Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Dawn of System Leadership

This is an excerpt of the article "Dawn of System Leadership" in Stanford Social Innovation Review

"The deep changes necessary to accelerate progress against society's most intractable problems require a unique type of leader—the system leader, a person who catalyzes collective leadership."

"We believe system leadership is critical for the times in which we now live, but the ideas behind it are actually quite old. About 2,500 years ago Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu eloquently expressed the idea of individuals who catalyze collective leadership: 
The wicked leader is he whom the people despise.
The good leader is he whom the people revere.
The great leader is he of whom the people say, “We did it ourselves.”
"The real question today is, Is there any realistic hope that a sufficient number of skilled system leaders will emerge in time to help us face our daunting systemic challenges? We believe there are reasons for optimism. First, as the interconnected nature of core societal challenges becomes more evident, a growing number of people are trying to adopt a systemic orientation. Though we have not yet reached a critical mass of people capable of seeing that a systemic approach and collective leadership are two sides of the same coin, a foundation of practical know-how is being built."

"Second, during the last thirty years there has been an extraordinary expansion in the tools to support system leaders, a few of which we have touched on in this article. We have observed numerous instances where the strategic use of the right tool, at the right time, and with the right spirit of openness, can shift by an order of magnitude the ability of stakeholders to create collective success. With the right shifts in attention, networks of collaboration commensurate with the complexity of the problems being addressed emerge, and previously intractable situations begin to unfreeze."

"Last, there is a broad, though still largely unarticulated, hunger for processes of real change. This is undoubtedly why a person like Mandela strikes such a resonant chord. There is a widespread suspicion that the strategies being used to solve our most difficult problems are too superficial to get at the deeper sources of those problems. This can easily lead to a sense of fatalism—a quiet desperation that our social, biological, economic, and political systems will continue to drift toward chaos and dysfunction. But it can also cause people to be more open to seeking new paths. Compared to even a few years ago, we find that many today are exploring new approaches that move beyond the superficial to ignite and guide deeper change. Organizations and initiatives like those described in this article have succeeded because of a growing awareness that the inner and outer dimensions of change are connected. As our awakening continues, more and more system leaders who catalyze collective leadership will emerge."

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Great Work...

“History is governed by those overarching movements that give shape and meaning to life by relating the human venture to the larger destinies of the universe. Creating such a movement might be called the Great Work of a people…. The Great Work now, as we move into a new millennium, is to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

“The Great Work before us… is not a role that we have chosen. It is a role given to us, beyond any consultation with ourselves. We are, as it were, thrown into existence with a challenge and a role that is beyond any personal choice. We did not choose. We were chosen by some power beyond ourselves for this historical task. The nobility of our lives, however, depends upon the manner in which we come to understand and fulfill our assigned role.” From The Great Work by Thomas Berry

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"New Dawn of Financial Capitalism"

Excellent article from Institutional Investor Magazine "New Dawn of Financial Capitalism" frames some new thought to address the weaknesses of the current financial paradigm.

(1) Professionalisation of Asset Owners (2) Reintermediation of finance (3) adoption of the power of information technology for analysis by asset owners (4) development of new models to invest in the real economy.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Transcription of the Interview of me with Planet Experts about Responsible Investing

Here's a recent interview of me on my views from Planet Experts

Recently, Planet Experts sat down with Gregory Wendt, a veteran wealth advisor, economist and Certified Financial Planner. Greg is considered a thought leader in his field of sustainable and responsible investing and green business. He is the founder of several non-profit community organizations and a leading advocate in improving capital markets for triple bottom line economic development. Greg is a recognized social entrepreneur where he applies a multidisciplinary systems design approach to financial innovation and community economic development.

Planet Experts: Having formerly worked at several of Wall Street’s most prestigious firms, including Smith Barney and Prudential Securities, you are presently a Certified Financial Planner specializing in sustainable and responsible investing. What triggered your professional transition? 

Greg Wendt: Sustainability is actually where I started. When I was at UCLA in 1988 I learned about the new paradigm when the United Nations Brundtland Commission came out with their initial report called “Our Common Future.” That’s where the term “sustainable development” actually was coined: which is to build a more robust framework for emerging “third world” world countries to become advanced economies and to become industrialized by incorporating the gifts of modern culture and leaving the challenges behind.

The challenge is, even at that point in the ’80s we realized that it was virtually impossible to have everyone around the world consuming the same amount on a per capita basis, considering the amount of resources that first-world nations use – we simply wouldn’t have enough planet. So the whole idea is, and was, how do we advance these societies in a sustainable fashion while increasing prosperity for all stakeholders? The key phrase in the definition of sustainable development is ‘meeting the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of the future generation.’

I started as a Biochemistry undergraduate at UCLA, then I changed to Math Computer Science. And then I changed from Math Computer Science to Economics. Through the multidisciplinary lens that I had developed, it just made sense that we manage our society and economy to meet the needs of both current and future generations.

When I was a child, I’d read about being an oceanographer and watched Carl Sagan, Jacque Cousteau, and was really inspired by these wise visionaries. I grew up in Southern California – surfing and tide pools and studying marine biology, complex mathematics, science and all that. So, that was my framework which brought me into this full spectrum viewpoint, and thus sustainable development just seemed to fit and appeared like the more sophisticated framework for an economic system which would work for 100 percent of humanity, and all life. If we’re managing the economy and the inputs and outputs, then we have to manage in accord with whatever’s going on for the entire the planet.

