RSF Integrated Capital Institute Reflections
I have mixed feelings. I’m feeling sad and a little lonely. On the other hand, I am hopeful and excited about what we can do together to create a more just and sustainable world – if we really want to.
Over the last 10 months, I’ve been part of the RSF Integrated Capital Institute. Our 24 fellows are financial activists, philanthropists, social change makers from all over North America. The program is over but the fellowship is not.
Using Capital to Heal
We’ve learned together about money, the power it holds, and how it can be used to heal. We talked about racial justice and how the flow of capital, or lack thereof, perpetuates an injustice in communities of color. We talked about reparations after two hundred fifty years of slavery, ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of separate but equal, and thirty-five years of racist housing policy.
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
I live in the state of Vermont that is 95% white. It wasn’t on my radar that the median white family in this country has 41 times more wealth than the median African-American family and 22 times more wealth than the median Latino family. Efforts like that of The Magnolia Mother’s Trust in Mississippi, the brainchild of one of our fellows, Aishi Nyandoro, are providing much needed financial and community support to a group of single, black mothers. And, doing it in a way allows for dignity and trust as part of the solution to break the cycle of poverty.
The World’s Soil is Running Out
We heard about the fact that in 60 years if we don’t change our practices, we will lose all of our topsoil. No topsoil, no farms. No farms, no food. And, we saw firsthand at Paicines Ranch, the important work they are doing to restore topsoil to their working lands through regenerative agricultural practices, and are teaching others to do the same.
Rethinking the Purpose of Money
We talked about how to use effective integrated capital strategies to fundamentally re-think the purpose of money and use it for good rather than harm. In its most simple form, integrated capital is defined as “the coordinated use of diverse forms of financial and human capital to support enterprises and strategies that address complex social and environmental problems.”
Twenty-Four Creative Capital Projects to Change the World
Our journey together led to 24 creative capital projects that, if implemented, could bring about positive and lasting change in this world. Things like:
- creating a more sustainable textile industry;
- supporting people out of poverty through a guaranteed income program;
- improving gut health through understanding how microbiomes in our soil impact our health;
- helping community foundations with impact investing strategies;
- educating and engaging more women to invest in what matters to them;
- improving access to land for sustainable ag farmers through creative loan guarantees;
- providing a mechanism for cooperative ownership of avocado farms to ensure farmers have a living wage and the environment doesn’t get destroyed through extractive production practices;
- taking risk to educate wealth holders about where their money is doing harm, and how they can move it to doing good in the world;
- investing in women of color entrepreneurs to change the story of who gets access to capital;
- reparations for indigenous people whose lands were taken;
- building a fund in Mexico to invest in impactful businesses whose work is to heal the world;
- investing in herb farms in support of natural, organic ways to heal ourselves; and
- collaborating across state boundaries to invest deeply in businesses who are reversing climate change.
Wow… never have I been among a group of such talented, caring, action-oriented people who understand the urgency of the work. We were 24. The previous group of RSF Fellows (the inaugural cohort) were 22. Total RSF Fellows to date: 46. If we each brought our learning back to our community and inspired 3 people, and they in turned inspired 3 people, and so on, just think what we can do together. Pay it forward.