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What Am I Working For?

April 1, 2015

by John Bloom

John BloomNo question, how and what we get paid is something we take personally. So, understanding compensation is difficult from philosophical and emotional standpoints. The issue comes with layers of complexity—the stories we tell ourselves about self-worth and a host of other conditioned assumptions about our value, the marketplace, and the organizations in which we work. This should come as no surprise, because the experiences and associations we carry are often framed in a materialist paradigm constantly reiterated in the mainstream business world and through the media. As a typical example, an advertisement in a recent New York Times read: “Earn what you’re really worth.” This is the kind of reductive message that reinforces the notion that “I am what I earn” and nothing more. The materialistic paradigm embraces the story of compensation as an extension of self-interest. Other aspects of one’s being, like our moral character, our capacities, and our need for love are essentially dismissed as subjective or “soft” indicators, even though these are what actually guide my relationships, what I care about, and my ability to discern meaning in life.

For organizations, compensation is a conscious or unconscious, and often inconsistent expression of organizational behaviors, its culture, the predilections of its decision makers, the organization’s history and habits, and its practiced values. One could say that each paycheck marks the intersection of two systems, personal and organizational. And since organizations are also social in nature, there are additional layers of assumptions, judgments, appreciations, and aspirations about compensation permeating social system that remain unaddressed. Under the conditions described above, compensation is basically anti-social and furthers self-interested behavior patterns.

If we are striving to build organizations of people working to lead a regenerative future-bearing economy, however, it is hard to imagine how any organizational coherence, transparency, and mutual understanding of compensation could be achieved without a philosophical covenant based on organizational purpose, values, and principles. And further that this covenant is cultivated and shared by the people working together in that organization. Included in this transformative imagination is first a reconsideration of the nature of work and secondly the relationship of compensation to it—in essence our livelihood.

We can readily grasp how compensation is tied to labor if we assume it is a commodity. Most of us have been raised with this assumption embedded in our psyche, our payroll systems, and in law. I get paid an amount for an hour’s work. If an organization or individual is willing to pay, I can charge more for it. Its perceived value goes up, even though I am the same person regardless of the price. The fact is that whatever I can charge has nothing to do with me as a human being. Rather, this is how market forces work in the world of commodities. In the capital system, producers are constantly trying to reduce the cost of labor in search of higher profit margins. Labor in this sense is a disposable commodity to be replaced with a cheaper version, as profit matters more than the quality of life of the person who is producing that profit. In this system, individuality is sacrificed for the sake of efficient markets—that is to say profitability and return on investment.

The laws of commodities are different than the laws of being human. Things, commodities, the products of human labor, are naturally part of the circulation of goods and services, and are subject to economic forces that have no rightful relationship to the real value of a human being. The market operates on the assumption that an employee is nothing more than his or her labor, and any two or a thousand people are all equal in this regard, that is to say uniformly treated as commodities. If we are really trying to understand how compensation works on a human level, ponder the following: Why does a professional baseball player make a million dollars to play a game, while a teacher makes considerably less, even though students’ futures are critically dependent upon the quality of that teacher’s work? What does this tell us about compensation, and what does it tell us about the relationship between what we vitally value and how that value shows up in the world of money?

We are unlikely to make any progress through our current state of extreme resource inequality, or achieve any level of economic sufficiency, until we realize that labor is not a commodity. The drive to reduce the cost of labor, and to treat it as a commodity to be bought and sold, displaced and replaced, is derived from the competition to maximize profit. This extractive approach has left much human and environmental degradation behind.

In 1914, the Congress of the United States declared in its Clayton Act: “The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce.” This was done in part as a protection against abuse of labor around which the labor union movement had been formed. Thirty years later the same notion, that labor is not a commodity, was reiterated as part of the International Labor Organization’s Declaration of Philadelphia (10 May 1944). In a way, both statements settle the labor as commodity question by saying what it is not. Yet neither offers an affirmative insight into labor in such a way that the sense and purpose of compensation are on clear ground.

If labor is not a commodity, then what is it? And what then is the purpose of compensation?

Stay tuned for Part II where this question will be answered.

John Bloom is Vice President, Organizational Culture at RSF.

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Tanka Fund

March 24, 2015

by Ellie Lanphier

Tanka 1“The four leggeds came before the two leggeds. They are our older brother, we came from them. Before them, we were the root people. We came from them. We are the same thing. That is why we are spiritually related to them. We call them in our language “Tatanka,” which means “He Who Owns Us.” We cannot say that we own the buffalo because he owns us.1

 – Birgil Kills Straight, Lakota elder

Buffalo, hunted to near extinction in the 19th century, were once critical to supporting Native American communities, economies, and way of life. Now, with the market demand for buffalo on the rise, organizations like Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Native American Natural Foods are working tirelessly to ensure Native Americans are a part of the buffalos’ comeback.