I began my real dive into this world by speaking at a conference in 1989 called “Globescope Pacific Assembly,” which was in preparation for the first United Nations Earth Summit in 1992. During that conference we conducted working groups sessions with 500 sustainability leaders from all over North America. I played a very small role, but it was a document that gave input to the Earth Summit from North American constituents. It was called ‘A Citizen’s Response to Sustainable Development.’

So, when I got into the work world, I tried various jobs until a friend of mine wanted me to work for him as an apprentice at Smith Barney. And I took the position and learned about the ins-and outs of the investment world, analyzed and traded municipal bonds. At that time I also learned about what we called socially responsible investing and that’s when I set the intention to make responsible investing my profession.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Citizen's Response To Sustainable Development - a document I was part of creating in 1989

Here's a link to a document which came out of the first sustainability conference I attended and spoke at in 1989. It's noteworthy that many of the recommendations and solutions still apply today, 25 YEARS LATER!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mindset shift crucial for collective impact.

For changemakers we must look deep into our approach and change our mindsets and retool assumptions continuously.

A recent article in Stanford Social Innovation Review "Essential Mindset Shifts for Collective Impact" 

"The widespread momentum around collective impact is exciting. It demonstrates a vital shift for organizations, away from considering their work in isolation and toward seeing their work in the context of a broader system, paving the way for large-scale change. The five conditions, however, are not by themselves sufficient. Achieving collective impact requires the fundamental mindset shifts we have described here—around who is involved, how they work together, and how progress happens. These shifts have significant implications for how practitioners design and implement their work, how funders incentivize and engage with grantees, and how policymakers bring solutions to a large scale. Without these vital mindset shifts, collective impact initiatives are unlikely to make the progress they set out to accomplish."

Monday, July 21, 2014

Systems Thinking and the Future of Cities

I'm inspired to find articles like this one "Systems Thinking and the Future of Cities" by David Orr as I feel we must shift our paradigm and rewire our brains to recognize the connection of all things in a coherent system.

He writes: "The idea that nothing exists in isolation−but only as part of a system−has long been embedded in folklore, religious scriptures, and common sense. Yet, systems dynamics as a science has yet to transform the way we conduct the public business. This article first briefly explores the question of why advances in systems theory have failed to transform public policy. The second part describes the ways in which our understanding of systems is growing−not so much from theorizing, but from practical applications in agriculture, building design, and medical science. The third part focuses on whether and how that knowledge and systems science can be deployed to improve urban governance in the face of rapid climate destabilization so that sustainability becomes the norm, not the occasional success story."

"Key Concepts"

"Reducing wholes to parts lies at the core of the scientific worldview we inherited from Galileo, Bacon, Descartes, and their modern acolytes in the sciences of economics, efficiency, and management."

"The decades between 1950 and 1980 were the grand era for systems theory. However despite a great deal of talk about systems, we continue to administer, organize, analyze, manage, and govern complex ecological systems as if they were a collection of isolated parts and not an indissoluble union of energy, water, soils, land, forests, biota, and air."

"Much of what we have learned about managing real systems began in agriculture. One of the most important lessons being that land is an evolving organism of interrelated parts soils, hydrology, biota, wildlife, plants, animals, and people."

"The challenge is to transition organized urban complexity built on an industrial model and designed for automobiles, sprawl, and economic growth into coherent, civil, and durable places."

"A systems perspective to urban governance is a lens by which we might see more clearly through the fog of change, and potentially better manage the complex cause and effect relationships between social and ecological phenomena. The application of systems offers at least six possibilities to improve urban governance."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Communities Co-Evolving Toward Resilience

My most recent article is “Communities Co-Evolving Toward Resilience” which I posted on Hazel Henderson's Ethical Markets website.

In it, the core themes are:

- that bioregions around the world can be an organizing framework to catalyze the next wave of humanity’s evolution rather than nation states
- that we can organize events and actions through a networked approach to iconic cities who’s networks cross pollinate ideas, solutions and inspirations not unlike neurons firing in the brain
- the organizing principle of networks within networks, and multidisciplinary cooperation can be fractally organized at every scale and stage of the process
- the core convening principle to get globally oriented groups to collaborate for place based solutions and then to spread globally through the network of other place based networks to reach a global scale
- the process can be applied to create a “model” or “template” for the pathway of evolution of a bioregional economy which then can be the core organizing principle which can be applied and creatively expressed in as many ways as there are bioregions across the globe thus bringing a co-creative element to the global mind to more rapidly inspire evolution of the global family

From this framework I feel that we can scale to over 100 cities relatively quickly and then to over 6,000 shortly after that.

Once the system starts firing, it will catch fire, I trust and from that we can foment evolution of the civilization 2.0 which emerges like a butterfly from a chrysalis.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hazel Henderson's newest book "Mapping the Transition to the Solar Age - from Economism to Earth Systems Science"

An Excerpt from Hazel's latest book which is available as a PDF.

