The OCCUPY FINANCE BOOK – CHAPTER 9 &10: “Resources: Thinking Outside the Corporations" "And Now…"
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Interview with Natasha Blakeley by Oriana P.
Camera: Oriana P.
Section 3. Things to Do
Chapter 9. Resources: Thinking Outside the Corporations
(a survey of projects, organizations, and apps that might help us find our way out)
Chapter 10. And Now…
NB: My name is Natasha Blakeley and I’ve been a member of Alternative Banking Working group for a year now. What brought me to the group is the realization that I was not mindful and I was not paying attention to the world around me. I realized that I was in a kind of ideological gated community of some sort and I wanted to see different perspectives. In the Alternative Banking group, people come from all sorts of backgrounds. It is an unbelievable experience for me to be part of that community.
ORP: What do you guys do in the group?
NB: It’s hard to really explain what we do but you’re more than welcome to come to one of our meetings. We have a certain procedure, we discuss political and economic issues, we try to educate ourselves on the latest news and what’s happening in the banking system and also come up with alternatives and that’s what partially our book was about, the Occupy Finance Book. The 9th chapter in that book provides practical solutions on how to deal in the current financial environment. If you are feeling that you are completely lost and that you cannot trust anybody, we think that there is a way of realizing that humans have great potential. We can start co-ops for example, we can look around to see if our neighbors are in need or if elderly, who are living down the block, might need some help. This way you start realizing that people are the most important resources…I might not explain myself clearly but…The question was? I think I lost the question….
ORP: No, I think you answered it. What you guys do when you discuss things, you learn from another and then you try to find solutions. You have to educate yourself and then you find solutions.
NB: Right, we try to find solutions, yes.
ORP: We’ve come to the end of the book after this whole series of interviews and you are doing the last two chapters and basically they deal with those alternatives and what to do next. The 9th chapter starts with this great story about what happened in Brazil. Can you explain the story?
NB: Yes, sure. So picture this small town. It was a really poor town, the streets were not paved, there were rats everywhere, families were barely getting by and the local government didn’t know what to do about it. But they saw the rats running around everywhere and people started getting sick so what the local organizers decided to do is to bring garbage cans. They taught the kids, who were just running around on the streets, not going to school, how to sort trash. For sorting trash the kids were promised tokens and those tokens could be used to ride the local buses. So the kids slowly started collecting the garbage and in exchange using the tokens and with those tokens they could ride buses into a bigger city and find jobs or other opportunities. And that started a positive cycle in a way, more and more people started seeing the value in collecting the trash. Slowly the local vendors started accepting the tokens as well and parents got more and more involved, adults started using tokens to take buses to different places to find better paying jobs or jobs period. And that kick started a cycle of rebuilding the city. It happened more than 25 years ago and the city is actually Curitiba and it is located in the South Eastern province of Brazil and now it is considered one of the top ranked cities when it comes to quality of life. They pay attention to recycling and the use of natural resources. It’s just interesting how this thing little thing like using tokens started creating this…..I don’t know, I always picture it like a flower and then the flower turns into a sun and the sun just radiates. I’m sure there’s unforeseen negative effects but overall it is clear that the community benefitted from that. And that is an example of how we can see outside of the box, to use that cliché...but yes, I think we should believe in ourselves and I know it is really hard work but it is possible. Just look around and say, I don’t like it, I’m not gonna take the status quo, I’m gonna change the world.
ORP: yeah, it is amazing because in essence they created a whole new currency. That’s really what they did. Do you know if those tokens are still around? Are they still using them?
