As I read his post, I remembered how I felt when I was in one of Marco Vangelisti’s workshops. The feeling of desperation to have my money be working for a more livable future.
So, I’m writing this post here to give myself the push to divest from the stock market and reinvest as much as I reasonably can before the end of September (giving me enough time to talk with my partner and others about it… :).
I’ve been thinking about and wanting to take my money out of the stock market for a few years (mostly for ethical reasons).
I started to get more serious when my smartest wealth management friend Jack told me he exited the stock market because he felt it was “frothy”. He instead decided to start buying down and paying off his mortgage.
I’ve taken about 1/2 of what I had in index funds out… (like Vanguard’s S&P 500 index fund — which is what my smartest friends told me I should do 3, 5, 10 15 years ago when I first started thinking about this when an employer made me put away retirement money…)
but now, I’m considering going all the way and taking a bunch more out of the S&P 500 and the stock market.
I’m probably not going to go to all cash like this guy suggests — but rather split the rest between a few places I really believe in:
Kachuwa Impact Fund — founded by Blake Jones — one of the top co-op entrepreneurs of our time. He started Namaste Solar — a worker-owned co-op that has done phenomenally well. Amicus Solar — a purchasing co-op. A Clean Energy Credit Union — and now he leads (on a volunteer basis) Kachuwa Impact fund — which is invested about half in real estate and the other half in cooperatives or perpetual trusts — or social impact focused ventures — https://www.kachuwaimpactfund.com/about (Side note, they just agreed to a $15,000 investment in CPA Co-op which pays 5% interest for 10 years). Because I’ve been talking to Blake, I know he’s raising money right now — let me know if you’re interested.
CNote — https://mycnote.com/ — 2.5% – this invests in community development and women-led & women-owned enterprises.
top influential US cooperative movement leaders (i.e. Doug O’Brien, Paul Hazen, Nathan Schneider)
investors that are re-shaping the way we think about risk & return as well as impact, legacy & a livable future (i.e. Marco Vangelisti, Essential Knowledge 4 Transition)
cutting edge community development & community ownership leaders (i.e. Jennifer Bryant, Alison Powers, )
We’re also drawing in:
young entrepreneurs taking the tools of private equity and applying it tackling the racial wealth gap through employee ownership (i.e. Phil & Todd from Apis & Heritage Capital Partners)
movement leaders from Zebras Unite, who are countering existing startup and venture capital culture by creating alternatives.
wise leaders from spiritual & religious traditions who are thinking on time horizons and scale of impact — that most of us are just starting to dream of (Myra Jackson, Sr. Corinne Floreck; Ryan Strode, Fr. Seamus Finn, Elizabeth Garlow)
The workshop brings together frameworks from movement organizing, cooperative economics, finance, leadership science & change-making & what’s at stake in this moment.
The Workshop Format
The format for this Shared Ownership workshop creates space to advance your own project and get feedback from generous peers reflecting back to you what they see.
We introduce frameworks for leadership & movements for change; but flip the traditional format. The vast majority of your time is interacting with peers and/or doing your most important work.
If you’re hungry to know how shared ownership companies work, legal structures, investment vehicles…. We will have prompts and reading lists that will point you towards those resources. However, the focus will be on creating an environment where you can interact with peers — who are some of the top leaders in their respective fields. In other words, the workshop isn’t about what technical knowledge you’ll obtain, but a deeper self-awareness of how the culture changes and what you need to learn next. It’s about how ideas spread and how change happens. We focus on how you can develop what you have to offer for even more transformative impact — because of the relationships & community we’re bringing together in this cohort.
Applications are due, tomorrow, July 21 by midnight.
Friends, as we face pandemics and economic crises, we also face an opportunity to do the work that could shape this decade and this century.
I believe you are the kind of leader we need at the center of this work.
Do you believe in yourself enough to take the leap and commit to your most important work?
We’re here for you when you’re ready.
