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Educating for a Democratic Society – Part II

March 3, 2015

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

Click here for Part I

JC good portraitby Joan Caldarera, Ed.D.

Waldorf education, inspired by Rudolf Steiner, recognizes that democratic principles are an essential but incomplete imagination of the purpose of education. It is possible to formulate the characteristics of a larger conception of education under the rubric of three essential categorical features: critical thinking, civic engagement or social responsibility, and the cultural/institutional features of schooling.

In 1919, Steiner articulated a new social theory in which he outlined revolutionary principles for practices in three sectors of social life: cultural/spiritual, rights and agreements (political), and economic. The principles had their origins in the ideals of the French Revolution: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Steiner put forward the following: In the realm of the spiritual/cultural the guiding principle is freedom; in rights and agreements, equality; in economics, brotherhood or interdependence.

This expansive view keeps clarity between political systems and governing principles with the presence of human individuality and its attendant capacity for self-knowledge and the in-born capacity for altruism. Steiner posited that out of educated self-awareness, each citizen could know how and when to exercise spiritual freedom, hieratic in nature; a sense of rights, egalitarian in nature; or economic action, based on an awareness of material needs and the circulation of goods and services.

Educating For a Democratic PEOPLE chart

In the center of the diagram is placed the individual in recognition that it is the single “I” who must implement the ideals of democracy, along with each other I. The I, then, radiating through its education reaches the three primary fields—rights ? equity, spiritual/cultural ? critical thinking, and economic ? social responsibility—each of which in turn has its complement opposite it: relationships, civic engagement, and morality respectively.

If one sees democracy as the atmosphere in which this threefold educational ecosystem lives, then one can also see that civic engagement, relationship, and morality—the three mediators—along with the three points, form the ground of ethical life without which democracy cannot thrive. Education becomes the means whereby the individual can fully inhabit the democratic/ethical world thus formulated.

In this way, it is possible to use Rudolf Steiner’s view of the threefold commonwealth as a framework for understanding and designing an educational system that cultivates the three key domains with their principles as a basis for a morally/spiritually informed democratic society. Such an education would encourage more conscious cultivation of economic life based on altruism, and a rights life which highlights how we create our agreements—two key aspects of life that often remain unaddressed in current educational practice.

Waldorf education is only one of what could be many possible forms of social education that can be developed based upon Steiner’s ideas around threefoldness. The effectiveness of any education derives from its leaders’ and teachers’ willingness to share a vision of the aims of education, a common and constantly-renewed image of students and their development, an inspiring curriculum that respects teachers’ professionalism and autonomy, and a common method of teaching democratic aims.

A socially just world requires that its citizens have the flexibility of thinking that respects the capacities and freedom of each individual, understands that true equality is essential in governing and in the creation of policies and laws, and sees that the economic world will be sustaining when self-interested behavior is transformed into a more altruistic practice. I recognize that this is no small undertaking given our current educational system—yet, unless we attempt such change, our democratic future is at risk.

Joan Caldarera is the director of Rudolf Steiner College—San Francisco, a teacher training center. She is also a humanities instructor at San Francisco Waldorf High School. She has taught at every level in Waldorf education from kindergarten through high school, as well as serving in the administration as both High School Chair and Head of Administration for San Francisco Waldorf School. Dr. Caldarera’s doctoral research has been published under the title, Through the Lives of the Teachers: How Waldorf Class Teachers Think about Morality, Waldorf Education, and the Arts in the 21st Century. She has also published articles on aspects of Waldorf education in numerous education journals.

Educating for a Democratic Society – Part I

February 26, 2015

This article was originally published in the Winter 2015 RSF Quarterly.

JC good portraitby Joan Caldarera, Ed.D.

What kind of education is needed for forming the minds, hearts, and hands of the next generation who will have to cope with and transform the ecological, social, and economic issues of today, issues that transcend political boundaries, cultural constructs, and economic realities?