NB: I don’t know for a fact but when it comes to alternative or some people use complementary currencies, they are all over the world. They are in Switzerland….and we don’t know, we don’t hear about them because people who are in mass media don’t think it’s important but alternative currencies are all over the world and it’s possible to create this in even a small community. For example, in Madison, Wisconsin, a group of mothers created their own currency and they used popsicle sticks to measure how many hours they owed each other for baby sitting. For example you have a kid, I have a kid, but you have to run errands or go to an appointment, then you just ask, could you please watch little Bobby for a couple of hours, so I watch Bobby and you give maybe 2 sticks, I don’t know the value of their currency but they use popsicle sticks. It’s really interesting and you can go online and read our book and there’s a link to their website and they have a list of things of how you in your community can start a group like this. And you can start your own currency. What is really money? Money is essentially trust. If I trust you, and we’re just gonna use that stick to just remember that I watched your little Bobby so it comes to me running my errands I can just ask you, oh, how many hours, oh, just two….
ORP: So there’s many ways to make change happening and to fight this essentially very corrupt system. One of the interesting projects that was initialized a couple of years ago was the Move Your Money project. Can you talk a little bit about that?
NB: A few years ago Bank of America decided to increase its fees and in protest a group of non-profit organizations decided to call out to people to look at the alternatives and move their money to credit unions or to community based banks. As a result, within a month, a large sum of money, I don’t specifically remember, according to some sources it’s about $4 Billion, was moved. That was a great example of how power of many can change things. And as a matter of fact later on, Bank of America reversed its decision and the fees were no longer imposed on certain accounts.
ORP: They moved their money to smaller banks and credit unions. Why are credit unions better than those big banks?
NB: Well, the way credit unions, the way they are organized it’s a group of people and it’s a purely democratic organization I think, where you have one member, one vote and you have to be a member if a certain group. So there are credit unions that are organized by actors, there are credit unions that are organized by the military as well so you have to qualify for certain credit unions but there are a number of unions that are open to the public and anybody can apply for them. There’s a list of credit unions on our website under resources. Our website is AltBanking.net and also in our book The Occupy Finance Book you’ll find quite a bit of information about credit unions.
ORP: There’s also something in the chapter called the Social Peer-to Peer Lending. What is that?
NB: Essentially it’s an internet based market place I would say where you come and you say, well I would like to borrow X amount of money and hopefully there’s a person on the other side saying well, I can lend you this X amount of money for this kind of percentage per month and then you negotiate the terms. The companies that are around those market places provide documents that both parties sign. That’s essentially a simplified way explaining what peer-to-peer lending is.
ORP: And then there’s another way in the way people organize around money: the Rotating Savings and Credit Association. What is that?
NB: Oh, it turns out those are really old organizations. It’s so interesting, in doing research for this particular chapter I was amazed how wise our ancestors were and how old those organizations or those forma of organizations are, 100-150 years old. The ROSCA’s, that’s the abbreviation, they are basically the poor man’s banks. It’s when a group of people get together and pay membership fees,..say we have 10 members paying $10 per month as a membership fee, so you have a $100 and each month an individual member gets a lump sum of money as a loan. So next month another member get another lump sum of money based on the membership fee, so in this case another $100. And the way they pay it back is through the member ship fees, so basically it is a rotating loan and savings organization. Again, within a small group of people who actually trust each other.
ORP: Ok, so yes, it’s all based in trust but in a sense that’s what we do with the banks too right?
NB: Exactly, right. But you have to recognize that ..well you read the book and by the time you reach the 9th chapter you realize…
ORP: Yeah, there’s not much trust anymore….
NB: I think we need to realize that there are other alternatives, that we don’t just have to rely on them.
ORP: Another thing that I thought was interesting was the Consumer and Business Tech Application, which is a form of mobile banking and widely used in Africa.
NB: Right, you’ve probably heard about M-Pesa (note: M for mobile, pesa is Swahili for money), it’s a Kenyan I guess bank …there is no landline telephone system and there is no banking. So whenever there is a huge vacuum something always emerges and one of these things is the way people in Kenya start paying each other. They first paid each other with minutes on their cell phones, so minutes were currency and out if that grew a banking system on top of that. How specifically, I don’t know but it looks like it tremendously enriched the vendor community there. They were able to pay each other in a short period of time.
