We need an alternative story for what the economy is actually for.
The narrative of Wall Street is one of accumulation, speculation, and conquest. The narrative of Main Street is increasingly one of mutuality, durable relationships, and interdependence. While the conquests of Wall Street still dominate headlines, there are incredible reasons for hope rising up from Main Streets all over North America. Multiple movements are converging that emphasize buying, eating, and investing in the local. It’s here at the neighborhood level – the most local economy – where we can see the impact, hear the stories, and share best practices at a more relational level.
The myth of Wall Street must be exposed by the possibility of neighborhood economics. For this to happen we should name the myth of imagining ourselves primarily as individualized consumers rather than communal producers. We believe that a steady and robust return to invigorating the neighborhood economy could usher in a new era of abundance, community, and health. It’s also in returning to the neighborhood level that we can best embody our most deeply-held values, shared by faith traditions of compassion and solidarity with the marginalized.
In an age of fragmentation, you don’t need more scissors – what you need is glue. Local neighborhoods can be this glue
The great thing? These kinds of things are already happening in our communities. Many neighborhoods already possess leaders who are working toward this vision. As folks come together, be it via a Neighborhood Economic conference or in partnership with organizations like SOCAP and Balle, resilient ecosystems break through. These robust ecosystems of social capital are then fertilized with the ever-growing “toolkit” of investment and ideas offered up by the team at Neighborhood Economics.
The goal is to accelerate the flow of capital into neighborhoods through a growing portfolio of options. In some cases, a giving circle of trusted friends and neighbors might be best, in other cases zero-interest loans from a trusted source. Self-help.org is developing a certificate of deposit that would give savers better-than-market-rate performance while investing the profits in under-represented entrepreneurs in the communities in the Neighborhood Economics network. And in some of the communities in our network, people are raising philanthropic evergreen local investment funds. The list of resources and people is expanding everyday.
But first we need to gather, to hear one another’s stories, and celebrate what is already working – all to imagine new solutions to our most intractable problems.