List of Confirmed Workshop Participants
Doug O’Brien, CEO, National Cooperative Business Association
Paul Hazen, Executive Director, US Overseas Cooperative Development Council, former CEO, NCBA CLUSA
Sarah Clark McBroom, Equity Officer at Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
Sr. Corinne Floreck, former Portfolio Director, Religious Sisters Impact Fund
Myra Jackson, United Nations Representative, Biosphere consultant
Ryan Strode, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, formerly Arabella Advisors
Marco Vangelisti, Impact Investor, Slow Money, EK4T
Molly Hemstreet, Co-Executive Director, Opportunity Threads, Carolina Textile District
Kevin Jones, Co-founder SOCAP, Co-founder, Faith+Finance
Eli Andrews, Accelerate Change
Fr. Seamus Finn, President, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
Elias Crim, Solidary Hall, & US Economy of Francesco
Kyle Johnson, Business Services Collective
Alison Power, Capital Impact Partners
Sara Chester, Co-Executive Director, The Industrial Commons
Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Inspired Foresight
Jennifer Bryant, Washington Area Community Investment Fund
Elizabeth Garlow, Deputy Director, New America’s New Practice Lab
Phil Reeves, Partner, A&H Capital Partners, Board Member, DC Black Chamber of Commerce
Todd Leverette, Democracy At Work Institute, Partner, A&H Capital Partners
“As a result of the authenticity and skill of the facilitation, I and every group member were surprised by how quickly we were able to drop into high-trust sharing and collaboration. The amount that we got “figured out” in a short amount of time was remarkable, life changing for many of us, and potentially world transforming.”
~ Sam Hummel, former CEO, Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (Participant in April 2020 Workshop)
In this time of growing anxiety and concern, I’m feeling increasingly called to stay grounded.
My prayer for myself is that I can take an extra 5-15 minutes each day to just sit in silence.
A few moments to center myself by paying attention to my breath.
A minute to recall that all of life is a gift. Each moment we have is a precious opportunity to love, to go deeper, to be vulnerable and honest, to be generous.
A minute to remember that all we have can at a moment’s notice can slip away — death, illness, tragedy — we encounter risks every day. Driving to work, school.
My prayer is also that I might be calm and slower to act. I want to channel the swells of energy I have in new ways.
For most of the past few years, the story of success that I tell myself is that when I have a swell of energy to do something, I just go do it. Usually this has been in the form of calling a friend, colleague, member-owner, then writing an email, or organizing a gathering or a project. I feel like when I’ve done this something new has emerged and it has been good and has led to what is next. The challenge I face now is that I’m feeling that urge — that swell of energy — bubbling up inside of me increasingly often and I can’t even keep up with all the swells of energy I feel.
Fortunately, I’ve had friends and colleagues who have reflected this back to me and so I’ve begun to slow down. I’ve begun to draft the email, but then not send it. I’ve begun to make the decision not to call that person, but rather to pick up my notebook and write instead.
I’m now trying to figure out how to transmit these swells of energy I feel into the longer, deeper work. What is the most important project I’m called to move forward this year? What might be the most meaningful contribution I can make over the next two years? How am I making meaningful time each day or each week to allow that deeper work the space it needs in my life to become what it’s meant to be?
My prayer is that I continue to invest in my writing, and the slower reflective work that might be what leads me to actually co-creating with God.
As a person of faith, I feel like this deeper, slower writing work is part of co-creating with God. It’s less about what I write today or tomorrow or this month or next month, but it’s the gradual work of patiently observing what’s happening in and around me. It’s the work of becoming gradually more attuned to the signs God’s offering me in my life. For me this is about seeing the work of parenting that I’m in middle of — as connected to who God is calling me to be. (For example, allowing my children space for big feelings, genuinely empathizing with those feelings, and gradually seeing that as connected to their — and my own — development of self-regulation, resilience, and emotional intelligence.)
It’s also about looking back over the past several years on trying to honestly reflect on and integrate what I’ve learned about myself in different work settings. Where have I found the deepest joy and satisfaction? Where have I found my favorite transferable skills being recognized, appreciated, and valued by others? What might God be inviting me to see as I reflect on those patterns over time?
I’ll be honest though. Even while I know intellectually everything that I just said, it’s brutally difficult for me to actualize and implement it in my own life. Yet, by writing it and sharing it with you, I’m inviting you to help me be more accountable to this deeper co-creative work.
I feel particularly compelled to ask for your help and prayers for me (and all of us) in this moment, because of the growing pain, anxiety, and fear that I sense we’re feeling.
For me, a few factors that seem to be exacerbating the difficulty:
Death of Patrick Hidalgo. A week ago, I learned that one of my closest friends died suddenly in his sleep. He was healthy and living in the prime of his life at 41 years old. He was a model for me of someone who balanced work in privileged political circles, while also building meaningful relationships with the poor and marginalized. For example, the last person he spoke with before he died was the immigrant doorman at the building where he lived in Miami. Apparently he had a lengthy and very meaningful conversation with him. At Patrick’s wake I met civil rights lawyers, community organizers, and got the sense that
he spent as much time as he did running his own business as he did
accompanying the poor and those organizing amongst the poor as he did
in elite political circles aiming to change the political and economic narrative, culture and moment in Florida, in Cuba-US relations, and in our Country as a whole.