I will start with some historical context for American education. Thomas Jefferson articulated the American ideal of education when he stated that to protect against tyranny it is necessary “to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large.” While the struggle since has been to expand in a truly democratic way the definition of “people at large” so as to do away with the anti-democratic legacy of classism, racism, and sexism, the purpose of education itself remains essential to a democratic state. The Constitution has no provision for education, but the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 made clear that the new government would be committed to supporting education: “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools as the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” During the first half of the 19th Century schools grew from being subordinate to family, church, and community to being the foremost means of education under the common-school movement.

As the country moved forward, so did the schools, and they came to be seen more and more as the shaper of culture.

The causes to which education, especially public education, could be put in the United States continued to grow. Waves of immigration aroused new thinking on the purposes of education: it should provide for assimilation; it should allow each group to flourish; it should lead to replication of society as we know it; it should give rise to new ways of looking at democracy. Industrialization made its presence felt as schooling became more mechanized and a “product” was called for—trained workers. One influential approach was the reform movement known as progressive education, which dominated into the 1950s and held at its core the effort to use education to improve the lives of individuals.

The paramount voice of progressivism was that of educational philosopher John Dewey. In Democracy and Education, Dewey lays out his conception of education as essential to life. Multifaceted in its purpose, education was for him an introduction to humanity and nature, guidance in social life and mores, an avenue for individual development, and a means of building capacities for one’s future.

The echoes of Dewey still resound in the work of reformist educators like Deborah Meier, founder of the alternative Central Park Elementary School in Harlem, based in large part on involving the students in decision-making in a democratic way. For Ms. Meier, one fundamental purpose of schools is to “inspire a generation of Americans to take on our collective task of preserving and nourishing the habits of heart and mind essential for a democracy, and, as we now see, the future of the planet itself.” She insists on a fundamental change in the way people relate to each other in schools, emphasizing that student “voices are heard and taken into account.” For Meier, then, educating for a democratic people means educating democratically.

Click here for Part II

Joan Caldarera is the director of Rudolf Steiner College—San Francisco, a teacher training center. She is also a humanities instructor at San Francisco Waldorf High School. She has taught at every level in Waldorf education from kindergarten through high school, as well as serving in the administration as both High School Chair and Head of Administration for San Francisco Waldorf School. Dr. Caldarera’s doctoral research has been published under the title, Through the Lives of the Teachers: How Waldorf Class Teachers Think about Morality, Waldorf Education, and the Arts in the 21st Century. She has also published articles on aspects of Waldorf education in numerous education journals.

RSF Gives $50K to L.A. Arts Non-Profits

February 24, 2015

RSF is pleased to announce that it has allocated $50,000 in grant funding to six arts service organizations in Los Angeles County. The funding shines a light on a pioneering model of grantmaking, called Shared Gifting, as well as indicates the need for continued support of the groups that work backstage to keep art communities vibrant.

Since 2010, RSF has been developing the Shared Gifting model as an alternative to traditional philanthropy, in which foundations typically make grant decisions behind closed doors.

“We created this tool to transform the power dynamics that we saw in philanthropy, so it builds trust and cooperation between the organizations,” says Kelley Buhles, director of the program. “It brings collaboration, transparency, and community wisdom into the grantmaking process.”

In late January, the latest round of recipients—18th Street Arts Center, Arts for LA, California Lawyers for the Arts, Center for Cultural Innovation, LA Stage Alliance, and the Latino Arts Network—came together in Santa Monica for a daylong meeting, called a Shared Gifting Circle, to collectively decide how the grant funding should be allocated among them. The participants reviewed each other’s proposals and made the final recommendations for allocations.

IMG_6684“It was like no other funding process that I’ve been through in the 20 years that I’ve worked in fundraising and development,” says Rebecca Nevarez, executive director of the Latino Arts Network. “The intimate format, with hands-on creative activities and personal stories, allowed us to really get to know each other and encouraged collaborative thinking. It gave us all opportunities to explain the needs of each organization and constituency, and allowed us to act on our gut feelings about the needs of L.A.’s arts community as a whole.”

The L.A. Shared Gifting Circle also seeded collaborations to gain more visibility for the important role of these organizations in the arts community.

