It began small enough…my personal economic renaissance. It began this past December when I joined my sister-in-law in her annual Dressember campaign to raise money for and bring awareness to global human trafficking. Apparently, it took 30 days of putting on a dress, taking a picture and sharing the horror of human trafficking to internalize my own culpability in our global economics and acknowledge that I do have agency within this corrupt and exploitative system. My choices matter.
Our personal economics seem small, right? Yet they ripple far beyond ourselves, to countries, communities, families and individuals who live beside us and across the globe. For too long, I have been lulled to spend by the sweet lullaby of consumerism believing, that some level of exploitation is inevitable, be it of the earth, people or animals. But I was wrong. In Muhammad Yunnus’ A World of Three Zeros I found an economic language and framework that doesn’t rely on exploitation believing that humanity is motivated by unselfish desires as well.
Yunnus argues, and I think rightly, that our default economic model, Capitalism, isn’t working for everyone having left us with extreme levels of poverty, unemployment and a climate on the brink of collapse. So in a firm belief that the problems we face are not inevitable, but human made and thus can be solved by humanity, Yunnus proposes expanding Capitalism to include, alongside for-profit and non-profit entities, a third option called social business. Social businesses allow for goods and services to be bought and sold not in order to make profit, but in order for individuals and communities to both solve social issues and be self-sustaining.
What’s most beautiful and hopeful about this model is that business and the structures to support social business have been around since 1983. This isn’t a theoretical, ivory tower proposal, but a real grassroots, successful and influential business system that has the potential, if humanity has the will, to transform our economics and our climate.
More often than not I feel powerless, paralyzed by the horror and injustice that runs rampant in the world, but because of stubbornness and my faith I refuse to let the despair seep in and settle for making choices from a place of fear and apathy. I have the economic power and agency to make more informed choices and to put my money where my values are; so even as I expand my wardrobe I will make purchases from ethical companies, as I reevaluate financial investments I will research (I have a book full of ideas now) social business ventures and as I consider retirement I hope to create a social business trust fund to support efforts to make this world the world I dream about for my sons and everyone else.
How does that saying go, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”? Okay…okay.