Planting the Seeds of the World We Envision: Announcing Resource Generation’s Transformative Investing Principles

By: Emily Duma (RG Board Member) and Taij Kumarie Moteelall (Media Sutra)

At a Resource Generation National Membership Council meeting in 2018, we found ourselves in the midst of a generative conflict that planted the seeds for our cross-class and cross-race partnership. Council members and staff formed a human barometer in response to the question: Should RG support its members, young people with wealth, to leverage investment capital for economic justice and social transformation? While we (Emily + Taij) stood in close proximity, others were across the room. Some of us were advocating for a solidarity economy that centers self-determination and cooperative wealth building within Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and poor and working-class communities. Others felt that it is problematic to go beyond organizing members to “give it all away” in support of social movements. 

“We should not support people to make money off of their wealth” was a hard stance by a white male leader in RG. This was countered by a Black woman leader firmly explaining why community wealth building tackles the racial wealth gap and requires investment strategies, which includes gift capital, that compliment philanthropic giving.  As we launch RG’s Transformative Investing Principles, we continue to hold these multiple truths. We believe we can go further together if we activate multiple strategies to realize RG’s vision: a world where land, wealth and power are shared equitably. 

The Transformative Investing Principles (TIPs) are designed to be a set of values, much like the Social Justice Philanthropy Principles, laying out a framework that RG can build upon through praxis programming the Giving Pledge and member organizing. Scribed by us, these principles stand on the shoulders of years of organizing and represent dozens of people’s input, including RG member leaders, staff, board, and organizational partners. Even as members have led investing work locally and nationally (ie. Regenerative Finance), RG has never had consolidated programming around investing. We are answering the call from longtime movement partners and RG members to get creative, work collaboratively, and move boldly around investments as a complementary strategy to social justice philanthropy. 

RG constituents reported giving over $68M to movements in 2020 — a powerful number that we are working to grow every year! However, in 2018, during the last RG resource survey, constituents reported assets of $1.9B individually and $22B in family assets. These numbers not only remind us that we can give more, they also beckon us to intentionally explore ways to support RG members and their families to use their unique leverage to transform the investing industry; reform investment policies that favor the rich; and support self-determination, collective ownership, and collective wealth-building in BIPOC communities and poor and working-class communities. This is especially relevant for RG members who may not yet have full legal access or decision-making power over resources but can influence where capital is being invested in the meantime.

A year of COVID-19 lockdown and powerful racial justice uprisings pushes us to reflect on incredible dualities. We witnessed our healthcare, justice and economic systems continue to fail those who are already most marginalized. We acknowledge that what we are witnessing is designed by those who choose to uphold white supremacy, patriarchy, and racialized capitalism. We also acknowledge that we have the power, collectively, to imagine, design, and resource new systems. Herein lies the opportunity to build a solidarity economy where we all have what we need to thrive. RG wants to do what we can to scaffold and take part in this work by using all the tools in our toolbox, including redistribution to movement organizations led by those most impacted and building “power with” for issue-based campaigns. 

Drawing from the wisdom of numerous groups leading solidarity economy movements, the TIPs are another tool for our community to engage with and build on. In deciding to take on this body of work, we connected with folks in investing, philanthropy, restorative economics, healing justice, and more– several of whom are highlighted in the principles. This process has yielded a reimagining of investing that aligns with the Just Transition framework articulated by Movement Generation.  

RG’s Transformative Investment Principles call for a divestment from Wall Street and investment in a solidarity economy that works for all.  To mark the launch of the TIPs, we invite you to join us for a virtual event on April 7th at 7:00pm EST, 4:00pm PST.  We will highlight the principles, share stories that illustrate the TIPs in practice, and end with a dynamic performance and celebration of joyful abundance. 

The North Star of RG’s Transformative Investing Principles is a solidarity economy that centers community-wealth and collective power. When we talk about the solidarity economy, we are talking about an economic paradigm that puts all living beings and the planet at its core. We are talking about a system that allows for economic self-determination for historically marginalized communities through control of their livelihoods. We acknowledge that the historic and ongoing denial of access to capital, in particular to communities of color, and to women, trans, gender nonconforming, and LGBTQ+ people hinders economic thriving and overall wellbeing. Economic justice will not be found through previously marginalized individuals or groups becoming economically empowered over others. Economic justice lives in solutions that foster community wealth building, collective ownership, alternative forms to private “ownership,” and mutual aid. 

In order to do this, we need to redefine the way we think about investing. “Impact investing” must come to mean investing in those most impacted by injustice, and trusting their leadership by sharing power and resources. “Return,” normally understood as what we get financially, should be re-conceived as a process of “returning to right relationship” with people and the planet. And “risk,” normally understood as the risk of losing money, should be flipped. We must instead ask—who has been placed at risk in order to accumulate wealth, and who is assuming risk to make a new future possible?

So, how do we do this? We first need to seek healing and repair within ourselves. We should work to understand our “investment story,” adding a lens to our money story that examines how we— and our ancestors— have benefitted from extractive economies through investments. Using this grounded knowledge, we need to build real, lasting relationships across class, race, and gender in our investments and invest in the radical imaginations of those most directly impacted. We can also think about our strategic role as young people with wealth, and imagine new possibilities in coordination with movements and impacted communities to leverage our power as part of larger campaigns for justice. 

Throughout all of this, it is imperative that we pay attention to internalized supremacy and trauma, continue to work on our own healing so we can show up fully, and then open ourselves up, even in dire moments, to joy and celebration. Abundance is possible when we throw our hearts, minds, and resources into co-creating a solidarity economy. 

We are excited for these principles to come alive through healing, embodied practice, bold action, and trusting partnerships. We invite you to support a just recovery by building an economy that will help safeguard us from the next crisis. We believe transformative investing provides unique pathways that go beyond what philanthropy alone can do. This is an invitation to make sure we are using all the tools in our toolbox and not leaving power on the table. Let us share stories of what works and what doesn’t. We understand that transformative investing might be a growing edge for some, and RG is committed to creating a learning community to foster growth and empowered action. 

While the past year has been marked by crisis and loss, it also inspired remarkable collectivity and a sense of immense possibility. As we live into the duality of this moment, we are reflecting on and reckoning with these questions: What systems need to crumble so we can build the new and the next? What healing is required? What future do we want to co-create? How can we emerge from this stronger, more ready, and resilient? How do we cultivate collective wellbeing and catalyze community wealth-building? 

Let’s live into these answers together. Come connect, learn, celebrate, and activate at our Transformative Investment Principles launch webinar on April 7th at 7:00pm EST, 4:00pm PST. We affirm that transformative investing will help us plant the seeds of the world we envision by supporting community resilience and abundance.