Alternative Initiatives for a New Economy

A look into how people are operating outside of the stock market to invest in sustainable and diverse businesses and develop a new type of economy.


| September 2017



chalk drawing of world

According to Bingham, money shouldn't be used as a means to an end. Rather, it is a tool to, above all, invest in people and make the world a better place.

Photo by Getty Images/Stepan Popov

In Making Money Matter (Prospecta Press, 2015), author G. Benjamin Bingham challenges us to analyze the current financial framework and instead see money as a tool and springboard for positive change in our world. One way people are doing this is by moving away from the stock market and diving into alternative ways to invest in a diverse collection of businesses. Through these practices, we can help develop a new economy that is greener, more positive, and more focused on people than profit.

The Localist Movement

One such multifaceted initiative is the burgeoning “localist” movement, which is turning its back on the stock market altogether. This approach slows down expectations by developing the local economy without worrying so much about the rest. Since the turn of the millennium, the “local living economy” idea has taken off, fostering all kinds of small sustainable business organizations in over ninety cities.

A perfect example is the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), which was conceived in 2001 by Judy Wicks and Laury Hammel. Philadelphia became the first city to enter what is now a substantial BALLE network, thanks to the steering committee of the Sustainable Business Network of Philadelphia (SBN Philadelphia). Together with Michelle Long in Bellingham, Washington, they launched a movement that now embraces cities across the whole country.

This women-led movement is breaking away from the old-white-boy network paradigm that has dominated business since the Industrial Revolution. A study by the Harvard Business Review documented the proven superior management skills of women. Looking at over 7,000 business leaders, the study ranked women above men on all levels of management in terms of overall effectiveness. This is a key element in the current paradigm shift and certainly essential to the success of BALLE.

While establishing my initial advisory business at Legg Mason, I needed a way to meet more like-minded investors. I was inspired to encourage SBN Philadelphia to develop the kind of “conversation circles” that built Philadelphia in the first place. The “Leather Apron Club” was a circle of craftsmen Benjamin Franklin met with regularly to solve local problems. He would anonymously write up and circulate their proposals to influence public opinion. Without any political representation, these ideas instigated the first public library, voluntary fire department, sidewalks, and cobblestone streets.

Responding positively to my proposal, SBN Philadelphia started its own Circle of Entrepreneurs, a gathering for peer-to-peer support focused on one or two local businesses each meeting. Members met each month for over ten years, sometimes in more than one location, fostering a sense of community and collaboration.





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