“Because we are behind the scenes in the art world, many funders underestimate the significance of the work we do until there is a crisis,” explains Alma Robinson, executive director of California Lawyers for the Arts. “We’ll use our grant to restore the funding for our arts arbitration and mediation services so we can help more artists and arts organizations resolve conflict.”

The work of LA Stage Alliance and 18th Street Arts Center, both borrowers in RSF’s Social Enterprise Loan program, inspired RSF to offer grant funding to arts service organizations because they play a crucial role in supporting artists and arts non-profits, and they often find it challenging to attract funding.

“In the meeting, we heard how important this is—arts services organizations often compete with the non-profits they support,” said Buhles. “It was extremely gratifying to help with funding needs and to expand our support of the arts in L.A.”

Shared Gifting L.A. participants

Shared Gifting L.A. participants

Contact

Kelley Buhles, Director, Philanthropic Services

kelley.buhles@rsfsocialfinance.org

415.561.6152

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Mutual Aid Networks – Dane County TimeBank

February 24, 2015

by Kelley Buhles

What would it look like if everyone were doing the work they loved, what they felt called to do?

This is the driving question behind the research and development of Mutual Aid Networks (MANs), a project of Dane County TimeBank which was supported in 2014 by the RSF Seed Fund with a grant of $2,500.

Developed over the last four years, Mutual Aid Networks are a new form of cooperative that utilize many collaborative economic tools, such as timebanking, price-based mutual credit, shared resources, lending pools, and cooperative savings, to create a model that supports people and communities to live and work in a way that allows them to thrive.

This model was created as a solution to some of the most challenging issues we face in the modern economic system. How do we leverage the gifts and talents of ALL people in our communities? Not just those whose skills are valued by our current economic system. How do we make a living while also finding time to pay attention to health, to make time for art and music, and to care for our community? How do we engage communities to work together in mutual support for each other?

Dane County TimeBank's Annual Meeting

Dane County TimeBank’s Annual Meeting

Stephanie Rearick, founder of the Dane County TimeBank and leader in the formation of MANs, has experienced the challenges of our current economic system in a very personal way. As an artist, activist, and small business entrepreneur, she often found it a struggle to do the work she loved, while making ends meet, and trying to create an equitable society. It was this experience that led her to create the Dane County TimeBank and MAN as a way to create cooperative ownership models that would support more equitable, self-sustaining communities and better livelihood for the people in them.

The Mutual Aid Network model creates an infrastructure that empowers people to come together for a common purpose and generate, share, and steward the resources needed to realize their common goal. It leverages current collaborative economic tools, and puts them together into a comprehensive system that allows people meet their own needs, as well as support the needs of others, and their community, through a shared ownership vehicle.

With support from the Seed Fund, among other donors, this project has been able to accomplish much already. The first local version of a MAN, the Allied Community Coop, was created in October in Madison, WI with a focus on building neighborhood wellness and sustainability.

They have also already incorporated a meta-cooperative in Wisconsin called the MainMAN that will support local MAN pilots, such as the Allied Community Coop, with resources and technical assistance. The plan is to launch six more pilot sites across the US that will be experimenting with the MAN model. They have a strong focus on sharing their learning experiences from each of the regional pilot sites so that rapid replication may occur. Stay updated on their progress by following their blog at http://blog.timeftw.org/

RSF is very excited to be among the supporters of this group working to build the next economy!

Kelley Buhles is Director of Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance

Growth Financing for Social Enterprises: 5 Options and How to Make Them Work for You

February 19, 2015

Originally published on TriplePundit

A regional food hub funded by RSF, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

A regional food hub funded by RSF, Common Market in Philadelphia has grown rapidly through a series of integrated capital financings.

by Don Shaffer

Social entrepreneurs seeking growth funding often get caught up in the culture of venture capital: They position their enterprise as a rocket business, look for a miracle angel investor and start giving away equity. They’re not thinking about how the investors will get their money back, or whether other options might better support their goals.

