Money

Clients in Conversation: Money & Spirit – Part II

May 19, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly. This dialogue is with John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture and RSF clients Rose Feerick and Barbara Sargent.

Last fall at the SOCAP14 conference, RSF sponsored a panel titled, “What Does Spirit Have To Do With Money?” The participants, Barbara Sargent, Rose Feerick, and John Bloom (facilitator), began this conversation prior to the panel in preparation and it deepened more during the panel. This “conversation” is an extension of that dialogue. Our hope is that the questions we explored be engaged with by anyone reading this distillation. It would honor the participants and the dialogue itself were this to be the case.

The questions: What in each of our biographies led us to seek the connection between money and spirit? How do spiritual practices inform our work with money? What are some practical examples from your current work with money and gift which evidence the presence of spirit?

Click here to view Part I

Sargent_FeerickRose: I am fascinated by the way Barbara’s journey with money led her back to her natural spiritual orientation. I have also found that working with money has deepened my spiritual journey. Here is what I mean: staying conscious of what is happening in my money life; engaging with financial tensions as a way to see where I need to grow spiritually; choosing to notice and let go of the desires to grab, get more, move from scarcity or fear; bringing my financial realities out of privacy and into transparent community—these practices allow me to become increasingly conscious of my inner life and then make choices that manifest my values and vision. One of those values is compassion for all the ways that I am not yet in full alignment.

I also practice prayer forms that emerge from the monastic stream of Christianity. These practices alongside my work with money are helping, I hope, to open my heart more fully to grace. They make it easier for me to witness the various drives and assumptions that I experience in my day-to-day life, which then give me an opportunity to choose which ones I want to live from. Over time, I hope that my life and financial choices are less sourced from an ego-centered operating system and more rooted in my spiritual heart.

Barbara: I so admire Rose’s willingness to stay present with and explore the dynamic tensions around wealth as part of her spiritual practice. The dynamics between those with and without wealth around power and privilege are so entrenched and strong, and for Rose to sit in conversation and work through these tensions is not only courageous but also contributing so strongly to the eventual breakdown of the separation. As we increasingly realize we are living in an interconnected world where the good of one is the good of all, perhaps those with wealth will increasingly use their resources to serve the wellbeing of all communities. Rose is pioneering the kind of conversations that are sorely needed.

After Kalliopeia was well established, Tom and I started New Field Foundation, which supports the agency of rural women and their associations in West Africa to improve the lives of their families. And most recently, we started Tamalpais Trust, which supports the development and strengthening of indigenous-led initiatives, organizations and networks that promote and serve indigenous cultures and lifeways, human rights, ceremonial practices, and the protection of sacred lands and waters. Indigenous peoples know how to be true stewards of our earth and its varieties of life. They know there is no sustainability without ceremonial life or without honoring the spiritual nature of existence. I think this last point is the key in terms of pointing to the most fundamental need of our time.

Rose: One of the specific needs that Harvest Time has been working on for the past nine years involves a project in Mississippi. The project began when we received a piece of land to give away in a way that would serve healing and transformation. The very act of making a gift in Mississippi has become an opportunity to practice a kind of sacred alchemy so that light can flow through a painful history and bring a hopeful future. Given the history of that particular corner of the world, manifesting that intention has required diving into the shadows of our culture and ourselves so that the diverse circle of people involved can partner from the place of their brilliance and not assumptions, fear or cultural norms that reinforce separation. This is not easy work. And yet, in Christianity we believe that grace is active in places where the shadow is operative and has the power to transform.

Barbara: What a beautiful story Rose tells of how this gift of land to community, done consciously and carefully with the engagement of spirit and self-awareness, can bring grace and transformation. What an invitation for all of us to engage gently, openly, and with maturity in conversations when we see our own or other lives shrouded by shadows where there could potentially be increased wellbeing or freedom from past wounds. In these polarized times this kind of engagement brings hope that we can learn to cross divides.

We live in a spiritually alive universe, and what we are conscious of is only part of the whole. To collectively acknowledge that the unseen and the unconscious parts of life are vitally potent, that we can ask for the energies of love to help us address the unrelenting problems we are facing, and that we can then evolve systems of living that honor this wholeness and the interconnectedness we are beginning to perceive—I think is the next step in our collective evolution.

Barbara Sargent is president of Kalliopeia Foundation and on the board of New Field Foundation. She and her husband, Tom Sargent, are active in building financial practices that can lead to holistic and truly sustainable ways of living. Her practice is within the Sufi tradition with Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee of the Golden Sufi Center.

