I’ve been to a couple of events lately that gave me hope for the future.
COCAP, which was started by Hub co-founder Konda Mason and attorney Jenny Kassen, was exciting for a lot of reasons. First off, in a workshop on investment and entrepreneurship, almost all the speakers were women – seventeen out of nineteen, by my count – and many were women of color.
Secondly, the event was blunt about its purpose: redistributing wealth by investing in the kind of people and businesses we need, and particularly in the ones that always seem to get overlooked. The speakers weren’t shy about mentioning the disparity in wealth among different racial groups in the US or about the bias that is inherent in our capital system.
Marjorie Kelly, author of Owning Our Future, started things off with an explanation of how our current system is set up only to maximize returns to shareholders. She focused on employee ownership, discussing the current “50 by 50” movement – an effort to have fifty million employee owners in the US by 2050.
Nwamaka Agbo detailed the issues of structural racism, pointing out that past practices such as redlining, Jim Crow laws, and public policies blocked African Americans from developing wealth, leading to the current state of inequality. She is a fellow at the Movement Strategy Center.
Michelle Long of Balle inspired us with the idea that we should use our imaginations. She quoted Einstein: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
And then we got a panel of women who handle socially valuable investments for people with serious money. One observation sums up the radical approach they have to a traditionally conservative profession: Sometimes the right rate of return for an investment is zero.
After lunch we heard from entrepreneurs, many of whom are taking advantage of the JOBS act provisions that allow investment by small investors in small businesses. (That program and others are summarized here on the Locavesting website.)
The final panel included people doing all kinds of work in their communities to develop local business and get it funded. One of the participants was Janelle Orsi, of the Sustainable Economies Law Center, who works not just on helping groups get past the legal obstacles, but on changing the law to make things easier. (I’m proud to be a supporter of SELC.)
I’m not one of those wealthy investors, but I came away with ideas about how I can put my little bit of money to work in my community. And with a great appreciation for the many people doing the kind of work we need in our society.
The Ovarian Psycos movie was inspriring for a different reason. This group was put together by young women of color to make change in their own neighborhood for themselves, their famlies, and the others who live there. That is, this isn’t a social change organization set up by well-meaning people who don’t actually know what’s going on; it’s a group formed by women who know what the problems are and how to fix them.
And they built it around bicycling and their own toughness. Their motto is “Ovaries so big we don’t need no fucking balls” and they do their mass bike rides to drive that point home.
But they’re also activists and they’ve spun off other activities in music and art. They have a headquarters and they do more than ride bikes.
The movie was excellent, but my real hope came from watching all these young women take action.
We face a lot of challenges in this world, but some people are doing their part to make it a better place.