"Towards the Green Economy: Clearly the transition to the green economy is already underway but will be highly disruptive to the industrial sectors and massive global apparatus of the fossil fuel and nuclear era. Many companies based on nineteenth and twentieth century technologies will go under and jobs will be lost. Bridging strategies using natural gas are already highly contested due to their huge water-use, polluted residues, methane release and other problems."

"A study by Cornell and Stanford University scientists outlines a plan for ‘A Fossil Fuel-Free New York State by 2050’ which omits shale gas due to its much higher than advertised methane emissions.24 The consensus reached at Rio+20, G-20 in Mexico and other summits in 2012 included the OECD Global Green Growth Institute, the Knowledge Platform, and 68 global financial institutions. NGOs and governments affirmed commitments to using natural resources in their capital accounting.25 In addition, the $5.2tn of private investments since 2007 tracked in Ethical Markets’ Green Transition Scoreboard® attest to the huge shifts now in the pipeline."

"While renewable energy stocks suffered from their opposition’s media attacks, contrarians saw opportunities. US investor Warren Buffet’s MidAmerica Renewables investments reached $13.5bn, and the US Department of Defense is now the single most important driver of the cleantech revolution in the USA.26 In 2012 and 2013, nature provided ample evidence of the massive CO2 emissions’ effect in ocean warming and driving unprecedented weather conditions worldwide: floods, droughts, fires, tornadoes, heat waves, all causing huge losses and insurance costs." "This paper is an attempt to contextualise all these phenomena and explore the future: the new planetary awareness driving these paradigm shifts as we humans ‘connect the dots’. This knowledge explosion is now challenging our cultural beliefs about money, wealth, scarcity, abundance and transcending financial models derived from obsolete economics, led in many countries by younger generations connected by social media. The new multi-disciplinary models and metrics reassure us that in moving beyond economics and GDP we will not be flying blind but moving to the many earth systems science models (including those from NASA28) and data from many scientific fields which this paper explores."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Downshifting civilization to meet the realities of the biosphere

“The future, to be viable at all, must be one of drawing back, easing down, healing… It requires more than productivity and more than technology; it also requires maturity, compassion and wisdom. These conclusions constitute a conditional warning, not a dire prediction. They offer a living choice, not a death sentence… The idea of limits, sustainability, sufficiency, equity and efficiency are not barriers, not obstacles, not threats. They are guides to a new world… We see ‘easing down’ from unsustainability not as a sacrifice, but as an opportunity to stop battering against the earth’s limits and to start transcending self-imposed and unnecessary limits in human institutions, mindsets, beliefs, and ethics.” - Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Discussing the access to capital equation at the Innovate! SoCal conference.

Should be an engaging conversation tomorrow on our panel at the Innovate!Socal Conference
"Our panel takes up the challenge of improving performance of pre-seed and venture capital funding and looks at how entrepreneurs can be better prepared for investment. The group addresses the critical need for shortening deal decision times, improving deal quality by better preparing entrepreneurs, and reducing capital access barriers to under-represented demographic and geographic groups."

Panel moderator Paul J. Corson, Executive Director of Innovation Fund America, drives the discussion. 

Panelist 1 – Richard Koffler, CEO, Greenwings Biomedical
Panelist 2 – Greg Wendt, Senior Wealth Advisor, Stakeholder Capital, Co-Chair, Capital Action Team for CA Forward
Panelist 3 – Victoria Sassine, Mutual Fund Trustee, Managers Investment Group Panelist
4 – David Carter, CEO, Upside LA

Sunday, January 12, 2014

We must evolve to a complex systemic view to address the world's challenges.

The caption for image on the left shares: 
"A schematic history of human civilization reflects a growing complexity of the collective behavior of human organizations. The internal structure of organizations changed from the large branching ratio hierarchies of ancient civilizations, through decreasing branching ratios of massive hierarchical bureaucracies, to hybrid systems where lateral connections appear to be more important than the hierarchy. As the importance of lateral interactions increases, the boundaries between subsystems become porous. The increasing collective complexity also is manifest in the increaseing specialization and diversity of professions. Among the possible future organizational structures are fully networked systems where hierarchical structures are unimportant. "

and the conclusion of the article sums it up:

"There are two natural conclusions to be drawn from recognizing that human beings are part of a global organism. First, one can recognize that human civilization has a remarkable capacity for responding to external and internal challenges. The existence of such a capacity for response does not mean that human civilization will survive external challenges any more than the complexity of any organism guarantees its survival. However, one can hope that the recent reduction in the incidence of military conflicts will continue and the ability to prevent or address local disasters will increase. The difficulties in overcoming other systematic ills of society, such as poverty, may also be challenged successfully as the origins of these problems become better understood."

"Second, the complexity of our individual lives must be understood in the context of a system that must enable its components (us) to contribute effectively to the collective system. Thus, we are being, and will continue to be shielded from the true complexity of society. In part this is achieved by progressive specialization that enables individuals to encounter only a very limited subset of the possible professional and social environments. This specialization will have dramatic consequences for our children, and their educational and social environments are likely to become increasingly specialized as well."