Rose Feerick is the Director of Harvest Time, an ecumenical Christian ministry that invites people of wealth to engage questions of money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. Rose has been offering retreats, reflections and spiritual direction related to money and Christian faith for over ten years. She has a BA from Georgetown University and an MDiv from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She lives in Redwood City, CA with her two sons who share her love of music, sense of wonder in nature, and spirit of playfulness.

Clients in Conversation: Money & Spirit – Part I

May 12, 2015

This article was originally published in the Spring 2015 RSF Quarterly. This dialogue is with John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture and RSF clients Rose Feerick and Barbara Sargent.

Last fall at the SOCAP14 conference, RSF sponsored a panel titled, “What Does Spirit Have To Do With Money?” The participants, Barbara Sargent, Rose Feerick, and John Bloom (facilitator), began this conversation prior to the panel in preparation and it deepened more during the panel. This “conversation” is an extension of that dialogue. Our hope is that the questions we explored be engaged with by anyone reading this distillation. It would honor the participants and the dialogue itself were this to be the case.

The questions: What in each of our biographies led us to seek the connection between money and spirit? How do spiritual practices inform our work with money? What are some practical examples from your current work with money and gift which evidence the presence of spirit?

Sargent_FeerickBarbara: During the 1980s I was gradually growing into too much wealth for my own comfort as a result of stock that had been gifted to me. My parents advised me to just keep these funds in the bank, not speak about it, and not give too much away.

Toward the end of the eighties I had become quite uncomfortable with this shadowed world, for this was translating into hiding from the reality of my own life, hiding from myself. There was also a nagging, if not fully conscious, feeling that not circulating the funds in service to people and life in general violated a fullness that I sensed was present in me.

I was scared of the exposure that being more public about the presence of this money would bring. At the same time, I was praying to be of service to the well being of the world. Now I can say that that prayer was heard, because the courage and energies needed came for what my husband Tom and I are in the midst of doing philanthropically and through our investments.

Rose: I grew up in a traditional Irish Catholic family in an affluent neighborhood. From a young age, I understood that faith was meant to shape how we lived and what we did with financial resources. I witnessed my parents’ generosity in responding to various food drives and fundraising requests. Neither of my parents paid any attention to fancy clothes, jewelry, or cars, which was a source of much embarrassment for me at the time. Even so, I knew that their lack of concern for image was because their hearts and values were rooted in something else—their faith.

I chose to study that faith in college at Georgetown University and there learned about inspiring men and women such as Dorothy Day, St. Francis, and Romero who left positions of privilege in order to confront the injustice of their times. I was also troubled by the economic injustice I witnessed as I took a two-mile bus ride every week from Georgetown to 14th Street to work with homeless women. I understood that Jesus had a lot to say about these realities and wanted to see if I could find a way to embody the Christian values of simplicity and social justice in my own life. How ironic, then, that as I was making this decision, I received a substantial financial gift. Of course, now I see that paradoxical moment as the holy joke that launched me on my path.

Barbara: I am taken by Rose’s expression of that ‘paradoxical moment,’ of receiving a substantial gift of money from, what I call, the universe. It is compelling for me to watch how the universe responds when we make a very serious commitment from our inner life. We are tested, and depending on how we respond, we can be supported by gifts of the energies needed to carry the commitment through, or not. For Rose this moment turned out to be the holy joke that launched her on her life path. This little story expresses a kind of sweetness and intimacy with the unseen world. For me, at a meditation retreat during this early period, an energy came with the words “just start a foundation.” From there I knew I would do so, as intimidated and scared as I was by the thought. When we started what became Kalliopeia Foundation, I asked myself, “What should this foundation focus on, what should it be about?”

During my growing up years I had become lost and without purpose, and the natural, spiritual orientation I was born with had disappeared, largely because this was not reflected in the culture in which I lived. So this is what Kalliopeia Foundation came to be about. Its mission is to support the evolution of communities and cultures that honor the unity at the heart of life’s diversity. It is not religiously affiliated, but through its grantmaking it honors programs that hold the sacred at the center, that work with authenticity, the re-emergence of feminine values, and with deeply holistic, emergent ways of living.

Stay tuned for Part II…

Barbara Sargent is president of Kalliopeia Foundation and on the board of New Field Foundation. She and her husband, Tom Sargent, are active in building financial practices that can lead to holistic and truly sustainable ways of living. Her practice is within the Sufi tradition with Sheikh Llewellyn Vaughan Lee of the Golden Sufi Center.

