Imagine this: 20 people sitting around in a circle talking about money. It wasn’t bankruptcy counseling. It wasn’t a fundraising meeting. It wasn’t even a investment club. It was just 20 people, sitting in a circle, talking about their personal relationship with money.
Community Sourced Capital had the honor of leading a workshop this weekend at Whidbey Bioneers, a conference held at the Whidbey Institute, an hour away from Seattle. We wanted to use our time talking about money with our friends on Whidbey Island, because it’s no secret that CSC exists to put money to work to fund the world you want to live in.
We started our session by asking everyone to introduce themselves and their relationship with money. Some admitted to having too much money, some confessed they had too little, and some smiled while saying they had “just enough”. One participant discussed the guilt they would feel if they had more money, like having too much money is a bad thing. Or perhaps, one person suggested, money has simply been a measure of security through their life.
Then, after setting some ground rules, we set off on an experiment. In teams of two, we handed out checks, each with a different denomination, ranging from $1 to $1 billion.
The challenge was simply to dream up how to spend their hypothetical dollars, and the results were fascinating. Some teams gave their $100 directly to a non-profit they knew with the hope that it would inspire others to donate more. The billion-dollar team decided to create a renewable energy investment fund for Whidbey Island. The one-dollar team decided to spread 100 pennies around town, heads up, for good luck.
At the end of the exercise, we talked about what every team had in common–regardless of the size of their checks–and in doing so, we learned something interesting about our friends on Whidbey Island. Everyone was focused on maximizing their return, but not in the form of a huge cash dividend or a 3x exit opportunity. Instead, each team found creative ways to maximize their return for society or the environment or their community. At Community Sourced Capital, we refer to this kind of ROI as “Re-imagining Our Impact” (a term handed to us by Todd MacDonald at bMergent Partners).
In full disclosure, it wasn’t a big coincidence that our participants were thinking about this kind of ROI. After all, they were at a conference exploring “solutions for our planet”. But does that make their responses any less valid?
If you put 20 people in a room, talk about building a sustainable world, and then ask about their relationship with money, something interesting emerges. People make a connection between their money and their world. And then, maybe they’ll decide to do something about it.
(top photo is of the famous labyrinth on-site at the Whidbey Institute)