Our Mandate for Change is Upon Us – Book Excerpt – The Money Question

Our mandate for change is upon us.  Like those before us, let us seize the moment and take this leap of faith towards a more stable, secure, and equitable economic system. This book is written as part of that a leap of faith.  Not everything I envision here in the way of a systemic solution will work, but it’s a beginning of a dialogue that we must have.  It’s a first step towards imagining a better way to distribute economic power.  We need an open and honest conversation about CO-creating a system that is more stable, more equitable and more sustainable.  Wall Street must now come together with Main Street and Washington working collaboratively towards a systemic solution to the root causes of our economic crisis. The signs and symptoms of a system under stress are everywhere around us.  If we have the courage to face up to the reality of our situation, how can we not work together to make changes to a fundamentally flawed system? Before it’s too late we need to think anew about the fundamental nature of a system built upon centralized banks that are “too big to fail.”

The recent spasms of capital markets make the time ripe for such thinking.  Suddenly even the richest amongst us have now joined in the conversation about fundamental flaws in the market based system and what can be done to correct them.

“I start from a market based perspective and the market system has served us very well.  …  But there are times when the market system just fails.”

– Warren Buffet

Bill Gates in his 2007 commencement address at Harvard, called for a new form of “creative capitalism” that moves beyond the current limitations of markets.  In 2005 Mohammed Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and pioneer of microcredit was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and now calls for a new form of “Social Entrepreneurship.” These ideas and others seek to create market based incentives to value what markets currently do not recognize. The building blocks of something significant are now taking shape at the intersection of money, meaning and markets.  An emerging movement suggests there is a better way of thinking about money and markets.  It goes by different names and has varied elements: micro-finance, green economics, social capital, social innovation, impact investing, social responsibility, slow money, social marketing, social media, venture philanthropy, social enterprise, complementary currency, blended value and triple bottom-line accounting.   The common theme running through all of these initiatives is that somehow we have to find a way to introduce the value of intangible “social and natural capital” into the operation of markets.  Markets are wondrous machines that have served our economy well, but they have glaring blind spots.  Markets as presently constituted have no way to measure or monetize the value of things that are essential to our societies long term ability to sustain itself in the face of mounting levels of debt.

Economic and environmental imbalances can tolerated for a short time, they cannot endure indefinitely without a reckoning! We hold the future in our hands. As our economic and environmental crises intensify, a new wave of thinkers and social entrepreneurs are putting forth business models with the power to transform the systems that support us.  Pieces of a comprehensive solution that had been disjointed and disorganized are coming together as building blocks for a sustainable solution to our financial, ecological and social crisis.  These innovators are not your typical blue suits, nor are they a rag tag collection of fluffy thinking dreamers. They represent a full spectrum from the worlds of finance, environmentalism, non profit, philanthropy and public policy. They include bankers, foundations, activists, new money, venture capitalists, financial advisors as well and a whole new breed of social entrepreneurs who are changing the world with business models that integrate financial return with social contribution and ecology. Their discussions are rooted in rigorous analysis and hard metrics.  The consensus is clear: the old models of capitalism are coming under serious stress, and the time is ripe for bold new thinking that integrates a more holistic view of what constitutes true economic value and sound investment strategy.

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