Progress

from the October 2013 Slow Money Progress Report:

We see both the opportunity that lies ahead and the considerable continuing challenges lenges of entrepreneurship and stewardship that are commensurate with this opportunity.

Building a decentralized and dynamic network, supporting extensive amounts of volunteerism, innovating along the boundaries of investing and philanthropy, and nurturing thought leadership that is sparking across multiple constituencies nationwide—all of this requires team building, shared learning, technical support and a multiyear perspective.

From July 2012 to June 2013, approximately $800,000 was donated to Slow Money. In turn, we catalyzed $11 million of funding into 82 small food enterprises. That is, for every dollar donated to Slow Money, approximately $14 of funding was catalyzed and significant social capital built.

That said, a movement is not an investment fund, or, even, an investment strategy.

This creative tension is at the heart of Slow Money. After all, what two aspects of human affairs are more apparently divergent than investing and activism? The two have been conjoined effectively at a few junctures—think: the Sullivan Principles and various divestiture or shareholder activism campaigns, including today’s 350.org campaign urging college endowments to divest from oil stocks.

The largest frame through which to understand public resonance with the vision of Slow Money is this: We are giving our money to people we don’t know very well, to invest in things they don’t understand very well, halfway around the world in places most of us will never visit. Does this seem like a recipe for a healthy future?

A small, partial but heartening response: Invest in things that we understand, near where we live, starting with food.

Joseph Stiglitz says: “We are not fixing the structural problems of the economy because we don’t know what the structural problems are.”

Tom Steyer says: “We need to help people see that we can move in a direction other than the lowest common denominator, other than seeing all things through the perspective of Internal Rate of Return.”

We agree and would add: Reconnecting investors to the places where they live and rebuilding local food systems are part of the solution. Because the growing of food connects us to the land, the sharing of food connects us to one another in profound ways, and the building of small food enterprises offers such tangible opportunities for personal empowerment and community resilience, Slow Money has a particular contribution to make to the broader process of cultural, economic and ecological transformation.

In historical terms, we can see that a several-hundred-year swing of the economic pendulum, starting with East India Company and accelerating through the era of millisecond computer trading, may be getting ready to swing back in the direction of High Mowing Organic Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange. If eating, in Wendell Berry’s words, is an agricultural act, then investing must become a cultural act.

We look forward to continuing to develop the resources, working relationships and thought leadership to support this vital process in the decades ahead, steering hundreds of millions of dollars or more “back into the soil,” helping thousands of small food enterprises and sharing the seeds of a restorative economy.

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