Cultivating Change: Slow Money in Practice

Slow%20Money%20Institute.jpgThe Slow Money movement calls for the creation of new capital markets–markets that channel the flow of investment to small enterprises to bring about sustainable growth in local economies. This grand vision strives to support “tens of thousands of independent, local-first enterprises at the base of the restorative economy.” And now, towards the middle of 2009, the practical fruition of this vision is beginning to unfold across the US.
Woody Tasch, chairman and president of Slow Money, argues that money moves too fast around the globe and that free markets don’t always know best. He dares us to step away from the overpowering “economic and fiduciary nonsense” that controls our financial system and reconsider how we invest for the rebuilding of communities and wealth, protection of the environment, and sustainable food production. Since our previous review of the pioneering book Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, we can now see the snow-balling practical success of this initiative taking place throughout the nation.

Slow Money Institutes
One of the central elements in operation today is the creation of Slow Money Institutes. The first Slow Money Institute meetings were conducted in 2008 in Vermont and Northern California. In practice, these groups form a stakeholder network for various geographical regions that meet to discuss ideas, share experiences, and define and implement strategies for investing in local communities through sustainable food systems. Stakeholders in these networks include food producers, growers, NGO leaders, and investors. In these meetings different models have been presented for raising capital and the representatives have discussed challenges and opportunities specific to their respective locations. Other Slow Money Institute gatherings have been planned in 2009, such as last week’s in Greater Hudson Valley, and later in the year in New Orle√°ns, Philadelphia, Kentucky, Raleigh-Durham, and Santa Fe.
Slow Money Alliance
The Slow Money Alliance was created to develop a network of social capital to provide means to effectively direct financial capital into sustainable investment options. The Alliance is a group of leaders in the Slow Money movement and over time will continue to provide seed capital, advice, technical assistance, and relationship management.
The Slow Money movement is trying to create the foundation of a new approach to investing, one where people can look for a balance in long-term social, environmental, and financial return. It brings a human scale back to economic transactions and provides a platform for interaction between investees and investors who have aligned missions. It means that there is a meaningful commitment between investing parties, based on shared objectives for sustainable change and a desire for long-term economic growth, in place of the mechanical motions of traditional investing, which can be made without direct communication or relationship-building, heavily focused on exit strategy options and void of wider goals in relation to community building and environmental management.
In essence, Slow Money forms part of a wider consciousness about redefining our consumer practices and investing locally, but brings an entirely new element to this movement. Traditionally, schemes have been promoted to avoid participating in large-scale and unsustainable economies, such as consuming less, buying locally-grown produce, avoiding credit loaning, using cash, as well as mechanisms to short-circuit the financial system with local currencies (such as the Ithica Hour time dollar system in New York or the Local Exchange Trading Schemes in the UK). But what is unique about Slow Money is that instead of proposing strategies to side-step the existing financial system it offers a clear path to revolutionize our approach. It makes conceivable an entirely new investment culture and economy: one that is built upon preservation and restoration as opposed to extraction and consumption.

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