Our work at its core is transforming relationships of power in economic decisions. Drawing on 15 years of experience experimenting with field building, research, and systems change efforts we developed an approach to using finance as a tool for social change. Below we talk through our three strategies: Invite and Equip Leaders to Engage Systems of Finance, Reframe and Demonstrate What is Possible, and Influence through Institutional Partners.
Invite and Equip Leaders to Engage Systems of Finance
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.
We work to expand access to the knowledge and language to participate, grounded in a familiar experience. 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.
Reframe the Conversation and Demonstrate what is possible
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.
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.
Influence through Institutional Partners
Equipping leaders for change work is at the core of the women’s movement, institutions of the church and social change organizations more broadly. We partner with those ready and willing to build on our momentum and movement so that these efforts to invite and equip leaders and demonstrate new possibilities to use finance for social change are stewarded for the long term.