In 2014, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation and Native American Natural Foods (NANF) received a RSF Seed Fund grant to support their shared efforts to return buffalo to the lands, diets, and economies of American Indian people. Together they established the Tanka Fund in 2012, with a ten year goal to convert one million acres of land to buffalo production.

“The buffalo and the Great Plains were made for each other,” says Mark Tilson, President and Co-founder of NANF. “No species is more suited to the huge prairie ecosystems than the buffalo.” Compared to cattle, which currently dominate the Great Plain region, buffalo can tolerate more extreme temperatures, calve without supervision, produce more meat on less grass, and reproduce longer. Buffalo eat different grasses at different times of the year; this rotation helps restore grass root systems and plays a significant role in prairie restoration.

Beyond the environmental benefits, the Tanka Fund supports the reintroduction of buffalo meat into the diets of Native American communities as means to a healthier people. According to the American Center for Disease Control, Native American people have a 2.3 times higher chance of being diagnosed with diabetes than non-Hispanic whites, and the likelihood is even higher among youth. Many Native American communities suffer from a lack of healthy, accessible food options, either due to poor economic conditions or geographic isolation. In response, the Tanka Fund will provide educational programs on healthy eating and lifestyles as well as incorporate buffalo meat, praised for its nutritional value, into school lunches, take home meal initiatives, and elder meals.

The Tanka Fund also plans to provide technical assistance programming to American Indian ranchers to aid in the conversion from cattle to buffalo, and alongside these efforts, public education programs on the health and environmental benefits of buffalo ranching. Other proposed services include aiding in the development of buffalo ranching, processing and marketing cooperatives, and market demand/feasibility research. For a more complete list of all the activities the Tanka Fund will support, visit this page.

Tanka 2

Photo by Positive Exposures

  1. LaDuke, Winona (1998). Pte oyate: Buffalo nations, buffalo people. St. Paul, MN: Honor the Earth.

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

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Rosebud Economic Development Corporation

March 19, 2015

by Ellie Lanphier

REDCO logoIn South Dakota, on the 1,900 square miles of the Rosebud Reservation, the Rosebud Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) is working to address high rates of poverty and unemployment and pervasive food insecurity. To support their campaign to increase access to fresh, local foods, REDCO received a RSF Seed Fund grant in 2014 towards the establishment of a community garden and farmers’ market.

REDCO is a non-profit, tribally chartered entity of the Sicangu Lakota Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe). Through many different programs and initiatives, the organization promotes economic development and self-sufficiency to improve the lives of the tribe’s 32,000 members. The tribe currently faces staggering challenges. The county on which it sits is the second poorest in the United States, the life expectancy for men is 47, compared to the national average of 77 years. The tribe faces epidemic levels of alcoholism, suicide, and diabetes that are more than double the national rate. REDCO is committed to generating revenue for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and promoting economic growth through business management and development, economic policy development, and community development.

In 2012, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe put REDCO in control of 600 acres of tribal land adjacent to the tribal-owned Turtle Creek Crossing Supermarket. Over the next 10-15 years it will become the Keya Wakpala Green Development (KWGD), a holistic, resilient, and planned development incorporating community gardens, walking trails, native plant habitat, spaces for cultural and spiritual activities, energy efficient housing, renewable energy, and business incubation. KWGD was recognized as a “Commitment to Action” by the Clinton Global Initiative in 2013. In late 2013, community members, spiritual leaders, and other tribal leaders were asked to prioritize features and services to be included at KWGD. In written surveys, the top four priorities in a long list of options were food or agriculture related: a community garden, grocery store/food co-op, farmers market, and greenhouse.

The Keya Wakpala Farmers’ Market will be a weekly seasonal market, featuring produce grown by the new Keya Wakpala community garden and other reservation gardens. The market will be located in a convenient location, next to the existing supermarket, and as a part of the KWGD. From the time the market opens, they will accept SNAP food stamps and provide opportunities to sample food and educational materials on the relationship between diet and health to encourage adopting a healthy eating lifestyle.

REDCO’s Food Sovereignty Coordinator will oversee the community garden program, and later the farmers’ market. Beyond providing access to fresh, local food, the hope is that it will also create a safe gathering space to come together regularly. Market vendors will receive hands-on entrepreneurship training as well as generate income. REDCO also hopes to encourage and inspire the development of agriculture and food-related industries on the reservation, such as dried buffalo, specialty dried corn and popcorn, and preserves, including the use of wild foods like chokecherries and plums.