Sunday, January 05, 2014

2013 Annual Holiday Party Green Gifts to the Earth from Green Business Networking in L.A.!

Thought you'd enjoy what we're up to with the non-profit group we started in 2006 - this is our 8th annual Green Business Networking Holiday Party. Our community has grown, with an event every month since we started and now over 5,000 people on our email community list. And, we have so much fun!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CA Economic Summit Advancing the Triple Bottom Line

The CA Economic Summit is a collaborative process to "advance the triple bottom line" through advancing our economy. I'm very grateful to play the role of Co-Chair for the Access to Capital Team for the summit. Here's a video which is a quick highlight of the conference. Here's a link to our initial capital action plan for the state and a brief article describing our work.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Must watch - Earth from Space - core perspective from which we can evolve from economism to earth systems science.

This Nova Program - "Earth from Space" gives the perspectives and information necessary to evolve our worldview and create a civilization which will ensure a resilient biosphere for a thriving humanity for many generations to come.

Friday, September 27, 2013

A straightforward pathway out of our myopia...

"Our perceptual myopia, which has focused on products not processes, on objects and entities rather than their broader fields of interplay, has led us to reward analysis and punish synthesis, to overvalue competition while ignoring the equally valuable role of cooperation, and to artificially define "problems" and devise "solutions"to fit them..." - Hazel Henderson 

So... now we systematically build cooperative processes which synthesize broad perspectives into grounded currently relevant coherent solutions contextually applied at human scales across the world. That's all!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Green Century" an inspiring television show which I'm featured in

Great show put together by friends called "Green Century" available online and on public television. My segment starts just after minute 22.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Innovation for the next 100 years.

Innovation which does not have resiliency embedded at it's core is likely a mirage of true evolutionary change.

The recent article "Innovation for the Next 100 Years"in Stanford Social Innovation Review by Judith Rodin from The Rockefeller Foundation wrote states:

"Innovating for resilience is critical if we are to protect against the disruptions of the 21st-century world. As we do so, we should keep in mind the qualities resilient networks, communities and organizations share. Among them are:

  • FLEXIBILITY | able to change, evolve, and adapt at a rapid pace. 
  • REDUNDANCY | able to change course and adopt alternative approaches. 
  • RESOURCEFULNESS | able to identify problems, establish priorities, and mobilize resources and assets to achieve goals. 
  • SAFE-FAILURE | able to absorb shocks and the cumulative effects of slow-onset challenges so as to avoid catastrophic failure if thresholds are exceeded. 
  • RESPONSIVENESS | able to re-organize and re-establish fund and order following a failure. 
  • LEARNING | able to internalize experiences and apply those lessons to decrease vulnerabilities to future disruptions.
These are very close to the life's principles as defined by the Biomimicry Institute.


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Catalyzing the Connection Economy

First posted on Ethical Markets and Triple Pundit

Somewhere along the line our culture lost contact with the recognition of oneness of all life, the connectedness to each other. Our institutions – government, economy, religion are all built on a false premise of separation.

Simply spoken, in Economics 101 we learned that everything around a business other than what is termed “business as usual” are “externalities” – “external” to the business, and the economy.  The model of endless growth for its own sake without regard to the effects of such growth is a symptom of blindness to such “externalities.”  Our prevailing economic growth-based model is not working to serve the needs of all humanity. If you don’t agree with me, ask the roughly 2 billion people who are living on less than a dollar a day. You may simply believe that their welfare is separate from yours, and you needn’t concern yourself with their plight…

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Anonymous

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My first published work, in book form, "Creating Good Work"

My first published work, in book form, came out today. I wrote a chapter in "Creating Good Work - The World's Leading SocialEntrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy"

In the book over 20 leading innovators in social entrepreneurship, known as "deliberate disruptive design" share their learnings, experiences and insights gained from their work in building a new healthy economy.

Jeff Hollender, thought leader in corporate responsibility and co-founder of Seventh Generation wrote about the book: "Social entrepreneurs are committed to a goal that neither our government nor big business has been willing to take on - the building of enlightened society. It's the job of these special people who want to leave the world a better place for those who have yet to be born. The book provides practical, hard-won advice for how prospective and even-in-the-trenches social entrepreneurs can do just that. This is a book you'll not want to miss."

I resonate with his sentiments - that it is incumbent upon everyone in this generation to work for the well being of current and future children, of all species. I'm privileged to be part of such a movement, and inspire others to do the same through this work.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

"Transforming Economics into True Wealth" Statement November 2012

I'm a signatory for this statement on TRANSFORMING ECONOMIES INTO TRUE WEALTH

Posted on Ethical Markets website: 

"This is an invitation to fully engage in the planetary whole-system shift now under way.  Many SRI investment professionals recognize our human responsibility for the many breakdowns in our societies and enfolding ecosystems resulting from our limited consciousness: climate change, hunger, poverty, conflicts, financial crises and ecological destruction. These systemic breakdowns are accelerating due to global interconnectedness and now driving the breakthroughs worldwide occurring below the radar of the mainstream mass media. The 193 country members of the United Nations have recognized human interdependence and that no nation acting alone can solve these global systemic crises.  Thus, they have pooled their sovereignty, however imperfectly, seeking solutions through treaties, agreements, protocols, institutions and agencies to promote the common good and all life on planet Earth.  Likewise, many public, private and civic sector organizations, professional and academic groups are also coalescing to take broader responsibility."