This helps me see that at the end of our lives, we are measured as much by the depth of the relationships we have and the kinds of community we build and maintain — as anything else.
My own mortality. Because of Patrick’s death, I’ve begun to reflect on my own death. I’m more aware of how I’m living now that I see death as a real possibility in the near term. I want to spend more time thinking about my mortality and re-evaluating where I’m at. I’m going on retreat next week to create space for this conversation with God and deeper reflection.
Growing anxiety and panic. As Coronavirus spreads and begins to affect more and more parts of my life — from conferences and travel, to members of CPA Co-op and thinking about remote learning and alternative ways to worship — I recognize that it’s harder to make time for the gradual, slower work that takes years. It’s so easy to get swept up into the anxiety and panic and spend our time and attention there. It’s harder to keep moving towards the work that is shifting the underlying conditions to make a new economic model possible.
Quarantine and stocking up on food and supplies. The way my partner and family are encouraging me to hunker down seems to be pushing us more into a fear-based mindset and set of behaviors. Even if we do choose to stock up and be prepared, I pray that we not let that fear continue to be the primary operating force in more and more of our actions.
Schools and Universities cancelling. As pressure mounts for more schools and universities to cancel, I see huge opportunities for remote learning. I see huge potential to embrace Zoom virtual meetings, break-out rooms. I’m thinking more and more of the transformative experience I had in Seth Godin’s altMBA 2 years ago and the multiple virtual workshops that I’ve facilitated in the past year that have build authentic, deep community faster than any in person community I’ve been part of in the past couple of years. I’m hopeful that we can make use of this moment to try and be creative and innovate in new ways to do our most important work
In my work world — churches making changes to how they have liturgy and worship also leads to so many more questions — I’ll leave that for another post.
Conferences and mass gatherings being cancelled everywhere.
For me, all this adds up to an invitation to slower, deeper work.
Instead of going to Italy to be with other young economists and entrepreneurs at the end of March; I’m going on a silent retreat. I’m hoping to allow the spirit of Pope Francis’ letter and the model of St. Francis of Assisi to sink in deeper into the fibers of my being.
I pray that you pray for me and all of us that we might resist fear, and take this moment as an opportunity to turn into our most important, deeper work.
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.
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.
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.
Three of my best friends from college just texted me telling me they’re planning to buy carbon offsets and wanted my two cents. The problem is: I’m having difficulty reducing my thoughts to a text.
A little more than 10 years ago, my work as a climate change and clean energy consultant led me to writing a paper on Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Offsets. The more I learned, the more I realized the complexity inherent in trading money for “emissions reductions” in other places. The problems begin with the complexity of the basic criteria for what makes up an offset (additionality, measureability, complete accounting, verifiability, enforceability, permanence).
Assuming you’re looking for a less technical response, I like this below excerpt from Josie Wexler of Ethical Consumer’s “A Short Guide to Carbon Offsets” because she emphasizes some DIY offsetting options and also reminding us that the most important thing is to reduce our own emissions.
Recommendations from Ethical Consumer
We recommend offsetting at the level of individual projects (rather than just giving to a company’s whole portfolio) because this is the level at which there is most information available. Accordingly, most of this feature deals with how best to choose such a project. In the process it also looks at criticisms of specific types of offsets, and of the whole concept.
If you want to buy official offsets, we recommend giving to Gold Standard-approved wind or solar energy projects. You can find Gold Standard VER projects on the Gold Standard website and you can buy Gold Standard CERs directly through the UN’s platform.
Alternately, if you fancy DIY offsetting and want to give to educational projects, the fantastic website Skeptical Science (which largely tackles climate sceptic misinformation) lists some that are crowdsourcing.
Lastly, you should always take promised emission cuts with a pinch of salt, bearing in mind that independent research has cast doubt on them, even in the case of the most reputable standards.
The best thing to do is reduce your own emissions in the first place.
Does it matter if it’s less than a drop in the bucket?
Voluntary vs. Compliance
One of the biggest problems I have is that individual purchases of carbon offsets are like a fraction of a fraction of a contribution to what’s needed.
Carbon offsets were created under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism as a way for countries to comply with their emissions “cap”. Because entities in the EU and in other places have had to comply with these regulations, its created a need for offsets for “compliance” purposes. The vast majority of offsets are purchased from “Compliance” buyers.