REDCO was in touch with RSF since receiving the Seed Fund grant, and described challenges to securing other funding for the garden and market project. The RSF Local Initiatives Fund was able to provide an additional $10,000 grant to support fencing and irrigation costs to get the community garden development underway.

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

The Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars: Education & the Arts

March 16, 2015

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-300dpi (2)As part of our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year, we’re looking for new borrowers in all three of our focus areas: Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship. These are broad categories, but because it’s not always obvious whether an enterprise is a fit for us we’ll delve into what we look for in each area over the next three months. Up this month: Education & the Arts.

We support many different types of enterprises under this umbrella, including:

Marimi common mealOne of our current borrowers provides a great example in the last category: Camphill Communities California (CCC), a Santa Cruz supportive life-sharing community where volunteer caregivers and individuals with developmental disabilities live and work in a cooperative and rewarding environment. CCC offers everyone the opportunity to learn, grow, and live up to their highest aspirations. CCC is a model and inspiration for how to address the needs of the whole person: body, soul, and spirit. RSF has provided CCC with mortgage and construction loans to expand and improve their facilities.

If you know any enterprises in any of our focus areas that could expand their impact with greater access to capital, send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars. General criteria for borrowers includes:

  • Incorporated in the US or Canada
  • Funding needs ranging from $200,000 to $5 million
  • Enterprise is profitable, or can demonstrate a clear path to profitability in 12 months
  • Annual revenue of $1 million or greater

Please pass it on to your network! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Many thanks to all those who’ve been tweeting and posting so far.

Here are a few post ideas:

Are you an arts or edu enterprise looking for #funding? @RSFSocFinance has loans for #socents: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

Does your #socent need capital to grow? @RSFSocFinance provides loans up to $5M: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

@RSFSocFinance is #funding the next 25 #SocentStars. See if you qualify: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Foundation For the Challenged

March 10, 2015

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

By Meredith Storton, Client Development Associate

Over seven million Americans have an intellectual or developmental disability. These individuals are some of the most marginalized and underserved members in our society. They face poverty, unemployment, and discrimination, all of which combined make finding affordable housing a particular challenge. Fortunately, there are housing options that provide independence, dignity, and a sense of community to the developmentally disabled: community-based living. Foundation for the Challenged [FFC] is a non-profit that is working hard to meet the high demands for community-based living by making homes available for the developmentally disabled to rent. Tucked away in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, FFC provides homes to 350 developmentally disabled individuals in 94 residences located across 11 states. With support from RSF’s financing, FFC has been able to weather the 2008 housing crash and continue on its mission to buy homes for the developmentally disabled, positioning themselves as a social enterprise helping those with the most need.

Residents of FFC housing work on an arts & crafts project. Courtesy FFC.

Residents of FFC housing work on an arts & crafts project. Courtesy FFC.

Inspiration

Fran Wesseling has been at the helm of this organization since 2002, when FFC started buying homes for the developmentally disabled to rent. Wesseling started her career in nursing, but after an interaction with a developmentally disabled person she decided she wanted to focus all of her energy towards helping that community. Soon thereafter, she started working at Alternative Residences, Inc. [ARI], the predecessor organization to FFC. ARI was a non-profit that focused on managing group homes and providing direct services to the developmentally disabled. These support services include taking residents to the grocery store, helping them dress, and preparing dinner for them. There are many service providers like ARI, however, and ARI’s board, led by Wesseling, believed they could do something else – something more impactful for the developmentally disabled. So, in 2002, ARI sold its service provider contracts to other providers and became Foundation for the Challenged. Their goal became to improve the quality of life for the developmentally disabled by encouraging community inclusion and providing a place for them to live affordably and comfortably. Buying houses and starting a charitable program, it turns out, enables FFC to do just that.

Innovation

Developmentally disabled Americans receive monthly financial support from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. They use a portion of their SSI funds to pay rent. FFC is the landlord in the homes they own. They use the rental income to pay down their mortgages and to support their slim operations (FFC has two full-time and two part-time employees). Because FFC is not providing the at-home services, the separation of service provider and landlord roles ensures that the residents are treated fairly. FFC is a compassionate landlord that understands the various needs their residents have and the challenges they face. They provide the residents with the opportunity to live with other developmentally disabled individuals in a place where they feel at home. This integration into the wider community is better for the residents and better for society as a whole. As Kathy Streblo, FFC’s Associate Director of Housing Operations, sees it, the benefits of community living are significant, “The developmentally disabled are able to enjoy all the things that you and I are able to enjoy about living in a community – choosing roommates, picking where you live, and what activities you do.”