Rose Feerick is the Director of Harvest Time, an ecumenical Christian ministry that invites people of wealth to engage questions of money as a doorway to spiritual transformation. Rose has been offering retreats, reflections and spiritual direction related to money and Christian faith for over ten years. She has a BA from Georgetown University and an MDiv from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University. She lives in Redwood City, CA with her two sons who share her love of music, sense of wonder in nature, and spirit of playfulness.

RSF Spring Quarterly: Can Giving Go Deeper?

April 8, 2015

In the latest issue of the RSF Quarterly we explore the power of gift. RSF community members share stories of the most transformational gifts they have given and received. Kelley Buhles offers insights into what’s happening on the cutting edge of philanthropy. In Clients in Conversation, Barbara Sargent of the Kalliopeia Foundation and Rose Feerick of Harvest Time discuss how their personal biographies led them to seek a connection between money and spirit. Learn how a gift catalyzed the innovative work of a for-profit social enterprise, Eastern Carolina Organics. And, hear from Ted Levinson on how to spot a social enterprise star.

Click here to download an electronic copy of the Quarterly

Cover from Spring 2015 Newsletter

What Am I Working For? – Part II

April 6, 2015

This is Part II of a two-part series on compensation. Click here for Part I.

by John Bloom

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

Labor is a resource in the same way that nature is a resource. Each human being has the capacity to tap that resource to work in the physical world and further to turn that capacity in service to the interdependent realm of economic activity. One could say that labor is pre-economic. In the sense that buying and selling are economic, it makes sense to say that you cannot buy labor, but rather the product of that labor.

Then one has to ask, what is this resource of labor? Where does it come from? I do not know any other way to answer that question than to call it gift, a gift that is part of the essential nature of a human being to be developed though life and practical activities. To be a gift, it cannot be bought. Rather, it has to be received as such and then transformed to be of service. While labor is a resource within each person, no two individuals manifest that resource in the same way. Capacities are different; circumstances are different. This is at the core of understanding individuality.

Individuality, the uniqueness of each human being, stands in stark contrast to the homogenizing standard of value that we call money. This standardization is both inherent in the function of money and necessary for the flow of economic activity. The result is that compensation is a holder of both-and. No wonder the tension and complexity. Compensation serves to support and free an individual to bring her or his gifts and capacities in service to others through production, and when received to enable that individual to participate in the rest of economic life through expending the money. There is a kind reciprocal poetic to this process if one imagines that an individual receives a gift of labor as resource, puts that gift in service to an organization (or to one’s own enterprise) with the result that compensation flows back as a result of the organization’s collective activity, and then again disperses and disappears back into the economy as each individual uses their respective compensation to meet material needs.

I hope I have painted a picture of a participatory economy, one that recognizes the value of each human being, not as a commodity but as a necessary resource and co-creator. Further, compensation has a very particular role to play in this broader context. If you accept the assumptions and implications of the advertisement mentioned at the beginning—I should earn what I am really worth—then you have made yourself a commodity. Though one might successfully sell oneself, there is a price to pay. But what is that price? What is the sacrifice? I would say that to commoditize oneself, or to commoditize another by putting a price on them is a measure of dehumanization. This is the very opposite of the direction we need to go in order to create a regenerative economy. I would rather reframe compensation as liberating human capacity in order that each may be of service and contribute to an interdependent world.

John Bloom is Vice President, Organizational Culture at RSF.

What Am I Working For? – Part I

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?

Click here for Part II

John Bloom is Vice President, Organizational Culture at RSF.

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.

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

Interviews from the Archives: Philip Mees

January 29, 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.

Philip Mees, 2000

John: What from the bank environment informed or changed the way you could work in RSF?

Philip: The way I originally learned to approach a loan was so much more relevant in this environment of RSF than it was in the environment of the big bank. First you need to know your customer, to trust your customer, and to be trusted by the customer. However, each project also has to make sense on its own merits. That’s why you have to do credit analysis. Underlying the techniques of credit analysis and objective judgment, there is a subjective world of people being able to get along together, wanting to work with each other to accomplish something. All of these factors are important to us.

John: We try to be somewhat objective about those subjective aspects, don’t we?

Philip: Absolutely. That’s where the art comes in. Banking is not a science by any means. Banking is an art because one deals with people who want to do something in the world. One needs to make judgments on what one thinks of what they want to do in the world, and then whether one wants to support it. That’s not a scientific process. I’ve never called it an artistic process, but I’ve always talked about the art of banking.

