The core work of shifting what matters and who has authority in economic decisions intersects with two fields of work, gender lens investing and the church as an economic being. Our approach, which is based on our theory of how change happens responds to these particular contexts and draws on our 14 years of experience experimenting with field building, research, and systems change efforts.
We, as a society, have a tendency to de-personalize the economy as if it is a force of nature like a hurricane or an earthquake. We talk about economic forces as if there is no human agency. And, as a society, we privilege the expert knowledge of finance. Even those who know a good bit demur from claiming expertise. In this context, all but the most exquisitely credentialed require a compelling invitation to approach the finance table, especially when it’s set to rethink the rules. We need to hear that we have permission to engage – even if we already have it – and to access safe spaces to practice financial language and analysis.
The 1K Bible study and self-guided process for (re)Value give access to the knowledge and language to participate, grounded in a familiar experience. The loan or investment at the end requires engagement but is relatively simple. We have learned to simplify the action so the focus can be on the reflection, both personal and societal.
We are committed to building systems and structures that support and further human development to empower more people to create the future. We cannot simply innovate our way to a new future. We will welcome new people and populations to the table, and support them that they may both take their seats with greater confidence, and influence the mindsets of those already there.
The collective action behind each of the self-guided processes builds a base of ten and twenty thousand leaders who have engaged in a simple action. As we learn about this base of individuals and networks, we will share their stories with each other, identify potential for additional collective action and find ways to convene them regionally and at an annual national conference.
It is too easy to do the proscribed action and think we are done: to write our senators, to buy a different brand, to shift our investments as we are advised. We need leaders who don’t simply do what they are told but actively work to rewrite the rules of finance, the rules of investments, to change what matters.
Criterion will use our current workshop, TOOLKIT, to engage leaders in learning to use the components of finance and investments to build new solutions for their community, their institution, their cause. Here they can change what matters in the criteria, the valuation, the decisions within the tool.
In order to build the momentum and the credibility, we will do the research and design work to demonstrate (at increasingly sophisticated levels) what is possible, directly engaging with financial institutions to shape what matters in their financial decision making.
The women’s movement and the institutions of the church both have equipping leaders for change work at the core of their mission. The momentum and movement we are building through these simple actions and demonstrations of leaders reinventing the economy could be stewarded long term by these institutions, if they saw that as their role.
Both sets of institutions tend to stand stalwart and guard themselves against the economic systems that lead to oppression, exclusion, and inequality. This stance positions them outside of and often suspicious of work that actively engages in change through the economic tools. The programs are developing strategies to engage leaders in these institutions so that finance can be seen as a tool of social change.
We will expand the reach and normalize the cultural shift by broadcasting narratives, and images that reinforce the identities and the authority of the individuals and institutions who are engaged in the work. It is not enough to give individuals experience; those experiences must echo broadly and continue to invite others and give others permission to believe that each of us can change the rules of the economy.
Change is cultural work. It demands the cultural work of shifting the imagination: the issue, the problem and the boundaries of the system. Our most significant impact over the past 14 years is grounded in a series of reframes. Reframes shift peoples’ imagination to see possibilities where they saw barriers. Reframes help build bridges by employing empathy to understand how people see the world and what lenses can shift to change the vision. A reframe is in itself an invitation to engage in a different conversation, but also to see yourself in the conversation in a new way.
In the methodology for our church work we lead people through a set reframes, each of which shifts what they see as possible, important, and where they see themselves in the work of reinventing the economy. The primary reframe that drives our church work is that relationships are at the core of reinventing the economy. How does our faith inform now we can be in economic relationships?
The reframes of our gender work require a careful navigation of not just our understanding about finance but of our assumptions about gender and potential biases around women and girls. One, particularly compelling reframe, is about how, in thinking about gender and investing, we need to move from counting to valuing.