At the same time, conventional funders often see social enterprises as too risky or too hard to understand, especially if they’re building a new supply chain, sacrificing some profit to maximize social value or using a hybrid business model.

Fortunately, there are ways around traps and barriers like these for social enterprises that are past the bootstrapping stage. First, here are a few general guidelines:

  • Before you seek financing, define what you ultimately want to do. Are you planning to sell this business? Do you see it as a legacy business that you’re building to last? A long-term, slow-growth plan won’t nix your chances for funding; you’ll just need to look at different kinds of funding.
  • Seek out funders that focus on social enterprises and that have expertise in your field. They’ll have a better understanding of the market opportunity, and they won’t expect your business to compromise its mission in order to grow.
  • Expect a funder to add value beyond financing, such as connections to a network of advisors or technical assistance.

Below are the ins and outs of five funding options — some top of mind, and some you may not have considered.

1. Debt financing

Borrowing money over a defined period of time — from a bank or an alternative lending institution — allows you to maintain your ownership position and thus retain control of the enterprise. This is a good option for enterprises that have the cash flow to make payments and the assets to secure the debt.

Debt financing takes a variety of forms, each with its own underwriting standards: working capital lines of credit, asset-based loans (secured by account receivables, inventory and other assets), equipment loans, mortgages and so on. You will want to seek advice on the best structure. The key questions to ask at the outset are: How will I be able to pay back the loan, and what is the lender likely to do if things go sideways?

Read the full article here

Don Shaffer is President & CEO at RSF Social Finance

The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: How to Spot One

February 17, 2015

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)We’re happy to report that our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year is generating referrals. It’s also inspired some of our friends to ask, “How would I know a social enterprise star when I see one?”

Excellent question. When we say “social enterprise” we mean a for-profit or non-profit venture that generates revenue not as an end, but as a means toward creating significant social or ecological benefits. Just giving profits to good causes doesn’t qualify; the mission must be embedded in the organization. A “star,” by our campaign definition, is an enterprise that’s been in operation for at least three years and has annual revenue of over $1 million (signs that its leaders have shown the ability to stick with it and grow), advocates for or demonstrates social change in its field, and has the potential to achieve significant positive impact through its own operations and as a model. We also have specific loan criteria; see the Social Enterprise Stars campaign page for details.

One of our newest borrowers provides a great example: Hudson Valley Harvest. This for-profit food hub based in Kingston, New York, provides efficient distribution services that connect small and midsize farms in upstate New York with wholesale food buyers in New York City and surrounding areas. This kind of distribution link is essential to economic success for farmers and to access to fresh food for urban communities. Hudson Valley Harvest, founded in 2011 by a farmer and three friends who met at farmers markets, also buys and processes surplus products for sale under its own label, with the farm source identified. The new line of credit from RSF will help support the company’s rapid sales growth and related inventory expansion.

Know any enterprises that fit the star profile? Send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

And please keep spreading the word! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to those who were active last month, including 3BL Media, Just Means, SOCAP, Social Earth, Invest with Values, Robert Simons, Green Reads, Karen Ammann, Business for a Fair Minimum Wage, and Finance Weekly.

Here are a few post ideas:

@RSFSocFinance has loans to spare for #socents. See if you could be one of the next 25 #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Are you a #socent looking to expand your impact? @RSFSocFinance has loans up to $5M: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

@RSFSocFinance is seeking the next 25 #SocentStars. Send candidates here: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Interviews From the Archives: Mark Finser

February 12, 2015

Click here to view the previous interview in this series

We have created a mini series of excerpts from our archive of interviews in the RSF Quarterly. Lots of wisdom was shared by these individuals who hold deep ties to the roots of the organization as early trustees and staff members. We chose to focus on aspects around money, spirit, and associative economics as these themes are core to RSF’s history – and very relevant to our work today.

The interviews were conducted by John Bloom, now RSF Vice President, Organizational Culture. They were part of his exploration of the guiding thoughts that helped to form what was then called Rudolf Steiner Foundation and now RSF Social Finance.

