The Economics of Peace Conference: A ‘Stimulus Package’ for the New Economy (Part II)

By John Bloom

(This is a continuation of a post from 10/29/09, which you can read by clicking here.)

Economics of PeaceEach afternoon of The Economics of Peace conference there were workshops related to the many facets of money and financial systems. Monday there were four offerings. RSF President & CEO Don Shaffer led a packed workshop entitled “Social Finance: Building Regional Capital Markets.” Through a brief presentation and small discussions, the group explored: what would the economy look like if active and diverse regional capital markets were developed? What will it take to create more place-based markets and means of exchange? Can we rebuild our sense of community self-reliance in relation to national and international economies?

Also on Monday afternoon, Norman Solomon addressed the barriers and opportunities of “The Green New Deal.” He explored how the quest for green sustainability might merge with the drive for economic justice. He presented what some of the new strategies need to be, and the challenging dynamics of the current situation in the media, financial systems, and the psychology of economic crisis. Charles Eisenstein led a workshop on Sacred Economics, the title and subject of his forthcoming book. This workshop explored the many perspectives of gift economics. He talked about the history of money systems that organically encourage sharing instead of competition, egalitarianism instead of polarization of wealth, and the building of social, natural, cultural, and spiritual capital, instead of their destruction. As a step toward peace, he proposed the radical idea that all workshop participants make investments that earn 0% interest. Trent Shroyer led “Sustainable Economic Cultures,” which looked at several models of sustainable economic practices including: Gandhi’s Swaraj, the no-growth movement in Europe, and examples of Ivan Illich’s post-secular vernacular domains.

On Tuesday, four more workshop sessions followed a panel presentation on complementary currencies. C.J. Callen, Pilar Gonzales, and I led a conversation on “Money, Race, and Class.” This facilitated conversation served as a safe space to talk about some of the most complicated and unaddressed issues in economics and our financial systems. The approach allowed for a depth of conversation that supported listening and speaking in such a way as to allow for transformation in the participants’ way of thinking.

Following the morning plenary theme of local living economies (as articulated by Judy Wicks and Stephanie Rearick), Kelley Rajala and Derek Huntington of Sonoma County GoLocal Cooperative and Mary Rick of BALLE presented “Accelerate the Sustainability Movement in your Community.” They worked with the processes of forming a values-based network, mapping the resources of the community, developing sustainability policy, and implementing community-based financing models. This workshop was well attended as there is significant interest in re-localizing economies and understanding what that means from economic, cultural, and political perspectives.

Richard Logie, the founder of GETS (Global Exchange Trade System), led an introductory workshop on what the elements of a complementary currency or credit clearing exchange might look like so that participants would have a context for working in this innovative business-to-business system. He used the lessons of VISA and the European Union to demonstrate the work of creating new agreements, setting up a framework of exchange methodology and standards so that users of the system can work toward mutual ownership of it. Richard also led a much longer, more detailed workshop on Thursday entitled “Get Real! With Currency: 50 Questions You Should Ask Before Starting Your Own Exchange.” The final Tuesday workshop was led by David Ransom on “Taking a Leap: A Marxist Look at Social Change in an Epoch of Economic Revolution.” Ransom looked at the impact of technology in relation to the value of labor and posed the question about whether the current economic revolution will bring about a social revolution as more and more of the work force is displaced.

Wednesday afternoon saw four workshops that touched on a wide range of topics. Sam Keen addressed the topic “Money and War: The Quest for a Moral Alternative.” He focused on the issue of social and economic justice as the avenue for achieving peace. Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, presented his work under the same topic. Tasch has been developing the notion of patient capital as an approach to investing that will rebuild local economies and change our attitudes about expecting or extracting short-term returns on investments that tend to bring about ecological and cultural degradation. Osprey Orielle Lake led the workshop “Respect for the Global Commons.” Lake was the artist-in-residence for the conference and also spoke about the value and beauty of our environment and natural systems, and the rightful use of these precious compromised resources. The fourth workshop was offered by Bev Bell and Mateo Nube. Named “Towards a Just Ecological and Economic Transition,” they presented the stories of those directly impacted by the financial crisis. They showed how those communities have developed practical solutions to the challenges through community self-determination.  What they demonstrated was that economic security and ecological sustainability need not be in opposition if worked through with transformative power.

Thursday, following a panel discussion on fair trade, Andrew Kimbrell went into much more detail about the concepts and practicality of “Salmon Economics” in a workshop. Bob Graham, one of the pioneers and leaders of micro-enterprise, led a practicum called “The Next Step After Putting Micro-entrepreneurs into Business—Helping Them Become Successful.” With a focus on Central America, he spoke about the fact that while micro-credit has made credit accessible to millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid, rates of poverty have not changed. He proposed a new direction for micro-credit as a tool to alleviate poverty in a more systemic and sustainable way.

Friday morning, prior to the closing session, there were three workshops offered. Daniel Pinchbeck presented “Why We Launched Evolver: A Social Network for Conscious Collaboration.” He spoke about his involvement with the new technologies of the internet as a way to engage with provocative and important questions such as: could the social technologies of the internet help us replace many of our financial transactions with exchanges based on trust and reciprocity? Can a social network be designed to help reengineer our current society, offer new ways for people to collaborate, and organize for social change? Julianne Maurseth led a workshop (“Purpose and Outcomes for Conference Participants”) designed to weave together many of the insights gained at the conference. And myself, Pilar Gonzales, and Katrina Steffek led a conversation called “What If…” which explored scenario thinking for the new economy. This participatory workshop elicited from attendees the tools they had gained throughout the week and then asked them to imagine how they will apply them to their home, organizational, or work life—their real life economies.

On Friday, the conference conveners each shared some appreciations and closing reflections on the conference, and I would like to leave you with my own closing comments summarizing the week: “During our journey here together in Sonoma we have been traveling new economic terrain, challenging social terrain, and transformative cultural terrain. I put this in the progressive tense—not because we are a room full of tense progressives—but, because the work of economic change will yet be hard, and seem long. Let’s take joy in every step forward, practice forgiveness so that it can heal, and, finally, trust in the nature of wisdom, the wisdom of nature, and in the aspirations of the human spirit as we see each other anew in our economic life. May peace be with you.”

John Bloom is the Director of Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance.  If you enjoyed this post, look for John’s recently published book, The Genius of Money, now available from steinerbooks.org.

Each afternoon of The Economics of Peace conference there were workshops related to the many facets of money and financial systems…

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