The need for real estate for the developmentally disabled is enormous. For decades, many developmentally disabled people, regardless of their disability level, were living in state-run institutions segregated from society and stripped of their independence. In 1999, a landmark Supreme Court decision declared that the segregation of people with disabilities is a form of unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result of the so-called Olmstead decision, community-based living became the desired solution to institutional settings. Now, however, there is a new problem – a shortage of homes available for the developmentally disabled to rent. Tens of thousands of developmentally disabled people linger on waitlists for years for homes like those FFC owns. In the meantime, they live with aging caregivers or they remain in institutions. FFC does not have control over the state-run waitlists, but they are attempting to fulfill the need one home at a time.

When FFC started purchasing homes, they were able to acquire them quickly using the affordable housing financing available through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then in 2008, the housing market crashed. Affordable housing financing dried up and suddenly instead of making 10% down payments on a new home, FFC was required to put down 30%. They were forced to hunt for state and federal grant dollars to help supplement their purchases. Even then, the budget was tight and their ability to buy houses slowed significantly.

FFC went to several small lenders that specialized in housing for the developmentally disabled, but they weren’t able to provide a loan that was large enough to cover FFC’s needs. In 2010, Wesseling, still on the hunt for financing options, met RSF Senior Director of Lending Ted Levinson at a Social Enterprise Alliance meeting. Wesseling recalls, “there was synergy in that RSF valued what we were doing and the mission that we had when other banks didn’t care what we were doing and the social impact we were having.” RSF was able to provide FFC with a $3.9MM mortgage loan, which brought their interest rates down and enabled them to use the savings from the refinanced mortgages to do much needed repairs and improvements on several homes. Levinson is grateful RSF was able to support the critical need FFC is addressing. He explains, “RSF shares the view that every person, regardless of ability or disability, deserves to lead a full life. This includes their emotional, social, and spiritual needs. A permanent place to live – one that a person can truly consider a home – is a critical first step in achieving this full life.”

Impact

Though they provide much needed housing for 350 individuals, FFC felt the need to give back in a more direct way to the community they work with. In 2006, FFC launched the Community Living Fund that supports the developmentally disabled by providing basic living necessities such as wheelchair ramps and walking devices. Individuals have the opportunity to apply for up to $1,000, which goes a long way for someone living on SSI payments. One of Wesseling’s favorite stories is about a grant that was used to pave a bike trail in a rural area so that a boy with down-syndrome could safely ride his bike near his home. FFC has provided over $130,000 in grants to individuals since the fund started in 2006.

In mid-November, FFC held a fundraising event to expand and endow the newly named Wesseling Community Living Fund so that even when the organization faces financial hardships like the 2008 housing crash, they’re able to give back. So far they’ve raised 70% of their fundraising goal for the fund and the donations are continuing to come in. The event doubled as a retirement celebration for Wesseling. After serving the organization for 28 years, she is stepping down and in her stead Kathy Streblo will become the Executive Director. They have plans in place for a smooth transition. Over the next few years, FFC will focus on growth in the markets they’re already in – states like Ohio, Tennessee, Iowa, Florida and Washington – where they already understand the state regulations and have vetted the service providers. They hope that they’ll be able to keep serving those most in need for a long time to come. RSF hopes to keep supporting FFC’s work and other like-minded organizations that are providing dignity, stability, and independence to people with developmental disabilities.

Can Investors Put 100% of Funds to Work for Social Benefit? An Emerging Movement Says Yes

March 5, 2015

Originally published on CSRwire

Don Shaffer - Defaultby Don Shaffer

When I first started working in impact investing, the field’s challenges were foundational: refining the concept, finding suitable investments, figuring out how to measure impact, even determining what to call the concept. Work in all those areas continues, but the field has matured to the point where it’s on the agenda of the G8, finance conglomerates feel they need to have an impact product, and the mainstream business press is taking notice (if skeptically). Now I’m seeing an enormous amount of energy pouring into our next great challenge: cultivating a vanguard of 100 percent impact investors, people who devote their entire portfolio to funding enterprises that strive to produce social and ecological benefits as a core part of their mission.

I’m privileged to have an inside view of this nascent movement. At RSF Social Finance, we’ve been working for years with clients and partner organizations to promote this increased level of commitment and to seed the infrastructure that supports it. And momentum is building: the push toward 100 percent impact (sometimes called whole portfolio activation) is where the action is in impact investing.

Who are the 100 percent impact investors?

Most people investing for impact have only a portion of their money in impact investments; 100 percent impact investors are working toward going all in. What’s driving them? My sense from talking with people attracted to this movement is that many people of means are having an existential crisis about climate change and other problems in which they know they’re complicit. They want to understand where their money is going and direct it to solving the problems they are passionate about. Just investing in a mutual fund that’s screening out bad things is not good enough anymore.

Read the full article here

Don Shaffer is President & CEO at RSF Social Finance

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 $50,000 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

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