Thoughts from the Executive Director
Ari Derfel named first Executive Director of Slow Money
I am absolutely thrilled and honored to join the team as the new Executive Director of Slow Money. It is an incredible privilege to be of service to this blossoming movement. Woody and I have been working together a great deal over the past year and we share a common passion and vision for catalyzing the emergence of a truly restorative economy. I look forward to learning from you, collaborating with you and providing mindful, strategic leadership for the national organization.
I’ve spent more than a decade as an entrepreneur using business as a tool for environmental and social justice. I just finished the project of a lifetime, opening the award-winning Gather Restaurant in Berkeley, California. Gather embodies the principles of Slow Money and exemplifies our philosophy in action. I am excited to share what we learned from our experience with other entrepreneurs working to restore Local Food Systems. If you’d like to learn more about me, you can read my bio here.
There is much to be done on all fronts – local, regional, national and global and I’m eager to help take the organization to the next level. We are hard at work in the national office, testing existing investment vehicles, researching how to build new ones, formalizing relationships with like-minded financial organizations, designing effective partnerships with other progressive NGOs, developing educational materials, strategizing a robust public relations campaign, focusing the Slow Money brand and message, and defining the relationship between the national organization and local Slow Money groups around the country… and this is just the beginning.
There are now more than a dozen Slow Money groups around the country – Madison, Austin, San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Fe, Boulder, New York, Western North Carolina, Boston, Western Mass, Vermont, Maine, Skagit Valley and Seattle – and more are forming every day. This is clear proof that Slow Money seeds of change have been sown in fertile soil. These seeds are now putting down roots, breaking through the ground and growing into healthy saplings. Before we know it our garden will be bustling, millions of Americans will invest billions of dollars into local food systems and future generations will reap the harvest of our collective efforts.
We are still a young organization and there are people who question what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. These are good questions so keep asking them – please! As the first Executive Director of Slow Money I welcome the challenge of defining our vision and designing our strategy more clearly. We are going to do everything we can to foster this movement. We are venturing into new territory and the way movements behave is radically changing due to the incredible, democratizing power of social media and other avenues of advanced, electronic, global communication. We will undoubtedly make some mistakes and it will always feel like we have to do more, faster! That’s ok too – it will keep us motivated and inspired.
At the moment I am certain of a handful of things - Slow Money is happening. It’s no longer a question of “if we can make this happen”. It’s a question of ”how and when”. We are participating in a revolution. We are already making a difference and our impact will grow exponentially in the coming years.
Reshaping the institution of money is a tall order that seems impossible to many, yet I choose to be pathologically optimistic about our collective ability to do so. Helen Keller, a remarkable woman who intimately knew what it was like to face insurmountable odds, once said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an unchartered land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” It is that simple – we must start by truly believing we can create a world where investing in food, farms and soil fertility matters. Sure there are obstacles and challenges to overcome. And we will overcome them.
What helps me to be so optimistic, so sure that Slow Money will catalyze great change, is that we are not a movement that stands alone. Rather, we are but one arm of a much larger movement, a global, grassroots, decentralized movement that is transforming the way we live together and interact with biological systems on this planet. Paul Hawken describes this movement with eloquent, compelling force in his recent book, Blessed Unrest. He provides irrefutable proof that there are more people and more organizations working toward common goals of ecological and social justice than ever before in the history of our planet. These groups have more capacity and access to more resources as a result of the digital age. He suggests that this powerful, decentralized movement is itself an immune response of the planet, working via the collective unconscious to repair the damage we’ve cause ourselves. In Paul’s words,
I believe this movement will prevail. I don’t mean it will defeat, conquer, or create harm to someone else. Quite the opposite. I don’t tender the claim in an oracular sense. I mean that the thinking that informs the movement’s goals will reign. It will soon suffuse most institutions, but before then, it will change a sufficient number of people so as to begin the reversal of centuries of frenzied self-destructive behavior. Some say it is too late, but people never change when they are comfortable. My hopefulness about the resilience of human nature is matched by the gravity of our environmental and social condition. If we squander all our attention on what is wrong, we will miss the prize: In the chaos engulfing the world, a hopeful future resides because the past is disintegrating before us. If that is difficult to believe, take a winter off and calculate what it requires to create a single springtime. It’s not too late for the world’s largest institutions and corporations to join in saving the planet, but cooperation must be on the planet’s terms.
We have the heart, knowledge, money and sense to optimize out social and ecological fabric. It is time for all that is harmful to leave. One million escorts are here to transform the nightmares of empire and the disgrace of war on people and place. We are the transgressors and we are the forgivers. Armed with that growing realization, we can address all that is harmful externally. What will guide us is a living intelligence that creates miracles every second, carried forth by a movement with no name.
So let us take the inspiration of our most recent National Gathering and combine it with a fearless resolve to create a world where investing in farms, food and fertility really does matter. In service,