The rest of us are “voluntary” buyers — including companies and universities and others.
Then of the “voluntary” buyers, companies buy 98% of the market and individuals (like you and me) buy less than 1%.
My own view is that purchasing carbon offsets is better than nothing, assuming that you are careful about where you buy them. Yet when considering ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, you should compare offsetting to the more certain alternative of directly reducing your own emissions. As offset provider Carbonfund.org states, your motto should be, “Reduce what you can, offset what you can’t.”
If I wanted to encourage you in purchasing offsets, I’d sign off here, given that I like Carbonfund.org’s great tag line.
However, I’ve become quite a skeptic and I believe it’s important to also read through the critique of carbon markets and offsets in particular. The Corner House in the UK provides one of the better critiques on carbon trading.
The report describes the financial aspects of carbon trading and how the carbon market has changed over the past few years as new interest groups and complex financial arrangements have become involved. As a result, carbon quota prices have become more volatile, speculation in the carbon market has increased, and the market is increasingly delinked from its original objective of providing an effective cost-management tool to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Their synopsis document is called, “Designed to Fail“. Here’s an excerpt from page 7:
Advocates of the offset system point to the many world-wide carbon-reduction projects that are funded by the system; the savings to industry (and thus consumers and society at large); the flow of money from North to South; the export of new technologies to developing economies; and how innovation in low carbon technologies has been incentivised. FERN [the author] believes that these claimed benefits very rarely exist in reality, and are heavily outweighed by the significant, systemic failure of offsetting to reduce emissions at all, which we discuss in the last section of this paper.
Another point they make is that “of the US $ 144 billion carbon market, only US $ 3,370 million goes to project developers and only a fraction of that will go to communities who host projects.”
I think some of their critiques help remind us that fundamentally carbon offsets were created to make it easier for us to do more “cost effective” emission reductions. The reality is also that emissions reductions may be cheaper in other places in the Global South.
Thanks to our mainstream neoclassical economic theories and practitioners — with our focus on markets, free trade, individuals, & utility maximization — we’ve created a carbon trading market allowing us to continue doing what we’re doing with our fossil intensive energy infrastructure and pay others to make reductions.
The challenge is: can we create a commodity from a reduction in emissions?
Is our money well spent investing in the financial markets creating these offsets projects, the financiers, administrators, marketers, developers, and verifiers?
Is it better spent on a specific project you do in your house to reduce some of your emissions? Or a project with somebody you know? In your city or in a community you have relationship with and an understanding of abroad? Or might our money be better spent on advocacy or organizing? If we could pass climate policy — with a cap on emissions — on state or federal levels — that would do the most good. What about giving $10 to the Chesapeake Climate Action Network — they’re one of the local groups who I most respect in their organizing and advocacy work. On a national & international level, I believe 350.org has done and continues to do some incredible work. For me it comes down to building power and better vehicles for change. So that’s where I’m investing my money. What are the vehicles I believe are capable of building the power needed to help people, institutions, systems make the hard decisions/investments to decarbonize? And what are the paths to getting states, regions, countries to implement the policy and regulatory changes we need to decarbonize our electric & transportation sectors?I have a few ideas… but I’ll leave that for another post.
I believe our economics can embody a greater democracy.
I believe our economic institutions can be more democratic and fair.
I believe the plurality of thought in economics would bring great benefit to society.
I believe in culture and that our culture is the sum of the ideas floating around inside of it.
We all know it’s much easier to take in others’ ideas than it is to create and share the unique combination of ideas your experiences bring to bear.
I believe we need to be talking more about certain ideas.
I believe George Saunders rightly characterized our media situation with his essay, “Braindead Megaphone”.
I believe our most important work is really matters.
I also know how easy it is to be distracted.
I believe that you spending more of your time on your most powerful work will change you.
I believe that creating tension is essential to producing work and creating change.
In organizing, we call it an “agitation”.
“Agitation is the art of challenging a person to be true to their values, true to self and to act on those values out of their own self-interest. It is the art of pointing out the contradictions between what a person professes and how she or he acts.” ~Gameliel National Training Manual
I also believe new kinds of connection are possible.
New curated cohorts learning together can cement new relationships that move us deeply.
I believe in coaching, good feedback, holding up a mirror, reflecting back to each other what’s most important and what we see.
This is the heart of it: Learning to see.
Learning to see inside ourselves.
Learning to see beyond the next turn.
Learning to really see the other. Be with them and help them see themselves.