Mark Finser, 1999 & 2002

MAF - Copy (2)John: Why is money such a challenging social force?

Mark: Money itself is connected to the capacity of thinking, feeling, and willing that each person carries. And, the will in each human being is the least conscious of the three soul forces. Consequently money is problematic because a lot of things play into it without people being conscious of what’s happening. RSF brings a consciousness to money, tries to awaken people to its movement and intentions. If one becomes awake to what’s happening in relationship to money within a school, for example, it can actually be the most socially advancing force for a school. We try to help the different organs within a school understand their particular roles in relationship to money. For example, we will help a school form a pledge community that then secures a loan from RSF to the school through pledged gifts. This entails individuals making personal commitments to the project and carrying a consciousness for the well-being of the school. Those individuals can also take an even wider view of their money. They, or anyone, can open a lender fund at any time and thereby participate in a large or small way in RSF’s work for the greater good. When they lend some of their savings to us, they are aligning their values with ours and seeing their money work in a socially-beneficial way.

John: How do you see the Foundation and its responsibilities in transforming the cultural mainstream?

Mark: Money is so connected to everything that we do in life that from the standpoint of its movement, one cannot separate one organization or individual from another in our society. It’s one of the biggest disappointments when an initiative does not see their impact on other initiatives and organizations. Collaboration among groups rather than competition between them would be an appropriate approach to reflect the reality of the movement of money. One could say that money is connected to the life-stream within the whole social body of humanity. Its movement has often been likened to the circulation of the blood. If we are deeply involved in that movement, we can’t help but be interested in and deeply concerned with the current turn of events in the global economy, for example.

We want RSF to be awake to the movement of money, whether it’s in gifts, grants, lending, or borrowing. We constantly ask the question, “Is this particular movement of money socially constructive?” We do not come with a judgment or an answer. We help the projects or donors answer the questions for themselves. We are by intention a third party that accompanies and bears witness. This is the most fascinating part of our work. As we have developed insights over the last 15 years, we have begun to take more leadership in educating people about the conscious use of money as investment. We now say, for example, “collaborative work is important.” This kind of leadership from RSF arises out of a yearning to see how much more we can accomplish in our work together.

Much of the new living economic thinking fits well with some of Rudolf Steiner’s core ideas around the threefold nature of social life, especially working in an economic associative way. When one is involved in dialogue with producers, consumers, and people on the local level, one cannot avoid concern about right livelihood and living wages. At the same time, people’s consciousness is evolving so they can empathize and engage with something going on in Bali or Bangladesh. Because of this new consciousness, RSF will need to develop overtime new tools, financial vehicles, and partnerships to meet all three areas—international, national, and regional.

John: It seems that trust is an essential ingredient of the process of bridging, whether it is on the part of clients or colleagues. How does RSF work with this quality of trust?

Mark: There are many levels to this. One is in being able to listen. It is in the art of conversation. When someone is opening their heart or expressing their intention and the other is not fully taking it in, not really listening, a sense of discomfort can develop. The question arises, “Will that individual or that organization really be able to meet my needs?” Another condition for trust is a track record. Trust is developed incrementally through the experience of RSF meeting requests or needs over time.

If one looks at our historical record in our investment-lending work, one can see the success of our projects and repayments. We have been able to fulfill our clients’ needs, regardless of whether they were planned or incidental. Our consistency and faithfulness build trust and are among the pathways to opening up bridges for alignment of outer and inner values.

Money is itself a bridge. People can begin to see that how they manage their own finances and other resources can bridge relationships, or keep them isolated. One of RSF’s guiding principles, right from the beginning, has been transparency in finances. It is key that there be enough transparency that people can experience where their money is working, how it is being received, used, and repaid in the case of a loan or activity generated in the case of a grant. All of these mechanisms serve as bridges between the clients and the projects and initiatives. They are vehicles by which money can follow intention. We’ve seen many, many times, the personal satisfaction and quality of community that is created when one joins others in investing or giving, in aligning intentions and values. We have been privileged to experience this in so many different ways in the various activities at RSF, and to have contributed to this positive and evolving view of money.

