Slow Money Gathering 2010

My trip to the Slow Money Gathering at Shelburne Farms was tremendous. I literally and figuratively tremble at the possibilities and heartfelt desires I found in the crowd of 600 of my tribe. The topic, finding a way to make money function better for communities and for people by slowing it down, was simple. How that can be achieved is myriad. The focus on fixing the food system through relationship-building investments is an excellent starting point. But that is even still quite ranging. And positively hope-full.
I enjoyed meeting many good people. My notebook has thirty pages of jottings. I had come to the event because two friends who know one of the founders enthusiastically endorsed it. I have been thinking of moving away from the local food movement. But at the end of the day, esp. being recalled to my passions for community building, preservation of nature, and the glory of sun-to-earth, I am rejuvenated. What can I do to help in the rebellion against the industrial juggernaut?
There were so many good ideas; I was inspired. Joel Salatin of Polyface raved as only a solar christian libertarian freedom farmer can, and the crowd lapped it up. Gary Hirschberg of Stoneyfield Farms/Danone talked about scaling up and keeping the soul of the business and we all lapped that up too. I had missed Bill McKibben and his hopeful address regarding the climate crisis, but I have heard that before and I just couldn’t leave Cambridge before 6:30, so, well, I missed him but got the jist. It is a base concept for many in the crowd – how can we create the change we need, how can we make slow money happen quickly, as Woody would note later.
I joined many in wondering how Slow Money can interact (and not stub toes) with the good work of Green (formerly Co-op) America, BALLE, the socially responsible finance crowd, and the cooperative sector. I wonder how these many players can support local economies through local currencies and post-currency barter information tracking matrices. How can the cooperative sector and the gift economy sector support the enterprises seeking slow money and patient capital to scale their operations and displace industrial capital projects and flows? How can more people see the value of dis-associating with conventional capitalism?
I really appreciated Woody Tasch’s indomintable wry enthusiasm. He’s just the sort of tall viking you would want to follow into new mumbo jumbo territory. He has selected an excellent new E.D. for the organization in Ari Derfel. Ari just finished getting the all-local Berkeley CA restaurant “Gather” off the ground. He has a lot of years of communication and facilitation consulting under his belt and impressed me with his capacity to guide a open-ended discussion under a tent with all of us crunchie rabble rousers. In talking with him during a side conversation, it is clear he is ready to take the slow concept out past farms and into the adjoining enterprise infrastructure and who knows how far beyond. One idea that came to me out of the blue was an interest in a “Slow Landing” as in averting a Crash. I believe the re-orientation to people knowing their connections and where they are putting their money and focusing on the relationships to community partners in being an investor can help us to ratchet down investment activity in order to build local capacity for basic services, esp. the food system, but in public safety and municipal needs, the education, health, and transportation sectors and other community needs. What if you couldn’t trade with money unless you met the other person? De-anonymitizing finance. Slowing it down. No more bundled securitized debt obligations etc…
Can strong local economies with slow money serve to cushion the collapse of Empire and foster the benefits of de-federalization and local independence movements? Can peace in investing lead to peace in more of our relations and communities at large? If you know your basics can be taken care of by your community and family, do you need to worry about money? Is slow money a post-capitalism, post- most “bang-for-buck” paradigm?
It will take me a few days to go through all my notes. To reflect on the new ideas, the new links, the books and sites referenced in conversations and presentations. I will want to share with you the high points and most poignant observations. A good “market faire” community was achieved. I have a lot of new leads to pursue as I gravitate towards a next engagement. Even as I have been seeking to find something in energy or sustainability consulting, and away from food, here I am, having been envigorated. There is something near me, ready to work with me and my knowledge base, needing my individuality and passions portfolio. Something is near and I am about to engage with it.

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