ORP: In the chapter there’s a lot more of these examples and they are all really great. How come we are not applying them more?
NB: Well, you think we are not doing that but we are and that’s what’s exciting about this particular time. People realized that the system the way it is right now is not working for them and rather than being discouraged….humans have a great potential of imagining other possibilities and if you look around there are lots of co-ops. People organize themselves and they are growing like the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland (note: http://evergreencooperatives.com). They now grow lettuce for local grocery stores. You can go online and find out more about the movement of the green coops, they are popping up here and there. The workers owned organizations, there’s hundreds of thousands of them throughout this country. The thing is, like I said, the press doesn’t want to cover it because it is not interesting but it is happening. It is like things percolating and some would say that it is utopian ideas and they would be right but from a historically point of view I think it has happened in the past. People would disregard, like the Human Rights Movement, it started in the thirties with people who’s names we don’t know anymore but it created the foundation for the sixties, for Martin Luther King Jr., to go to Washington to march and that’s what started the process. And I think that’s what happening right now in this country and around the world. People are doing things but they are under the radar. The reason also why I joined Alternative Banking Working Group is because I wanted to find out about it and tell everybody about it … go and learn more….even better,… try to start your own community based organization or a little coop, no matter what you do, whether you’re an artist or a banker or a code writer,..
ORP: Thank you.
Chapter 9. Resources: Thinking Outside the Corporations
(a survey of projects, organizations, and apps that might help us find our way out)
“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards — as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”
In a poor city a large number of neighborhoods were littered with garbage. Rats spread diseases. The water was contaminated. Kids played in
trash and got sick. The local government didn’t have the money to fix the problem. One of the few scarce resources that the local government had was an unused municipal bus system.
How could buses help to deal with the horrible trash problem? The city mayor had an idea. Large bins were placed along the streets near places with piles of garbage, and people who lived nearby were shown how to sort trash. Those who collected and sorted the trash were given tokens to ride buses.
Thousands of kids started collecting the trash and teaching their parents how to do it. In no time,people started riding buses using tokens. Often they went downtown to find jobs. Pretty soon local food vendors started using tokens as a form of payment. The neighborhoods became clean. This radiated into the other social sectors: creating green areas and providing housing.
This happened almost 25 years ago and the city is Curitiba —the capital of a southeastern state in Brazil, which now tops some of the best quality-of-life charts in the world.1
By this chapter in the book, we hope it has become clear how our financial system created the credit crisis of 2007-2008 and the ensuing Great Recession.
The sad part is that it is being rebuilt —or more accurately, patched up —with the same set of tools and by the same people who have failed to place value on social and environmental risks. The same people who benefited from the complexity of financial markets and steered them away from socially useful purposes.
In many respects, we find ourselves lost and paralyzed, not knowing where to start and what to do —possibly much like the people of Curitiba. Change can come from three different directions:
1.It can be imposed by the government and regulators if there's enough of a public outcry,
2.It can come from insiders changing the way they operate, or
3.It can come from new ways of doing business and rebuilding the financial system from the bottom up.
In the case of Curitiba, both the local government and the people of the city were willing to change, maybe because they had no other options. Similarly we can do it by recognizing collective human potential, our own potential, and ingenuity. That will give us courage to imagine alternatives and build a different financial system from the bottom up.
Join a group or a community based organization that matters to you, or start one if none exists.
Make waves and become part of the Occupy Wall Street movement in your community.
Film and Video:
“The Quiet Coup” by Simon Johnson,
“We recognize that everyone deserves adequate housing, meaningful work, short hours, fair wages, access to health care and a truly liberating education. We can’t fulfill these obligations if we continue to cooperate with the system as it currently exists. Why keep paying our money to the Wall Street mob? We know our resources could be better spent.”