Mark Finser is former President & CEO and current Chair of the Board at RSF. He was a founding member of the group that revitalized RSF in 1984.

RSF Makes a Loan to Imagine Supported Living Services

February 10, 2015

Logo from FBRSF is pleased to announce a loan to Imagine Supported Living Services, a non-profit organization providing services to adults within Santa Cruz County living with developmental disabilities. RSF financing allowed Imagine to acquire two buildings which will house their administrative headquarters and a community center.

Imagine was founded in 2002 with a mission to empower people with developmental disabilities through service and advocacy. Imagine works cooperatively with individuals and other service agencies to increase access and reduce the barriers which prevent people with disabilities from full inclusion in our society.

IMG_1856

Imagine Client

Imagine offers services which acknowledge an individual’s strengths and abilities, and supports that individual in planning a life that they find personally rewarding. At Imagine, each person designs and directs their own services to accomplish the goals they set for themselves.

“Imagine focuses on the abilities of their clients, not their disabilities,” says Ted Levinson, Senior Director of Lending at RSF. “Similar to our long-history of work with Camphill Communities, it’s this approach that makes Imagine a true leader in the supported living services industry.”

Imagine finds and secures housing while providing on-going and long-term direct staff support for personal care and tasks, money management, facilitation of social and recreational activities, and medical management. Each month, Imagine provides 11,000 service hours to clients throughout Santa Cruz County.

In addition to direct services, Imagine is also engaged in community-building, advocacy, and collaboration. Their Resource Library offers free check out of communication devices, training materials, therapeutic devices, and other specialized resources to anyone living in Santa Cruz County. Imagine organizes an annual community event which celebrates the diversity and abilities of its community members and is attended by over 300 people. Imagine has mentored several other agencies and has led a collaborative initiative which brings together all the providers in the region in order to increase the quality of services and have the opportunity to share resources and best practices.

ernie dave n brianna 2

Imagine Clients

RSF financing enabled Imagine to acquire real estate which will house its administrative offices and a community center. The new location provides more space and is more accessible to clients, some of whom visit the offices by public transportation.

“As an agency that seeks to serve individuals with developmental disabilities throughout their lives, we have community integration as a core value and sustainability as an imperative,” says Doug Pascover, Executive Director of Imagine. “The loan we received from RSF helps us plan our finances toward the same far horizon to which we plan our services. It helps us to be the kind of neighbors in our community that we ask our neighbors to be for the people we serve. Working with a lender as mission-driven as we are makes our new financing relationship a real partnership according to our values.”

About Imagine Supported Living Services

Founded in 2002, Imagine is a non-profit organization providing supported living services to adults with developmental disabilities in Santa Cruz County. Imagine’s mission is to empower people with developmental disabilities through service and advocacy. Imagine works cooperatively with individuals and other service agencies to increase access and reduce the barriers which exclude people with disabilities from full inclusion in our society. http://imaginesls.org/

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Willamette Food & Farming Coalition

February 5, 2015

image 1

image 2

by Ellie Lanphier

Willamette Food & Farming Coalition (WFFC) is working to build a just and sustainable food system in Lane County, Oregon.

WFFC received a $2,500 RSF Seed Fund grant to support Lane Local Foods, an online farmers’ market. With a passion for connecting local farmers and consumers, WFFC stewards Lane Local Foods to provide convenient access to local-minded consumers, and to provide another venue for farmers to sell their products to their community.

Local food advocates shop the online farmers market between Wednesday and the following Monday. On Tuesday mornings, local farmers deliver their produce, eggs, meats, and gifts for customers to pick up on Tuesday evening at one of four area sites.

image 3

Greenwillow Grains Team

Customers have the ability to review farmers’ produce on the website. These reviews are added to a section of each farmers’ profile where producer practices and stories are shared. One of these producers is Greenwillow Grains, a family owned and operated organic grain farm and flour mill. Greenwillow Grains grows oats, buckwheat, rye, and wheat and sells their grains and flours to local bakeries, stores, at local farms, and online. Varied sales outlets help make sure small, family farms who care deeply about their products and community continue to survive and thrive. Currently 45 area farms sell to Lane Local Foods.