The statement is:


Invitation To Fully Engage In The Planetary Whole-System Shift Now Under Way

We undersigned investment professionals recognize our human responsibility for the many breakdowns in our societies and enfolding ecosystems resulting from our limited consciousness: climate change, hunger, poverty, conflicts, financial crises and ecological destruction. These systemic breakdowns are accelerating due to global interconnectedness and now driving the breakthroughs worldwide occurring below the radar of the mainstream mass media. The 193 country members of the United Nations have recognized human interdependence and that no nation acting alone can solve these global systemic crises.  Thus, they have pooled their sovereignty, however imperfectly,seeking solutions through treaties, agreements, protocols, institutions and agencies to promote the common good and all life on planet Earth.  Likewise, many public, private and civic sector organizations, professional and academic groups are also coalescing to take broader responsibility.

Transforming Finance - a top priority

Last fall, I had the pleasure of joining a group of leaders in the new economy and responsible investing movement at the home of Hazel Henderson for the annual "SRI Leaders" retreat. At the retreat we reflected on the state of the global financial system and further offered perspectives and solutions for transforming finance to serve the world, rather than extract from it. Here's a link to the Statement: "Transforming Economics into True Wealth (November 2012)"

Hazel posted an article on CSR Wire based on the retreat, and the Statement which we created.

Here's the full text of the article:

By Hazel Henderson

Despite incremental reforms, the Dodd-Frank Act in the USA, Basel III and the 0.1% financial transaction tax now approved by EU finance ministers, the global financial casino is still playing.

Financial lobbying still seeks to block or weaken reforms and floods of money distorting democratic politics, loosed by the Supreme Courts’ 2010 Citizens United decision, are still flowing unchecked.  Billions still secretly fund attacks on climate science, social safety nets, teachers and other public employees and their pensions. All these efforts to repeal FDR’s New Deal and a fairer economy continue unabated.

Ethical Markets’ Transforming Finance initiative, launched in 2010 with its first Statement, emphasizing the bigger picture: finance is a part of the global commons, to serve real economies, not dominate them, and its high-frequency traders and all market players use and rely on taxpayer funded infrastructure: the internet, satellite communications, computers, wireless transmission over public airwaves.

Many high-minded financiers who have co-signed this Statement and later ones are former Wall Streeters. They are pioneers of ethical, SRI firms and are also interviewed on our Transforming Finance TV series, including John Fullerton, Amy Domini, Susan Davis, Karl Kleissner, Alisa Gravitz, Terry Mollner, Katherine Collins, Leland Lehrman, Sarah Stranahan, Michaela Walsh, Ben Bingham and author/lawyer Ellen Brown (available at and

Our latest Transforming Economics Into True Wealth (November2012) is an invitation to fully engage in the planetary whole-system shift now under way. These investment professionals recognize our responsibility for the many breakdowns in our societies and ecosystems resulting from our limited consciousness: climate change, hunger, poverty, conflicts, financial crises and ecological destruction.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Jan 24 2013 Radio Interview on Business Rockstars KFWB about "Conscious Capitalism"

Here's my interview on the radio show "Business Rockstars" about my views about the concept of "conscious capitalism" which is also the title of the new book by Whole Foods CEO John Mackay and Professor Raj Sisodia 

In the interview radio host Ken Rutkowski and I discussed the different paradigms in business. Most notably we distinguished between the outdated view of business as only serving shareholders and the profit motive to businesses recognizing the opportunity to not only succeed but thrive by serving all of the stakeholders in the business.

This more sophisticated paradigm leads to a more robust and resilient business while at the same time stakeholder engagement is a key driver in profitability for the most successful corporations.

I trust you'll enjoy listening to the radio show as much as I did sharing my views.

Here's a link to the show, my piece starts at around minute 44.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bringing Good Capital Home with a Living Economy Fund

Originally posted on CSRWire.

When was the last time you asked a financial advisor to put your money in a financial fund that would support environmental and social concerns only to be met by a blank stare, because the advisor had no knowledge of that such a fund existed?

Or perhaps you went to your advisor and said, “I’d like to invest my money locally, in small businesses that are struggling here in our community and help them improve our local economy. Do you have a fund that will do that?”

Did the blankness of the stare deepen?

As a financial advisor I regularly place my clients in vehicles that might fundamentally change the way the economy works and at the same time provide a competitive return on investment. Unfortunately, there are simply few if any local choices that will satisfy such needs.

As a member of the California Financial OpportunitiesRoundtable, we ran into similar problems around providing access to capital locally. With SEC regulations and government investor protocols, targeting investments within a community through traditional financial vehicles is often difficult -- but not necessarily impossible.

Needed: Local And State Support For Small Business And Micro-Enterprise

We know that many Community Development financial institutions have been flooded with available funding lately, which says that the local interest exists, but the money is not yet flowing out for  investments in small local businesses and startups.

Getting money into the hands of those who can help build a healthy economy requires an economic development strategy at both the local and state levels that supports small business and micro-enterprises.

Our visions of global grandeur have often redirected our focus away from investing and buying locally, often fueled by the possibility of windfall profits in larger markets. But that focus has pulled us away from the richness of our community businesses and the economy they support. These businesses operate adjacent to the multinational big boxes that can sell for less, but become extractive from the local economy rather than generative.