Source: The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual3
Another very useful source is online courses. If you don’t have access to the Internet, go to your local public library and use its computers to watch tutorials about the financial system on sites like KhanAcademy.org, Coursera.org, and OpenYale.com.
Move Your Money Project
The “Move Your Money” campaign is a decentralized project to convince people to move their banking accounts from too-big-to-fail banks to smaller community banks and credit unions. The “Move Your Money” project was partly a result of people’s dissatisfaction when Bank of America announced plans to increase its fees. Within 90 days, 5.6 million adult Americans changed banks.
The Independent Community Bankers of America association said that a poll of its 5,000 members indicated that about 60 percent of community banks are gaining customers who no longer trust the big financial institutions. 4 You can find more information and a list of small community banks on the association’s site (www.icba.org).
Credit unions are an alternative for many people, although they each have a charter which restricts who is allowed to be a member. An exception to that rule, which allows anyone to open an account after joining a group with a free membership, is the NASA Federal Credit Union.
You can think of credit unions as a parallel financial industry. They are depository not-for-profit institutions created to serve their members’ financial needs. They are accountable to all of their members, not to a limited number of owners.
Credit unions offer many of the same services as banks: mortgages, car loans, personal loans, small dollar loans, credit cards, savings and checking accounts, international money transfers, retirement planning, and budgeting. Accounts at both banks and credit unions are insured for up to $250,000 (by the FDIC for banks, and by the NCUA for credit unions). However, there are very important differences. Credit unions generally have missions to serve their local communities. This means that the money deposited by members often (but not always) stays local.
Credit unions are governed democratically; each member has one vote, regardless of the size of the member’s deposits. There is a member-elected board of directors which is volunteer-based.
There are over 70 credit unions in New York City alone and 8,000 nationwide, and the industry has been around for more than 100 years. Many provide their members with access to extensive surcharge-free ATM networks. Community Development Credit Unions (CDCU) have a specific
mission to serve low-income communities. CDCU have the ability to fund-raise, offer affordable terms with low minimum balances, promote financial literacy, and provide financial counseling. Find more information by contacting The National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.
Social (Peer-to-Peer) Lending
We want people to be informed about another kind of parallel financial industry as well. It is called peer-to-peer lending. This is an industry that brings together individual savers and lenders on online platforms. Social lending bypasses banks and credit card companies and claims to deliver better interest rates directly to both borrowers and savers. There are a lot of options, but the sites listed below have been in the social lending space for a while and seem to have found a working business model.
• Lending Club • Lending Tree • LoanBack
• Zopa (UK)
Note that some sites act as a contract administrator, only creating loan documents for you to use with people you already know. With those sites, the idea is to create a legally binding contract that helps preserve friendships and families by letting everyone know where they stand upfront.
A couple of words of caution are due. First, while peer-to-peer lending might be a great option for some people, the current approach can be seen as a way to get around regulations, in particular the FTC's Equal Credit Opportunity Law,5 by using models that judge people's credit risk by their browsing history or their social network.6 This is problematic and can be seen as yet another example of regulators not keeping up with so-called financial innovation.
Having said that, peer-to-peer lending is filling a vacuum left behind by the banks, at least for now.
Rotating Savings and Credit Association
A Rotating Savings and Credit Association or ROSCA is a group of individuals who agree to meet for a defined period of time in order to save and borrow together. "ROSCAs are the poor man's bank, where money is not idle for long but changes hands rapidly, satisfying both consumption and production needs."7
ROSCAs are essentially a group of individuals who come together and make regular cyclical contributions to a common fund, which is then given as a lump sum to one member in each cycle. A member will lend money to other members through her regular monthly contributions. After having received the lump sum amount when it is her turn to borrow from the group, she then pays back the amount in regular monthly contributions. This explains the name for such
groups: rotating savings and credit associations. Depending on the cycle in which a member receives his lump sum, members alternate between being lenders and borrowers.
Of course, any system like this can be set up and can work well in good times. It's the question of what happens during financial crises or other hard times that tests such a system.
