Can we remove the fear from our global economy?

5 ways the Buen Vivir Fund is doing so and changing “business as usual.”

By Joanna Levitt Cea, Director of Buen Vivir Fund

The inspiration behind the Buen Vivir Fund is to re-imagine our economy–and our investment practices–with the concept of buen vivir at the center.

The concept of buen vivir comes from Latin American indigenous movements and implies “right living” or life in balance with community, natural systems, and future generations.

Graphic representations of the Mayan universe. Image from UNAM:

How can an investment fund build economic prosperity hand-in-hand with buen vivir?

This was the question and call to action put to Thousand Currents by our grassroots partners over a year ago. When we considered together what was needed for innovators around the world to build alternative economic solutions, we kept coming back to the same starting point — for grassroots solutions to thrive and grow, a very different kind of investment was needed:

  • Investment that was deeply aligned with the values, decision-making, and community-driven timelines of the grassroots groups themselves.
  • Investment that did not bring fear and stress over repayment, but instead reinforced hope, resilience and joy.
  • Investment that mirrored grassroots realities on the ground, rather than forcing their situations to fit within the confines of conventional investment norms.

What if grassroots innovators from Asia, Africa, and Latin America came together to co-design a different kind of investment fund, along with investors who were deeply committed to supporting an economy of wellbeing and balance? Could that different process for fund formation match the needs and aspirations of grassroots groups and investors to all take part in building an economy of buen vivir?

We saw the need and the potential. We felt the exhilaration of the risk and what this could mean, and then…we jumped.

We being Thousand Currents and the 18 organizations who joined the Buen Vivir Fund (BVF) as founding members. Together, over the course of a full year, we poured in hard work, careful analysis, learning exchange, and a collective total of 2,934 hours to co-design a fund.

And it turns out, we indeed created something very different. We explain in our handy infographic here:

To read more about each of these practices, see the table here:

Perhaps the most unique thing about the Buen Vivir Fund, in contrast to mainstream impact investment funds, is that it is not designed to provide a one-way flow of “help” and “upskilling” to the groups that receive its financial capital. Instead, the Buen Vivir Fund is just as much about “helping” and “upskilling” the investors who are involved.

The positive change and impact that the Buen Vivir Fund fuels in the world happen through all its members — regardless of which community or demographic that member comes from. Financial investors in the Fund are learning new practices and tools — whether for running their meetings or screening their investment portfolios. They are learning about opportunities in which to invest which they never would have been able to find — or perhaps see — without being part of this Members Assembly. They are tapping into the richness of economic innovation and practices that drive wellbeing and joy which our partners around the world have developed. They are questioning assumptions that never get questioned in the spaces in which they usually operate. Already, many of the financial investors in the founding circle have adopted practices learned from their experience in the Buen Vivir Fund to enhance operations in their organizations and investment portfolios.

The five key Buen Vivir Fund innovations are some of the ways the Fund exchanges grassroots brilliance. Financial capital is used, shared, and–yes–increased, but it is not at the center. It is one resource in a rich, interconnected ecosystem that can generate buen vivir.

It is the shared dream of the founding members of the Buen Vivir Fund that these innovations can be shared, adapted, and adopted by many other groups and funds. (One exciting way this happens is through the newly launched Buen Vivir Finance Fellowship!) It is also our shared desire to keep learning and exchanging with the many other groups around the world who are reimagining our economy.

From the very first discussions in our co-design process, our grassroots partners have consistently reminded us that our Fund must be contributing to a movement. Because it will take all of our ingenuity and bravery, whether walking along rural roads in Nepal or Guatemala or down Wall Street, to remake our global economy with buen vivir at the center.

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