After a year of disheartening setbacks, many activists and change-makers may feel that the critical goal of transforming capitalism is slipping out of reach. Yet, having just returned from a four-week trip to many sites and gatherings working on social, economic, and spiritual renewal, I feel that the opposite is true. There are more fascinating and eye-opening examples of this transformation emerging worldwide than ever before. But something is missing, something that contributes significantly to the sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction. Simply put, what’s missing is a systemic connection between all these initiatives—an enabling mechanism that allows us to not only connect the dots, but also to see ourselves, and the significance of our work, from the whole. Below, I take you on a tour through the landscape of some current initiatives, and at the end of this journey I propose how we might link up and support the larger landscape of economic transformation.
In previous columns I have described our current moment of crisis—specifically the rise of Trump, the far right, and populist strongmen—as the result of two factors: (1) the increasing rate of disruption and (2) the lack of a capacity to lean into these moments by letting go of the old and letting come new patterns and possibilities (a capacity I call presencing).
It’s true for everyone: despite our best intentions, we often fail to accomplish what we set out to do. When it comes to retirement investing, millions of Americans do not meet their own declared saving goals for retirement.
As a result, almost one-third of the U.S. population has no retirement savings at all,while many others will fall well short of what they will need for their Golden Years.
A solution can be found in the field of behavioral economics, which suggests ways tohelp Americans start saving. It seems that saving is a lot like dieting — small changes can help you reach your goal.
These studies show that when an automatic savings plan is introduced with an opt-out, 60% to 70% of employees remain in the plan. This may seem like a technical nuance, but there is a big difference between opting in by completing an application versus choosing not to opt out.
A plan designed to take advantage of this behavior is called an automatic IRA. In the same way that many people fail to start saving, those placed in an automatic IRA simply fail to stop saving by withdrawing from the plan. Automatic IRAs help people build their savings using the power of inertia.
The world we live in asks us to make an abundance of financial decisions every day. These range from the inane, such as whether to risk a parking ticket when you stop for one minute to drop off your dry-cleaning; to the highly complex, such as which funds and investment products to pick for your retirement savings.
All of these decisions require risk-return tradeoffs. Unfortunately, while people have many opportunities in life to perfect their strategy concerning parking tickets, the same is not true for the complex and all-important decisions of how to invest retirement savings. By the time you learn whether a retirement strategy was the right choice, it is usually too late to change it.
In 2015, venture capitalists invested $58.8 billion in the United States, topping the figures for the previous two years by a substantial margin. In 2016 investors have been substantially more cautious, and if the current slowdown is a course correction rather than a blip, it will also be an important test for the nascent equity crowdfunding market.
Many equity crowdfunding platforms have sprung up, including AngelList, FundersClub, Wefunder, OurCrowd andSyndicateRoom.
To succeed, these two-sided markets need enough good investors to be attractive for entrepreneurs to post their ventures, and enough high-quality ventures to be worthwhile for investors to spend time and capital on them. If early-stage capital becomes tougher to obtain, only platforms that are surfacing high-quality deals and matching them efficiently will be able to keep growing.
A particularly interesting feature within the equity-crowdfunding world involves syndication between the crowd and a lead investor. Platforms that have introduced syndication, like AngelList and SyndicateRoom, have done it to address the problem of information asymmetry.