John: Behind financial transactions and relationship is money. What is money?

Philip: Money is something that belongs to us. We have the clothes that belong to us, we live in the kind of house that belongs to us, we live the kind of life that belongs to us, and we have the illnesses that belong to us. The money we have is intimately connected with our karma. The decisions that we made before we were born for the kind of life that we were going to lead have financial consequences. Daily we face the consequences of the decisions that we made before birth and all the way through our life. In that way, money is the expression of very deep spiritual realities.

One of the ways we build our existence in the world is by doing things in it. We find our identity through the things we do. We make a living and acquire things, and those things are represented by money today. We acquire that which we have earned.

Money is earned by thinking, thinking about things of the world and being able to transform things and organize activity, as well as by physical labor. When you look at how people have made money throughout history, the one thing that stands out is that people who work only with their hands, do only manual things, never make any money. Society seems to be organized in such a way that they are able to subsist, they are able to continue doing that, but they will never build a surplus.

Through the ages, the people who really made money had other people work for them, even back to when the capital was accumulated through conquest. The economic or business way of accumulating capital is quite new. In the old days people went out, made war, plundered, and acquired land. Land and natural resources were the real base of capital. The kings or rulers who directed these conquests had their people bring them the spoils and gave them a small part back. Thinking has always been connected with accumulated capital.

John: What is capital? Is it something other than a specialized form of money?

Philip: I have trouble drawing a line between the two. When you direct the kind of thinking I’ve just described, you make money. Almost automatically you build up a surplus, and that surplus is today called capital. It’s an interesting word, because the Latin word caput, meaning head, is the origin. It never comes from the hands. Capital is the result of spirit and the spiritual activity of thinking. That’s why it needs to go back into creating new spiritual activity, so that people develop the capacity for new thinking.

John: Money is also then connected to the renewal of human capacity.

Philip: I love the statement by Rudolf Steiner where he says, “The gift is the most productive economic transaction that you can create.” A gift helps create new spiritual capacities. A gift to a school, for example, enables a number of new children to learn things that will make them productive in the economy one way or another.

John: The picture of thinking and capital that you have outlined depends on an individual at the head of a hierarchical structure. The pyramids are the classic example of architecture reflecting cultural and economic hierarchy. Do you think that there are new models of people working in businesses that are not so individual-driven, or is that a challenge for the future?

Philip: Well it depends how you use your thinking. In the economy there is no equality. The spiritual capacities of people are unequal, and they result in unequal work in the economy. In the political sphere and before the law, we are all equal. But, in the economy, in the art of applying the spiritual capacity of thinking to matter, we are not all equal.

Philip is a former Trustee and staff member of RSF.

Click here to view the next interview in this series

Interviews From the Archives: Siegfried Finser

January 15, 2015

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.

Siegfried Finser, 1998

John: The term associative economics keeps surfacing. What does it mean?

finser_seigfriedSiegfried: I see three different trends all based on what’s happening in the development of the human soul. One of them is this yearning in the soul for being affiliated with others, for being part of something—community. A great part of that yearning harks back to the time when we were actually part of a clan or family, when we were not so alone standing so completely, self-sufficient, independently in the world. In that ancient time, when we felt part of a whole community, we were all devoted to service, but it was unconscious service. That is the one force in society today.

The second stream has to do with trying to ameliorate humanity’s suffering and starvation, poverty, and pain in our lifetime. We struggle, somehow, to make this earthly life into a better place, a paradise. We long for it to be better, to be as perfect as we can possibly make it.

The third stream is the one that I am and RSF is connected with. I would use the word esoteric to name it. There are young forces deep in the human soul from which our future world will be built. They are just being born and contain incredibly strong potential. Our work is the awakening of those inner forces to the building of a world that is actually derived from human consciousness and creativity. When we work with money, we try to awaken the ethical individual in each of us. The movement and flow of money will be the first earth-bound material to be transformed by human forces to reflect spiritual purposes.

John: This quality of abstraction and money is a hard thing for this culture to understand. Partly, money is usually marketed as something real, something you own. You have commented that money should have a living quality. I wonder if you could elaborate.

Siegfried: The way that we view our wealth, our personal wealth, is to bring it all to a standstill and count it. A balance sheet is nothing else but finances caught at a particular moment. But “balance sheet” itself is an interesting phrase. It implies that it constantly changes, constantly self-adjusts. However, one freezes it for the moment only to be able to grasp it with one’s intellect. Our present way of dealing with money in establishing our wealth is to bring it to a total standstill. In actuality, the greater one’s so-called wealth appears to be, the more it’s moving all over the world.

