Friday, July 17, 2009

Slow Money


I have been smitten by the ideas championed by Woody Tasch in a wonderful book titled "Slow Money. Investing as if food, farms, and fertility mattered".

The title is a riff on the theme of slow foods, the concept of beautifully prepared simple, local foods, natural diversity and nurturing community. Mr. Tasch has devoted his life to investment capital and knows those ropes well. He has now turned his skill toward building an organization that takes the principals of investment and applies them to the widespread needs of our broken food system through his Slow Money Alliance.

I've pulled a set of representative quotes from this great book below. Mr. Tasch will be giving a public talk in Madison, WI next Sunday evening, July 26. Details follow this post.

What draws me to this effort is the realism that is embedded throughout. Throughout my life I've watched many, many well-intentioned 'movements' dissolve into inaction. This Slow Money effort feels significantly different. They are planning their rollout of millions of dollars of investments into Small Food Enterprises (SFEs) through a series of Institutes held around the country. Madison will host the next Slow Money Institute, and I'm honored to be involved as a presenter. I will be discussing the '760 square mile incubator' we are creating in Iowa County, WI. That effort will create and integrate multiple SFEs, primarily local processing facilities, under the guidance of a leadership co-op that follows the operating principles for economic development first created at Mondregon in Spain.

I highly recommend 'Slow Money', by Woody Tasch. I do so mostly because Slow Money does not present itself as another 'ism' or another theory. Slow Money is a tool for our times.

Check out some quotes from the book:

"It falls to us to undertake a new project of system design: the creation of new forms of intermediation that catalyze the transition from a commerce of extraction and consumption to a commerce of preservation and restoration". NOTE: It is not left to someone else, the challenge is directed to "us."

There are many new thoughtful investors and angel investment groups beginning to focus on early stage companies that create commercial solutions to social and environmental problems.

"A 'patient capital' marketplace is emerging to better serve such companies, since most are not easy candidates for the same dollars that are seeking the next Google. Patient capital does not yet exist as an organized or disciplined asset class; it is the gestalt that emerges as socially responsible investing matures and the wave of triple-bottom-line [social, environmental and economic accounting] entrepreneurs and investors builds… Applied to the food sector, patient capital becomes slow money - whose name carries with it more than a doff of the cap to Slow Food, the international NGO that promotes biodiversity, artisan food traditions, heirloom varieties and connections between small farmers and consumers. Slow money can be thought of as a subsector, or sub-asset class of patient capital, focused with appropriate patience on the health of soil and bioregion."

If you are a thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, now is your time. If you are an investor looking to go beyond 'social investing', now is your time. I believe slow money is a real tool that will have real positive consequences, right down to the farm family with the best tomato chutney recipe, somewhere out there in our beautiful rural landscape. The time to fix this mess in right here. Right now.

Mr Tasch discusses a new kind of market that is rapidly developing around slow money. "We need a market that rewards humility and promotes patience and invites the participation of all those individuals who will sleep better at night knowing that some of their dollars are swirling around cyberspace a little bit slower, lending a little bit less of their energy to the economic engine that brought us, last year, 8 million light trucks and SUVs, and who knows how many million Twinkies. We need a peaceful market, a market that rewards peaceful companies, a market that dares to recognize explicitly, publicly and financially, that growth, growth, growth is predicated on dislocation and churn and continuously reinvented and unsatisfiable consumer demand, and that these conditions constitute a form of economic violence."

There are many, many more quotes highlighted in my dog-eared copy of Slow Money. Too many to put into a single post.

As the soul of Sustainable Work is entrepreneurship, let me close with a beautiful piece that helped me knit together the ideas of rural economies and entrepreneurship as I started in my current role doing rural economic development.

"Entrepreneurs and farmers are the poets of the economy. They are holders of ambiguity and risk. They cultivate interstitial spaces, where demand and need and aspiration coexist in a mildly turbulent state of chaotic possibility. They continuously test the boundaries of quality and quantity, as a poet tests the boundaries of denotation and connotation. Ideas in a business plan; seeds in potting soil; rhymes in search of new reasons."

Great language. Great concepts. A thoroughly great book.

This is the Renaissance age of entrepreneurship and it's just beginning, my entrepreneur/farmer/poet friends. Forward!


The Slow Money web site

The next Slow Money Institute (Madison, WI), will be Monday, July 27th. Woody Tasch will give a public talk on Sunday, July 26th at 7:30 p.m. at Morphy Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus, 455 North Park Street in Madison.

Triple botton line, Wikipedia

1 comment:

bill said...

Those interested in investing for moderate financial return with huge social and environmental returns are invited to check out the extensive coverage of Slow Money Alliance Founder and author Woody Tasch on www.farmstofood.com. We offer an exclusive interview and coverage of his July 26, 2009 presentation at Mills Hall in Madison, WI. There are massively important concepts this man speaks about. And it's certainly one of the most interesting interview leads I've had in a while. Thanks! Bill Lubing