The common assumption has been that we all benefit from the free market operations of big banks. But as has been pointed out multiple times throughout this book, the current system is no longer able to address many of our financial and social problems. One idea that might help is to familiarize ourselves with ideas that worked in the past and came from public banking.
After the First World War, there was a drastic tightening of credit in the U.S.. In the Midwest, farmers were having a tough time. In response to the plight of its citizens, the state of North Dakota formed a public bank in 1919. All state funds — state tax collections and fees and the funds of state institutions — are deposited with the Bank of North Dakota.
It has successfully been in business for almost 100 years and has generated more than $300 million dollars in revenue in the last 10 years.8 That's about $1,200 per family in North Dakota. Moreover, it has been widely supported by all political parties, which in itself is a rare occurrence in our political climate 9.
Other great examples of state banking are:
One PacificCoast Bank
Since 2010, twenty states have considered or are considering legislation to form a state bank. In Colorado, people put forward a citizen’s initiative to do the same thing. For more information on these and other state initiatives see the Public Banking Institute10. It is a great source for citizens to learn and enact ideas about public banking not only at the state level but also in cities and towns. San Francisco and Portland are on the front lines of changing the status quo. Here are some more references for specific cities:
Portland: see Rich Goward and Jennifer Yocom, “Draft for Public Discussion — Responsible Banking,” Office of the Mayor of Portland.11
San Francisco: see Jonathan Nathan, “Supervisors Hear from San Franciscans About City Finance Options.” 12
Kansas City, MO: Communities Creating Opportunity, “City Council Passes CCO- Supported Responsible Banking Resolution”.13
To see more examples go to www.community-wealth.org.
There are more examples of this quiet change happening in our neighborhoods, but they go mostly under the radar of the mass media. We should look around and find people like ourselves
who are dissatisfied with the status quo and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard to change it. Their ideas and their implementation of them are diverse and vary from community to community.
There is no universal answer to this question, of course, so we should try to find out which approach will work in our respective communities. For that matter, one vital attribute of a working system is to have many different functional banking institutions; we've seen what happens when the financial system is monopolized by one type of thinking and structure. Namely, it becomes unstable.
“...yes, it may take longer than we might hope for the point to sink in nationally, but the buildup of experience, state by state, community by community — as in the prehistory of the New Deal — is also ultimately likely to help put a truly refined model in place nationally.” 14
Consumer and Business Tech Applications
Internationally, there are surprisingly flexible and widespread solutions to the problem of access to money systems, especially in Africa where the infrastructure for what we consider normal banking is especially weak. Mobile banking, in particular, is essentially universal: people can exchange units of currency freely by phone, which is how they pay for things and how they get paid. Considering how developed a system it is in some countries, it's surprising indeed that no such system has been introduced in the United States.
Here are some specific companies that are trying to break into or create such a market:
Mobino: believes that each citizen of the world should be able to effortlessly send and receive money with their phone, no matter where they live, which telephone company they use, and whether they have a bank account, a credit card, or just cash in their pocket, no matter how much they earn and what they buy.
Square: makes a small credit card reader that plugs in to the headphone jack of an iPhone and lets any user take credit card payments via an app. It has allowed thousands of merchants, from taxi drivers to businesses big and small, to take card payments where previously it was impossible because of high charges and embedded vested interests.
WePay: allows businesses and merchants to accept credit cards, similar to Square.
More than 130 million U.S. citizens are involved in one or another form of coop, which is an institution where each person has equal voting rights.
Credit Unions, which we described previously, are similar institutions. The main idea is to democratize the means of ownership. However, when it comes to implementation, each group of individuals decides specifically what approach will work for them.
