pastor — and now trying to bring the two together as he supports congregations to have more agency as they consider their options when developers come knocking at their door because they’re located on such valuable land.
My close colleague and U.S. Economy of Francesco convening partner, Elizabeth Garlow offers this great interview on Religious Assets in Transition with Rev. Dr. Sidney Williams (45 min interview) that gives you a taste of some of his work. It’s in this context that I’ve started to appreciate Dr. Williams’ model and because I’ve spent the past 10 years working alongside congregation leaders across DC I’m so grateful for his work.
When Black leaders invite you to join them… follow their lead. Trust them. (Even if, like me, you feel woefully under-qualified… the point is to be humble, show up and really stand alongside to support their leadership and vision…)
Step 2: Recognize Capital Supremacy and Learn the Money Stories that shape you and our culture.
I’ve only recently begun to experience the transformative work happening in many movement spaces around sharing and reflecting vulnerably with our own “money stories”. Resource Generation is one of a number of organizations that’s helping people reflect on their class and race positionality in a way that is welcoming, affirming, and ultimately empowering for people with access to wealth, land, and power and to re-distribute it.
Other coaches and trainings I’ve been to have helped me wrestle more honestly with my own money stories that I inherited from my father about scarcity. Realizing that it felt like we were closer to financial hardship than we actually were — mainly because of the scarcity mentality / money story he had inherited. In reality, I grew up as part of the professional class — with vacations and travel and elite schools. This newfound naming of some of my own money stories helps me to see the narrative power that holds me back.
I allow narratives of scarcity, anxiety and fear — (and comparing to others) — to hold me back from the more generous frame around abundance, immense social capital — desires for resilient elderhood — that allow me to more seriously move my money from capital supremacy investing to right-relationship investing.
This shift in narratives allows me to feel at peace with the reciprocity the money I steward is promoting in the world versus the exploitation and extraction.
If you’re curious about more, I’d recommend getting acquainted with Resource Generation and their circles of praxis as well as Chordata Capital, the Next Egg, Marco Vangelisti and so many others that I feel are building important community around these questions
I’d invite you to meet these folks this Wednesday, April 7 at 7pm ET as Resource Generation launches their Principles.
- Jessica Norwood, founder and CEO of Runway, a financial innovation firm committed to dismantling systemic barriers and reimagining financial policies and practices–all in the name of Black liberation.
- The team at Chordata Capital, an anticapitalist wealth management firm with a commitment to support clients in redistributing rather than continuing to accumulate wealth.
- Restorative Economics practitioner and RG Board Member, Nwamaka Agbo
Step 3: Shift Your Capital to Right Relationship
Finally, I invite you to start experimenting. One of the metaphors I love most is that we need dandelion seeds to scatter everywhere for this new, solidarity economy to emerge. We need your brilliant, human, genuine curiosity, concerns and desires to shape what comes next. The only way we’ll be able to organize and move enough people to really make solidarity, subsidiarity, the common good real — is if we have a million flowers blooming in every corner of this Country and around the world. The only way that happens is with your genuine desire, sense of pain, anger, grief — as well as hope for a more abundant future to be centered in this work.
With that in mind, I want to let you know that I feel like you MUST be an agent of this movement for this to really work. If you’re reading this, you’re already turned on to the themes I’m discussing here.
The real work begins when you take the right next step. What is that right next step?
Only you can know.
This is why I’m so committed to the concept of “your most important work”. We need you to take yourself seriously such that you value your time and your schedule and your priorities so much so that you really make time for your most important work… not each month… or each week… but each day.
If part of that work includes moving your money, I’m delighted to offer you Felipe’s Resource Library to give you an overview of some options. I’m even happy to sit down and talk with you — if some money coaching is what you need.
If you’re looking for a financial advisor, I just had a great conversation with Hendrix Berry from Balanced Rock Capital in Boston about their Direct, Impact, Alternative and Local Investing. They have a great offering for folks with under $300,000 in wealth.
If you’re in position for deeper work and have more than $2 million to shift, Chordata Capital is great.
If you steward money for an institution and you have tens of millions, hundreds of millions, billions, or tens of billions, I’d be delighted to have a conversation and invite you to one of our investor circles that emerged from our most recent Investing in Livable Futures Workshop focused on Catholic Social Teaching and Cooperatives – Excerpts and testimonials here and overview and invite document here.
Most importantly, no matter where you are, I want to encourage you to take the next step.
Take $1,000 and loan it to your local coffee shop owner or food truck operator — but don’t do it in the conventional finance #CapitalSupremacy way… do it in right relationship. Put your money at risk first. Make sure your money is non-extractive — adding more value than it takes and ensure there is a fair distribution of risk and reward.
Or maybe you’re trying to choose between two fund managers — one who has got a “track record” and one who is Black, Latino or Female and doesn’t (because the system has systematically excluded them from having one). Unless and until investors like you and I give them the chance… we’re not going to see the money transformation we’re all longing for. And don’t just be the last one in — be the first one to commit. Be the one that helps bring 5 to 10 others along with you and help get that first close that exceeds others expectations. That’s right relationship. That’s reparations made practical.
I have good news.
There is so much good on the other side of this money transformation journey.
Once you begin to try to make reparations practical, you’ll begin to feel your own liberation bound up with our Black brothers and sisters. If you really align your money with the liberation, thriving, and flourishing of workers — you’re going to find yourself with so much joy, laughter, friendship, and community. That’s because you’ll be doing this in relationship with Black and working class leaders.
The abundance might even surprise you.
Don’t let me fool you — I haven’t seen the promised land yet… but I’m getting hopeful that it’s on the horizon and within reach.