Transforming Our Finance and Securities Laws

In the book, Creating Good Work: The World’s Leading SocialEntrepreneurs Show How to Build a Healthy Economy, (Palgrave, 2013) I wrote in my chapter about the transformation required to see money as part of the natural biosphere in which it operates. If we can transform our perception of money, we can simultaneously address issues such as the needs of communities, quality of life, human justice, food quality, education, infrastructure, energy security, and soil fertility.

The issue, of course, is that our securities laws and our financial vehicles operating under those laws don’t always allow us to invest our money in ways that can have an impact on these very important living issues.

This is especially true for those unaccredited investors whose net worth is less than $1 million. Equity crowdfunding may allow for more of this kind of investment to take place in the future, but we still run up against the lack of financial vehicles that would allow us to direct investments toward  environmental and social issues in our local communities.

In addition, financial advisors are also limited in this arena by the choices available through traditional channels. These investments are equally as prudent as others on the market while at the same time improving the quality of life in the communities. The problem is they are rarely offered because in many cases the traditional marketplace doesn’t know they exist.

Alternative Funding Sources

Getting funding into the hands of local businesses that are doing good work is a real challenge in this climate. However, instead of relying on traditional bank loans, alternative funding sources could be created for locally-owned businesses.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Film on New Economic Models - "Fixing The Future"

In our political debates, races, etc. there is always room for more conversation about the sustainable, thriving economies we can create in our own home towns. Here's a very inspiring film which I encourage you to watch if you are wondering what can be done to fix our economy, and our future!

Watch Fixing the Future on PBS. See more from NOW on PBS.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I was on the radio show "Business Rockstars" with Ken Rutkowski

Today I had the pleasure of being on Ken Rutkowski's amazing radio show "Business Rockstars" on KFWB News 980 in Los Angeles with over 800,000 listeners.

We had a wonderful conversation about sustainable business, ethics in business, our flawed economic paradigm based on the illusion separate from society and nature, B-Corporations, organic food labeling, sustainable investing, maximizing the quality of relationships in business for success, community relationships to business, corporate social responsibility and sustainable and responsible investing.

Hear the interview here, my brief interview starts at minute 55.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

I helped create the Access to Capital Guidebook as a member of California Financial Opportunities Roundtable

A key issue to grow our sustainable economy is moving capital to the businesses who need it most and businesses who are going to create jobs, wealth, and improvements to the quality of life for communities around the world. 

Entrepreneurship and local businesses are some of the key drivers to keeping our communities thriving, and the institutions which are meant to finance such businesses have lost human scale in the last 40-50 years. Big banks getting bigger, Wall Street dealmakers only doing bigger and bigger deals - leave much of the small to medium sized businesses without easy access to much needed capital.

Furthermore - small businesses which are privately owned are more likely to be in tune with the needs of society, the environment and the community of stakeholders around them. Thus the more ways we can support locally owned, small and medium sized enterprises, the better.

To that end, I have been very involved with the local investing movement for the last 7 years.
Most recently since mid 2011 I have been a member of the California Financial Opportunities Roundtable - a group of experts convened by the USDA Rural Economic Development and Federal Reserve Bank to identify pathways for moving money into the businesses and communities which need it most, and who will drive the most positive change for their communities. We represented finance, impact investing, philanthropy, business, economic development, government and more

The California Financial Opportunities Roundtable (CalFOR) is part of a statewide initiative supporting development of regional industry clusters to provide jobs, entrepreneurial opportunities, business growth, public and private sector investment in value-chain infrastructure and sustainable communities throughout California. Working with a wide array of partners, the goals of that project include:

  • Innovation in Capital Markets and new sources of investment for projects and business growth.
  • Expansion of regional food systems and associated value chain opportunities.
  • Growth of biomass utilization, biofuels and renewable energy production.
  • Development of region-specific industry clusters and related business networks.
  • Improved Rural-Urban collaboration and related infrastructure deployment
Our ACCESS TO CAPITAL GUIDEBOOK is available for viewing and download here.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Evolving our businesses to become Common Good Corporations

There are many stories over the last 20 years of examples of ethically motivated businesses who grew to such a large scale which left the founders with choices either merge, sell out or cooperate with major corporations. The challenge has often been that the values and priorities which originally inspired the entrepreneurs from the beginning were very difficult to maintain when the business or brand is continued in the larger context, or the company is owned by a larger entity who does not share the priorities for the common good of the original entrepreneur.

One solution has been to adopt the B-Corp model, by baking the values into the DNA of the company.

My colleague and close friend Terry Mollner is an expert on such issues, and has played a meaningful role in this context for some time.

Here's a video of Terry discussing the heart of these issues, where he clarifies his vision that all companies have the opportunity to make their highest priority the COMMON GOOD, invites us to all discover the role we can play in bringing about this new way of doing business.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Common Market - What a Food Hub can do for the food economy!

We can create jobs, and healthier community by simply shifting the way that food is created and sold in our cities. It's that simple.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Building an economy based on reality.

It's time that we completely wake up as a civilization to reality as it is: EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.

Carl Sagan said it decades ago, "the new consciousness is developing which sees the Earth as a single organism, and recognizes an organism at war with itself is doomed."

We must evolve from using war to get our needs met. This means every one of us. Starting with the language you use. Become aware of all of the ways that you use military and warfare lexicon in your daily life - do you really want to war if you are here to create peace?