There are 10,000 worker-owned companies operating in the U.S. and 4,000-5,000 neighborhood owned corporations15. They are present in multiple sectors of the economy: agriculture (land trusts), utilities (electrical co-ops which are more common in rural areas), retail co-ops (ACE and REI), health care, arts and culture, and many more.16
Worker-owned companies are not the only forms of democratized ownership developing without broad recognition by the mass media in the United States. Indeed, there are many strategies the media simply doesn’t cover. Moreover, as the social and economic pain of the new era we have entered intensifies, most worker coops are developing in numbers, scale, sophistication, and reach.
Like other democratized forms of ownership, today’s land trusts are also the benefactors of early experiments that planted innovative seeds — the heart of any long-term evolutionary reconstruction process.
Some of the first serious modern efforts, for instance, were begun in the 1960s and 1970s in western Massachusetts by Robert Swann and in southwest Georgia by Charles and Shirley Sherrod. All three were deeply involved in the Civil Rights movement and saw cooperative land ownership both as an answer to systemic problems and, in the case of the Sherrods, as a way to help poor black farmers forced off the land by mechanization and political retaliation for their civil rights activities.
At the time the early trusts were conventionally seen as interesting utopian experiments signifying hard work and idealism, but essentially not going anywhere serious. However, hundreds of such efforts now exist, and new land trusts are being established on an expanding, ongoing basis in diverse contexts and cities.
There are also thousands of “social enterprises” that use democratized ownership to make money and use both the money and the enterprise itself to achieve a broader social purpose. One of the most impressive is Pioneer Human Services (PHS) in Seattle, Washington, an organization that provides employment, job training, counseling, education, and housing to recovered alcoholics and drug addicts.
PHS was established some fifty years ago as a nonprofit corporation dependent upon donations and grants. Its $67 million annual budget is now in significant part funded by revenues from businesses it created as part of its overall strategy. Among other things, PHS runs a full-service precision sheet metal fabrication and machining shop, produces thousands of aerospace parts for Boeing, and, through its catering services, prepares and distributes more than fifteen hundred meals a day to hospitals, care centers, and nonprofit and government facilities. PHS’s social enterprises employ nearly a thousand theoretically impaired and unemployable people.
At the other end of the continent, Greystone Bakery in Yonkers, New York, was founded by a Buddhist teacher to employ his students, but the organization’s mission quickly expanded to provide jobs for neighboring inner-city residents 17.
Another direction in social enterprise development is illustrated by Southwest Key Programs in the heavily Latino East Austin section of Austin, Texas. Presently the fourth largest Hispanic nonprofit organization in the country, Southwest Key Programs has an annual budget of over $74 million and a staff of more than thirteen hundred employees. Following a path similar to that of Pioneer Human Services, it decided to expand into business development both to support its projects and to offer work to trainees. Start-ups include Café del Sol and Southwest Key Maintenance & Janitorial 18.
By far the most common social enterprise is the traditional community development corporation (CDC). Nearly five thousand CDCs have been in operation in almost every U.S. city of significant size for a long time. For the most part, CDCs have served as low-income housing developers and incubators for small businesses. Early on in the fifty-year history of the movement, however, a different, larger vision was in play — one that is still present in some of the more advanced CDC efforts, and one that suggests additional possibilities for the future.
New Community Corporation (NCC) in Newark, New Jersey, is a large-scale neighborhood nonprofit that employs roughly thirteen hundred neighborhood residents, manages two thousand housing units, has $500 million in assets, and has an approximately $200 million operating budget. Though modest in the total picture, proceeds from NCC businesses — including a shopping center anchored by a major supermarket — help support day care and after-school programs, a nursing home, and four medical day care centers for seniors. NCC also runs the School of Practical Nursing and Gateway to Work programs, both designed to train young residents for future careers. 19
The list can go on and on. Innovative things are happening and there is time for us to start challenging the status quo by asking what is the right thing for each of us to pursue and for our families and communities to do. We can decide what can be done on the practical level and not simply engage in rhetoric!
1 Alicia Fazzano and Dr. Marc Weiss, “Curitiba, Brazil—Economic Strategy Report”,Global Urban Development Organization, July 2004.