Farm-direct online sales have rapidly become a new economic model, offering diversity to both wholesale and retail sales infrastructure. In an article published in June of 2013, Modern Farmer explores the pros and cons of this new sustainable consumer trend, citing similar offerings to Lane Local Foods such as Farmigo and Good Eggs. With no intention to replace the CSA model, these online markets hope to meet the consumer and the farmer halfway.

Lane Local Foods was gifted to WFFC in 2013 by Mazzi Ernandes and Doug Frazier. WFFC carries on the company’s intention to make local food easier to access for all.

Ellie Lanphier is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance

Interviews From the Archives: Ann Stahl & Clopper Almon

February 3, 2015

Click here to view the previous interview in this series

We have created a mini series of excerpts from our archive of interviews in the RSF Quarterly. Lots of wisdom was shared by these individuals who hold deep ties to the roots of the organization as early trustees and staff members. We chose to focus on aspects around money, spirit, and associative economics as these themes are core to RSF’s history – and very relevant to our work today.

The interviews were conducted by John Bloom, now RSF Vice President, Organizational Culture. They were part of his exploration of the guiding thoughts that helped to form what was then called Rudolf Steiner Foundation and now RSF Social Finance.

Ann Stahl, 1999

Ann Stahl2 (2)John: What do you mean by the myth of scarcity?

Ann: It is part and parcel of our present-day materialistic society. The message we hear everyday through all the media is that we don’t have enough of something. If you open a magazine, you see for example: “Your teeth are not white enough,” “Your hair is not shiny enough,” “Your body doesn’t smell sweet enough.” All the messages conspire to point towards a human being who is not sufficient just as he or she is.

John: Those all exploit a tendency for fearfulness.

Ann: Absolutely! You’re not like the others who do have enough. If we think that we don’t have enough, then we certainly are not going to be in a place where we feel we have lots to give away – whether that’s time, warmth, health, or money. The mindset is: Hang on to what you have, you haven’t got enough. This affects finances very strongly. It is really at a very deep level that we feel we are not sufficient as we are.

John: What drives this phenomenon?

Ann: I think it is fear that drives it. We’re all caught in this, regardless of whether you have a spiritual practice or not. This question of “enoughness” is tied to our every thought. It affects whole organizations as well. I think that it is a very laming condition to be in, to think that you can’t do something until you get enough money, enough enrollment, enough space, enough whatever, rather than figuring out a way to do it.

John: Do you have a cure for this myth of scarcity?

Ann: When you consider the polarity of excess and scarcity, what is the balancing tendency? What I would place in the middle is abundance. And we all have an abundance, it just has different qualities and colors. If you look around to see what different people have in abundance, you come up with a wonderful basket of abundances! Working with those is quite different than working with either the “too much” or the “not enough.” Part of the abundance is money, part is time to do things, part is capacities and skills. So abundance in that middle place is as varied as the people who will come when they see that you’re working out of that recognition – a belief in the abundance of life. There is plenty of everything in the world. There is plenty of money and human beings with wonderful capacities.

Ann Stahl is a former staff member of RSF


 

Clopper Almon, 1999

almonJohn: What do you consider the spiritual basis for economics?

Clopper: Economics is about the determination of values, and the exchange of products. In its physical matter, each product incorporates a tremendous amount of thinking, imagination, and organization. Think of that pen that you are writing with. Imagine how much went into designing it, into extracting the ores of the metals that it is made from, organizing the transportation system, the trade, the marketing, and even the advertising that got you to buy that pen and not some other. All of that takes human imagination and thinking—and all of that is spiritual content. When you realize that behind everything that we think of as matter is spirit, then rocks are spiritual; plants, animals, humans, all of the creation has a spiritual foundation. How one awakens people to that realization, I wish I knew.

Clopper is a Professor of Economics and a former Trustee of RSF

Click here to view the next interview in this series

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