From this recognition we must build an economy of connection, of relationships. An economy of peace, rather than one of war. Simply that.

Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"The Possibility for Profound Change in America"

We're in the driver's seat for "The Possibility for Profound Change in America" an amazing lecture which recognizes each of us are responsible for systemic change for our civilization. I met Gar a while back and he's extraordinarily thought provoking. Inspiring, and worth the investment of time. Enjoy!

Gar Alperovitz E. F. Schumacher Lecture from New Economics Institute on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book: "Economyths Ten Ways Economics Gets It Wrong"

The challenge of our time is that our myth is that we have no myths.

Irony is, that we are still a deeply mythological culture and it is high time that our culture recognize the false premises and untenable myths that define our economic paradigm.

This is most recently highlighted by a blog from The Capital Institute which mentions a book on the myths of our economic viewpoint. Here's the blog entry:

"A Capital Institute shout out to Leland Lehrman for sharing with us David Orrell's eloquent cri du coeur found at the conclusion of Economyths, 10 Ways Economics Gets It Wrong. Leland calls the book "a brilliant reconstruction of economics that covers gender, happiness, fairness and other perspectives on economics in intellectually and mathematically rigorous ways without becoming unreadable." "

From the book:
"So, students. Decision time. You live at what many believe is a bifurcation point in human history. You've seen all the graphs with lines curving up like a ski jump. Human population. Gross domestic product. Species extinction. Carbon emissions. Inequality. Resource shortages. You know that something has to give. You've got an idea that the price isn't right. Maybe you're even suspicious that if the world economy does turn out to be a Ponzi scheme, you or your children are a little bit late to the game."
"You therefore stand at a fork in the road. You can take the orthodox route -- and risk ending up with a qualification as impressive as a degree in Marxist ideology right after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Or you can take a chance on regime shift by speaking up, questioning your teachers, being open to disruptive ideas, and generally acting as an agent of change. You can insist that the economy is a complex, dynamic, networked system -- and demand the tools to understand it. You can point out that the economy is unfair, unstable, and unsustainable -- and demand the skills to heal it. You can tell the oracles that they have failed. You can go in and break the machine. And then you can do something new."
I'm heartened by the fact that so many people have economics on the mind, and are independently coming to similar conclusions.

I trust that in coming years our economy will look much different, and work much better for the well being of humanity and all living beings on the planet. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We are the 100%

An important ethos expressed in this film, words of my friend Charles Eisenstein, author of the recent book "Sacred Economics"

Friday, November 18, 2011

Social Complexity Theory as a framework for new economic models

I have just learned from my brilliant friend Ron Schultz that he's the co-author of another book on complexity in the context of business. It is called "Coherence in the Midst of Complexity"
In my conversation with him, I learned that the ideas outlined in his book would most definitely apply in my field. I gathered that anyone who shares my passion for advancing the new frameworks in the fields of Sustainable and Responsible Investing would benefit from seeing the world through the lens of "coherence in the midst of complexity."
Here's an overview of Social Complexity Theory from the book's website.
"Complexity and emergence (the appearance and impact of the new) can be the bane of managers and their organizations. Both complexity and emergence threaten to upset adherence to predefined categories, which supposedly allows for efficiency. Indeed, traditional management thinking focuses on a retrospective coherence where ideas and events are assigned to categories, the categories are labeled, and outliers are treated as statistical deviants.  
"The study of how such attributed (retrospective) sense-making breaks down in and around organizations is the focus of social complexity theory. Coherence in the Midst of Complexity discusses the social complexity approach, where dialogue and stories allow for the degrees of freedom needed for the opportunities of emergence to take root. The book focuses on the experience of coherence and how such experiential lessons differ from the establishment and maintenance of categories and labels."
"Social Complexity Theory examines the role of coherence and emergence in organizations. Coherence is regarded by many psychologists as critical to day to the day productivity and effectiveness of individuals. Both scholars and managers have adapted this belief to the world of management and organizations. Coherence is regarded as a sign of a well-run organization. But, the concept of a coherent thought defined as how well an idea holds together as a single entity gradually breaks down as the scale shifts to individuals, groups, and ultimately larger organizations. 
"Adapting to and dealing with emergence is perhaps the most important task facing managers and organizations. Coherence as traditionally defined interferes with that task. By restricting the concept of coherence to measurement against definition (what we call ascribed coherence) managers and organizations implicitly are restricting their ability to deal with the unknown, the uncertain and the emergent." 
"Social Complexity Theory provides another perspective on coherence -- rooted in the felt experience of coherence and in the importance of emergence. Richard Rorty tells us: Knowledge is not a matter of getting reality right, but rather a matter of acquiring habits of action for coping with reality. In common parlance such coping mechanisms are called models. The aim of Social Complexity Theory is to teach managers and members of organizations to make use of some very different models as part of their coping mechanisms."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Upcoming Movie - "Thrive"

Thrive, a very important upcoming film with some friends in it. Here's a link to the trailer.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


From a Taoist Scripture - via a friend's text message:
"Don't chase after people's approval.
Don't depend on your plans.
Don't make decisions;
let decisions make themselves.
Free yourself of concepts;
don't believe what you think.
Embody the inexhaustible.
Wander beyond all paths.
Receive what you have been given
and know that it is always enough.
The Master's mind is like a mirror:
It responds but does not store, contains nothing,
excludes nothing, and reflects things exactly as they are.
Thus she has what she wants and wants only what she has."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Economics based on Beauty and Community: Putting Aesthetics back into the Economy

Here's an article I posted on Ethical Markets Blog a while back - enjoy:

Right before I boarded a plane after a green business conference last year, I noticed a Body Shop store in the terminal next to the gate. The Body Shop was founded by the late Anita Roddick who was a very influential and inspiring thought leader who was one of the pioneering business people who incorporated social and environmental values into her operations. 

