The Clean Money Revolution & the Feminization of the Economy

Book review of Joel Solomon’s The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism

We need a “feminization of the economy, inclusion and spiritualisation to create a clean, green, safe and fair economy” were words from Joel Solomon’s for his 2018 New Frontiers speech. Joel totally captivated my attention. Here was a white male, using the word “feminization of the economy.” Earlier that same week, my fellow Edmund Hillary Fellowship cohort were being pushed out of their comfort zone by the term “feminization” and the need for this balance of the feminine energy for the world to succeed. Joel’s talk — The Clean Money Revolution — broadened and underscored the impact feminization would have on global economics.

In Joel’s book, The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism, Joel explores what it would take to rethink perceptions which are holding back society from reaching its full potential. Joel points out that what “… we need today, is rather than the typical dominate-the-competition model of big business, this natural-system approach to local economies which spreads the benefits more generously….Individual creativity rather than monolithic uniformity flourishes. People crave this kind of authenticity, where many diverse flowers bloom. Cultural resilience, neighbors helping each other, and a more distributed financial success are the result.” For me, in essence, this is what Joel is referring to as the “feminization of the economy.”

After his talk, I spoke briefly to him about the work of Angels of Impact. We were exploring his points and how the empowerment of women led social enterprises paves a better way to the alleviation of poverty and prosperity for all. I also shared with him the pushback I had faced from my fellow cohort the week before. He was so supportive and of course I got him to sign the book. He signed it with these words “To Laina, The feminine is on the rise — deep in the clean money revolution. May your work be everlasting”, Joel Solomon, 2018. What encouragement and it was exactly what i needed to hear that day.

Joel’s The Clean Money Revolution is accessible and inspiring. Joel has been at the forefront of the social movement for businesses. The social movement for business puts forward a mission statement for companies that do good and do well. He shares in this book, his own personal journey as someone who inherited wealth and went on the path of meeting amazing likeminded people wanting to create a better world for all. These inspiritiational influences modelled how he could use his wealth to shape the future. Joel has been at the forefront of this thinking. This ranges from the Threshold Foundation, to the Social Venture Network, to the B corp movement, to Business for Social Responsibility, to impact measurement efforts, Investors Circles, to SOCAP, to BALLE, GIIN, Toniic, and many more. As he says, the list keeps growing. Efforts to shift away from pure philanthropy to “feel good” is being systematically replaced with putting money to effect systems change sustainably.

Clean Money Revolution Book

Joel uses Clean Money to showcases many amazing men and women at the forefront of this movement. Women such as Carol Newell, who puts her money where her mouth is, and changed the whole “endowment fund formula” in giving. She is quoted as saying “I could utilize my wealth and influence to address the things I really cared about: a healthy environment and vibrant sustainable communities in balance with that environment”. Together with Carol, Joel now chairs Renewal Funds, a $98 million venture capital firm in Canada from 100 different people, betting on a regenerative, long term vision to help protect Canada’s ecosystems and communities.

Several of the ventures he speaks about in his book are women led, such as Lunapads run by MAdeleine Shaw; and he also speaks about women who have paved the way for this clean money revolution, such as Fran Seegull of Impact Assets, and Rha Goddess founder of Move the Crowd. He also spoke highly of his wife, who recently retired as CEO of Hollyhock, which was another key venue that brought high networth individuals together to discuss and exchange ideas. His authentic respect for women shines through clearly in his book.

Clean Money provides an insider’s history to impact investing and the social entrepreneurship movement. As Joel says, “whether you call it clean money, social enterprise, or the “fourth sector”, there is so much happening right now. The clean money revolution lets us co-create prosperity for all though a regenerative economy. The regenerative economy is a web of enterprises that create a more “resilient, fair and safe life for everyone”. He calls for the need to include governments and big business in this revolution for it to make true systemic change. He also calls for humility and not helicoptering in solutions but instead he says to start by having :”big ears”.

Joel uses examples to illustrate the flexibility needed in the rethinking of “Clean Money”. For example, when working with a people, he would ask “what would you do if we had $100 million USD to deploy to solve a problem? When he asked this to minority person in Oakland with social enterprise experience, their answer was NOT to give grants. Their solution was to invest. They would use the $100 million to provide flexible capital into the community. This flexible capital would cover everything from loans with new models for qualifications and convertible capital for business enablement. These approaches are ways to advance justice and equality. It is a clean money approach that is a nurturing “feminization of the economy” investment.

Joel contrasts this response with the same question to a First Nations Elder in Canada. “What would do with $100 Million?” The First Nations Elder answered “if someone gave me that money, it wouldn’t be about investing in wind or solar or this or that technology. It would be investing in people. I’d want to bring jobs and opportunities to marginalised communities. Along with that I would bankroll bringing economists and others to these communities to learn from them. Because I do think their voices, knowledge, and economic systems are vital to a real global solution. Don’t be fooled just because they are poor; they have advanced economic systems or bartering, and trading and assessing value and living sustainably. I’d use that money to see their voices and concerns merged into new systems of wealth distribution and just economic development”.

Joel goes on to highlight movements that take long-term vision. For example, Woody Tasch organization Slow Money feels that the 21st century will be the era of nurture capital, built around principles of carrying capacity, care of the commons, sense of place, diversity and nonviolence. We already see a new generation of entrepreneurs who embrace social justice principles of advance justice and equality. Woody is quoted as saying “Every investment we make is a statement of intention, a statement of purpose, speculation of the future of man and is a role in the scheme of things, not merely financial speculation.” Patient capital he feels will grow along with the clean money movement. It just makes sense.

Joel urges us “Let’s use our money as a sacred substance, as if the future matters. Support political leaders who understand that. Find advisors to move your money to better uses. Remember ancestral responsibility. Everything we do now creates the future.”

Joel’s The Clean Money Revolution is inspiring for many, provocation for others. It is out of the norm for a privileged white male to raise the voices of marginalized people. Joel puts forward the argument that understanding and valuing marginalized populations are critical to the future survival of the human race. He illustrates that the benefits of investing wisely into the future requires the inclusion of marginalized communities. The vision for clean money revolution would mobilize 100 trillion dollars. This economic mobilization would include capital to be also directed towards reparations for colonialism and slavery, a transition to renewable energy, sustainable transport, green an existing building, soil restoration and carbon capture, guaranteed income, health care, education, zero waste, war and weapons industry reduction and steady state economy transition.

I will strongly recommend this book. For many, it illustrates a map forward. For others is provokes thinking. Joel argues that we have reached the tipping point of the clean money revolution. What it takes now are people who learn, listen, and take action. Joel gives us hope that we are heading toward a “feminization of the economy, inclusion, and spiritualization to create a clean, green, safe and fair economy for all.”