Siegfried has been a Trustee at RSF since revitalizing the organization in 1984.

Click here to view the next interview in this series

A Celebration of Giving – Part III

December 30, 2014

Click here for Part II of this series

KelleyBuhles_Books_Large (2)by Kelley Buhles

As RSF Social Finance celebrates its 30th anniversary, we feel deep gratitude for all the supportive relationships that have nurtured, inspired, and challenged RSF to bring associative economic principles into daily practice and expand and deepen how it goes about transforming the way the world works with money.

Over the past few months we have be posting a series of stories about some key catalytic gifts and givers who saw potential within RSF, seeded future possibilities, and in turn, have become part of our destiny.

Transforming the World

As a financial organization, we have a bold purpose statement: to transform the way the world works with money. How does a financial organization fulfill such a purpose? While we offer financial transactions to our clients that provide them with direct and personal relationships in order to transform their own relationship to money, we knew early on that in order to change the world we would need to provide learning activities beyond financial transactions. In support of these kinds of learning opportunities, and in support of our borrowers, RSF housed an Advisory Support Fund.

As part of the next stage of growth and shortly after RSF moved to San Francisco in 1998, we experimented with small events called “Money Matters” that focused on exploring individual’s relationship with money and the role money plays in the social sphere. However, in 2004 we received a number of gifts from key donors that provided us with the resources needed to do field building in a more innovative and sustainable way.

RSF created an informal network called the Transforming Money Collaborative (TMC). This group consisted of other organizations, like The Fetzer Institute and the Marion Institute, as well as individuals such as advisor Charles Terry who worked closely with our staff. The group was an exploration in collaboration, focused on how to transform the way the world works with money towards a more positive and inclusive economy. The goal of the TMC was to bring the transforming money conversation across class, race, age, and gender differences to open new pathways of transparency, trust, and communications in our financial transactions.

Many initiatives developed as a result of this collaboration including the Money, Race, and Class Conversations and the Economics of Peace Conference.

One catalytic fund that emerged from the TMC in 2004 was the Fund for Complementary Currency. The primary driver for this work was a sense that the financial market would crash and that we would need local economic tools to keep the economy alive. A small group of donors created a donor circle that ended up providing over $800,000 to organizations working to support the development of new and sustainable approaches to economic exchange that would complement the existing financial system. The Fund for Complementary Currency was one of the largest contributors to the growth of complementary currency work in the US.

This fund supported research and development for BerkShares, TimeBanks, Hour Exchange Portland, and Vermont Sustainable Exchange, as well as other innovative research projects.

Another key outcome of the TMC were the Sequoia Principles for Transforming Money which emerged from a series of gatherings of an economically, ethnically, and culturally diverse group of individuals from more than fifty organizations. They came together with a commitment to understand money and to develop a new agreement about principles, values, and guidelines for its use.

This group developed a set of core principles to be used as a tool for transforming the way the world works with money. They imagined a sustainable future that depends upon bringing a broader consciousness and wisdom to our financial practices, money systems, and economic structures. They aim to shift existing financial structures toward a more equitable global system that values local economies, and inspires deeper connections in communities as a basis for a sustainable world.

RSF_30th_purpleToday, RSF’s field building activity is crucial to how we transform the way the world works with money. To make this work more visible, we have assembled a Field Building Collaborative (FBC), a group of individual experts dedicated to research and education around new models of investing, lending, and giving that support regional and local economies. For example, as part of the FBC, we are working in collaboration with with BALLE to convene leaders in the Community Foundation field who are determined to align their individual foundations’ investments with their deep commitment to place.

Through sponsorships, partnerships, and events, RSF supports individuals and organizations in the field of social finance to reflect, collaborate, and grow together in the spirit of co-creation towards building the next economy. It has been wonderful to have donors participate with us in these activities and to share in the learnings that have been experienced.

The Donors

RSF is grateful to all of the donors who supported the Transforming Money Network, and all of the other initiatives listed above.

However, we would like to give special thanks to the catalytic donors whose gifts made the Transforming Money Network possible at the beginning: The AnJel Fund, Carol Newell, along with an anonymous donor. It was the support of these key donors that allowed RSF to begin to prioritize field building as a key part of our work in the world.

Kelley Buhles is Director of Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance

Money

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