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  • Writer's pictureFelipe Witchger

Neighborhood Economics to Zebras Unite: 12 Hints of an Economy of Francesco

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

I feel an emergence. In May 2019, Pope Francis wrote a Letter to young economists and entrepreneurs: "Let us enter into a “covenant” to change today’s economy and to give a soul to the economy of tomorrow."

"I ask you also to be protagonists of this transformation..."

On Friday November 20th, more than a 100 joined for the US event as part of the global Economy of Francesco 3-day gathering.

You can watch a recording of the .

Please join us by sharing what you see as particularly hopeful nodes of influence in our US Francesco Economy Slack workspace.

I hope this list gives you some ideas as well as a sense of encouragement and inspiration.

  1. Neighborhood Economics: Healing our Communities. A new economy of interdependence is emerging all around us. Faith+Finance is convening a two day virtual gathering November 17 & 18th. I'll be speaking at a session called "Everybody an Owner" about co-ops in the "Catalyzing Creative Capital" track (other tracks: entrepreneurship, religious assets in transition & creating culture of change). I'll be joined by Greg from and Franzi from Project Equity. Here's a no-cost registration link for the full conference or the Wednesday Nov. 17, 1:00pm ET session.

  2. The Equitable Economy Fund (by is a much-needed equity fund (there are lots of great co-op loan funds out there) designed to provide capital that can accelerate the growth of cooperatively owned companies. Investments will be sourced from the accelerator for seed-stage businesses as well as growth-stage/market-validated shared ownership businesses. Part of what makes me so excited about this fund is that I've spent the better part of the past couple years doing my own diligence on investments I've made in folks like Drivers Seat Co-op, Obran Co-op, RedHen Collective. If this at all sounds of interest, this Slide Deck is worth a quick glance. Schedule time with me here, if you're ready to have a serious conversation about it. Check out the website for an overview.

  3. Exit to Community is an effort to develop alternatives to the standard model of the startup "exit." Rather than simply aiming for an acquisition by a more established company or a public stock offering, could startups aim to mature into ownership by their community of stakeholders? Through policy research, popular education, and partnership with interested startups, MEDLab Fellow Danny Spitzberg in collaboration with Zebras Unite are exploring pathways for making the answer a yes. Exit to Community: A Community Primer, is now available for free, digitally and in print. Nathan Schneider writes more about it here: "Exit to Community," Noema (August 27, 2020)

  4. Money Transforms. A short video, and great curation of ways to take action with your own money from Banking local to moving your retirement funds to understanding the systems that have got us her, and imagining a different future. It's worth spending 2 minutes on their website to be able to share with friends and find a new videos to give you extra motivation to transform your money.

  5. Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) is growing it's set of resources, programming, collaborative due diligence, sourcing and other capacities. Check out this Racial Equity Investing Call to Action (list of resources) to get a taste of their work.

  6. Liturgy & Communion Economy. A new online collaboration between In My Backyard (a Catholic Worker House in Portland) and Notre Dame's McGrath Institute for Church Life. The free course is aimed at uncovering possibilities for a social economy of communion in our own parishes and neighborhoods. From Bert Fitzgerald, the organizer: "Opening our minds to see the Body of Christ as a living, social organism, and opening Scripture to see how its economic dimension has been lived and developed over Judeo Christian history." More details here.

  7. Setting a Shared Ownership Agenda. Elizabeth, Jennifer, Phil, Todd and I spent most of August commenting on more than 120 blog posts from our 35 participants in this dynamic workshop. Here are a few of the many deeply thoughtful posts: The Power to Amend by Andrea Miller, Unlearning and Doughnuts for All (Ken Reed-Bouley, Creighton University), Building Solidarity Economies (Geoff Gilbert, The Working World). Most of my Economy of Francesco organizing efforts were poured into two workshops: Spiritual Community Building for a New Economy in April and this August Shared Ownership Workshop. This Shared Ownership workshop overview only begins to tell the story. The hope and sense of possibility I left August with are still overflowing inside me. We'll be facilitating more workshops in 2021. Stay tuned in our Francesco Economy Slack channel.

  8. Armchair Tour of Co-op Ecosystems. The Industrial Commons has been convening a dynamic network of cooperative developers to visit ecosystems from Spain to Finland to Quebec, and back again. The focus has been on the early stages of these ecosystems (ie - the Mondragon of 1955, not 2020). Elements we've been focused on include their infrastructure (finance, education, networks), context (policy environment, economic context, regionalism), and social capital (social identity, solidarity between institutions, community connections). Stay tuned for Margaret Lund's research paper examining best practices across these impactful cooperative ecosystems. Let me know if you're interested in my quick take on the Mondragon visit we had and I can share a draft of a piece I'm developing. Here's a great 9-min video about The Industrial Commons incredible work.

  9. Reflections from Fr. Arizmendi (Founder of Mondragon): Elias Crimm, Editor & Publisher of Solidarity Hall is raising funds to publish the first English-language version of Fr. Jose Maria Arizmendi's Reflections. The Spanish language version is incredible, but there hasn't been a quality English translation until now. Elias has hired a great worker-owned translator co-op and you can see a mockup of the book here. Might you consider a donation to help Elias close the few thousand dollar gap to be able to publish the book? He'd be happy to send you a copy... Email Elias ( Please consider a donation to this terrific project.

  10. Zebras Unite & their culture-shifting Pivot to People. If you haven't yet heard about this founder-

led, cooperatively owned movement creating the culture, capital & community for the next economy... you'll want to take a look. Their 2017 Zebras Fix what Unicorns Break rejects our overwhelming pursuit of Unicorns and argues we must work together like Zebras (in a heard). They've gathered more than 6,000 entrepreneurs, are developing alternative capital taxonomy, and are now transitioning into a multi-stakeholder co-op. I'm excited to be joining on the ground floor and hopeful for where they might lead us.

11. Livable Future Investing. Let's chat about our Personal Investing. Last month, I sold 80% of the money I had in the stock market AND made my biggest investment in co-ops yet. I'm convening a few friends and colleagues to discuss our personal investing on Friday, December 4 at 12 noon ET. Most of the time will just be candid Q&A and small group discussion about the things you've done that have felt most aligned and where you're feeling the furthest from where you want to be. Fill out this brief survey about where you're at in your impact investing journey and I'll send you the link to join us on December 4. Here's a quick Divest, Reinvest and How 9-min video I recorded to give you a sense of it. Stay tuned for more formal workshops in 2021.

12. Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is perhaps one of the most tangible manifestations of the Economy of Francesco. Through the annual November collection, CCHD brings in and gives out about $10 million per year. They fund hundreds of low-income community organizing & cooperative economic development projects. Their 50th Anniversary is coming up and they're beginning to plan regional gatherings and are asking us to help. We want to recognize CCHD as one of the US Catholic Church's most concrete manifestations of the Economy of Francesco in our midst. More to come in 2021.

PS - Since I first wrote this, I wanted to add a few more.. in hopes that you might help me continue to grow this list...

13. Good Lands. Mapping the real estate of the Catholic Church for social good.

14. Candide Group launches the Olamina Fund to address the historic lack of access to capital in Black and Native American communities, who have faced decades of disinvestment and intentional extraction. This fund includes impact-oriented loans to a variety of women- and BIPOC-led private debt providers, such as CDFIs, non-profit loan funds, and other institutions, which invest in critical community staples including small business development, worker cooperatives, and low-income housing. -

15. New Economy Coalition's Action Plan

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