As I thumbed through my reading materials I found an article in Resurgence Magazine by Roddick entitled “The Currency of Imagination.” This eloquent article laid out some of her guiding principles and reflections on being one of the only CEOs in the crowd of human beings who raised their voices against the globalization paradigm represented by the 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle.

In the article she laid out a new vision for society, a vision which I share, where we establish community and beauty as driving values for our individual and institutional decision making. I have learned that for any successful endeavor in new economic thinking to work, it must be built on a culture of trust and collaboration amongst the participants. Such ideas have inspired me in the efforts I have made in my region. I am the co-founder of Green Business Networking in Los Angeles, a monthly networking event which brings together entrepreneurs and professionals committed to greening our economy through their businesses and the Green Economy Think Tank which convenes sustainability leaders to evolve solutions for a green economy.

Somewhere along the line we picked up a virus in our culture’s source code. This virus misguided us by placing money and power as the central measuring sticks for success, all fed by a rapacious economic operating system driven by the gospel of consumerism. The ethos of our economy has become largely devoid of beauty and community, transactions have become ”complex, opaque, [and] anonymous based on short term outcomes” according to Don Shaffer, President of RSF Social Finance. Instead, he states our transactions need to become “direct, transparent and personal, based on long term relationships.” On a similar theme, Judy Wicks, founder of the White Dog CafĂ©, who is also a co-founder of the very successful movement “Business Alliance For Local Living Economies” lives these principles. She says that her business was built on the principle of “maximizing relationships” rather than “maximizing profits.” As a result of her focus, her business thrived with the satisfaction of higher sales, and happier people.

In the wake of the recent financial crisis, and the significant ills facing our world, it has become clear to many people that the prevailing economic paradigm is no longer working to improve the wellbeing of all of humanity. With climate crisis, declining ecosystems, billions in wretched poverty, food riots, childhood diabetes, etc. individuals and institutions are experiencing the severe ramifications of an avaricious and predatory economic model. However, there is another way.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Money and Life - A Story about Money That Will Change Your Life"

Just befriended Katie Teague who is making this amazing film "Money and Life"  with interviews with my heroes and friends such as Orland Bishop, David Korten, Lynne Twist, Hazel Henderson, Ellen Brown, Stuart Valentine, Bernard Litaer, Charles Eisenstein who are some of the most inspiring people in this field I have met. 

The movie articulates many ideas which are unexamined issues in our global culture which has by and large placed the money at the center of the altar. 

So, since our global civilization worships the God of Money, or the accumulation of it, we are all well served to inquire into the nature of Money, and Life. And explore how we can work with money to heal, serve and increase life and well being for all residents of our world.

Lynne Twist states - "It's as if we, as a species, have realized we have a terminal disease and we need to come together in community and get ourselves through the crisis, and it will change the very fabric, the very nature, of our relationship with life itself."

Money & Life trailer from StormCloud Media on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Empathic Civilisation Emerging For The Community of Our Planet

Simply - as all disciplines of knowledge such as anthropology, biology, physics, psychology, economics, neuropsychology, etc. become more sophisticated and evolve, every discipline must also evolve in response to incorporate new world views. Further all the institutions of our culture - education, governance, religion, commerce, etc. are currently based on outdated world views.  As the world views evolve, so must the institutions.

This video is one of the most succinct articulations of a vision of an empathic civilization based on solidarity with all life on the planet.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Public Banking - "Banking in the Public Interest"

Excellent article was just written called "Reviving Main Street - A Call for Public Banks" highlighting the opportunity states across America have to restore a healthy economy - simply by creating a state bank.

Surprisingly, North Dakota is the only state in the union which has created its own bank.

The article highlights work of thought leader Ellen Brown , and the Public Banking Institute which educates policymakers about the opportunities from the straightforward process of forming a state owned bank.

Her site shares that:
"Public Banks are...
• Viable solutions to the present economic crises in US states.
• Potentially available to any-sized government or community able to meet the requirements for setting up a bank.
• Owned by the people of a state or community.
• Economically sustainable, because they operate transparently according to applicable banking regulations
• Able to offset pressures for tax increases with returned credit income to the community.
• Ready sources of affordable credit for local governments, eliminating the need for large “rainy day” funds. 
• Required to promote the public interest, as defined in their charters.
• Constitutional, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court
...and are not
• Operated by politicians; rather, they are run by professional bankers.
• Boondoggles for bank executives; rather, their employees are salaried public servants (paid by the state, with a transparent pay structure) who would likely not earn bonuses, commissions or fees for generating loans.
• Speculative ventures that maximize profits in the short term,  without regard to the long-term interests of the public."