2 “Rich People Didn’t Create Jobs,” Nick Hanauer TED Talk, March, 1 2012. It is not available in the TED Talk archive but is on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKCvf8E7V1g
3 The Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual, Strike Debt/Occupy Wall Street, September 2012 www.strikedebt.org 4 Michael Winship, “Giving Up Your Bank For Lent”, Moyers & Company-On Democracy, March 15, 2012
6 Hamza Shaban , “LinkedOut”, The New Inquiry, July 19, 2013
7 F.J.A. Bouman, “Indigenous Savings and Credit Societies in the Developing World” in von Pischke, Adams and Donald (Eds.) Rural Financial Markets in the Developing World, World Bank, 1983.
8 Stacy Mitchell, “How State Banks Bring The Money Home”, Institute for Local Self Reliance of the Bank of North Dakota, September 15, 2011 (www.ilsr.org)
12 Jonathan Nathan, “Supervisors Hear From San Franciscans About City Finance Options”, BeyondChron, February, 9, 2012 www.beyondchron.org/articles/Supervisors_Hear_From_San_Franciscans_About...) or Luke Thomas, “Supervisor Avalos Declares Re-Election Bid,” Fog City Journal www.fogcityjournal.com/wordpress/3494/supervisor-avalos-declares-re-elec...
13 “City Council Passes CCO-Supported Responsible Banking Resolution”, Communities Creating Opportunity. http://myemail.constantcontact.com/A-CCO-Victory--City-Council-Passes-Re... Ordinance.html?soid=1101339995598&aid=KbY9HXioUy8
14 Gar Alperovitz, What Then Must We Do, (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013).
15 Gar Alperovitz, “Worker-Owners of America, Unite!”, New York Times, December 14, 2011 (www.nytimes.com). 16 For more information, see the work of Gar Aperovitz and also Green Worker Cooperatives.
17 John Golden, “The Zen of Brownies”, Westchester County Business Journal, May 11, 2009.
18 Social Enterprises Overview www.swkey.org/about/
19 New Community Corporation www.newcommunity.org/about
Chapter 10. And Now…
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
We are thrilled that you have arrived at the last chapter of Occupy Finance, but we are somewhat concerned that you, like us, might be suffering from “well-informed futility syndrome”. We learned about this syndrome from Sandra Steingraber on Moyers and Company. Her response to this is as follows:
“I try to take well-informed futility as my starting point and let people know that there is a way out of this. But because we can’t — I can’t honestly tell you that the problem is less bad than it is — the response has to be that we scale up our actions. So the problem is huge. And so our actions have to be huge as well.”
Huge actions can be composed of millions of small actions, but rather than a small group, we need a large one. We need you! Small actions can not only have an effect on their own, but, more importantly, they inspire others to take action. This book is one of our small actions — not enough, but a step in the right direction.
We in the Occupy Wall Street Alternative Banking Group — the authors of this book — believe that change is possible but that it will not come from within the system. We have been told this by people who were themselves within the system, like Sheila Bair of the FDIC and Neil Barofsky, former prosecutor and head of the Federal government office in charge of monitoring bailout funds. Much to our surprise, when they spoke to us at meetings of the Alternative Banking Group, they looked to us as the agents of redress and renewal! We recognize that many people across the political spectrum share our outrage. We are not alone in thinking that our current form of crony capitalism is corrupt and failing. There is even agreement on many of the specific issues like “Too-big-to-fail” banks.
Because our outrage is shared and our cause is just, we are confident that we will ultimately succeed. Though we recognize that fundamental reform will, of necessity, take years, we know it is imperative to start now. The financial system will only change if we change it. If not us, who? If not now, when?
We meet every Sunday from 3-5pm at Columbia University.
International Affairs Building, 420 W118th Street, Room 409
Email Alt.Banking.OWS (at) gmail (dot) com to join our mailing list.
“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”