Building our capacity to self-organise around common interests.

Abdul Semakula
7 min readOct 11, 2023

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Last month I was part of the Finance for a Regenerative Economy course by Capital Institute. I’ve taken over a dozen online courses, but none was as energetic as this one. That energy in turn energised me to share a few thoughts merging the team’s opinions and my previous thinking. I wrote up four pieces and shared them on the course platform, but I thought I should share them with the wider systems change movement. This is the first of those.

In the session about what a new money system would look like, One member talked about people power. I thought we could generate more possible courses of action on that. As another member suggested, we can’t wait for the powers that be to retire a system that sustains their power.

The key takeaway for me is that all the ideas proposed can’t be achieved without building our capacity to self-organise around common interests.

Donella Meadows says, “if you want to know the deepest malfunctions of a system, look at the rules of the system and who has access to them”. We don’t have access to the kind of rules governments make (ie coercive rules) but we all have access to another kind of rules that actually fuel the system more than the state coercion does. These rules are based on reciprocity.

The challenge is that they require us to build our capacity to self-organise — only then can we collectively wield them (without state or corporate permission) like a magic wand to shift the system in whichever direction we want it to go.

So, how do you leverage reciprocity to galvanise people power within the financial system?

Keywords being “People-Power”in “Financial System”.
Allow me to share my thinking on this as this is something that has preoccupied me most of my last 3 years. But this should not dictate the dialogue, but rather serve as a ground for more possible ends.

So, if we get more granular with our keywords;
- People-Power: — the power lies in people’s daily decisions.
- Financial System: — the power lies in financial accounts.

Let’s expound on those a bit.

- In the context of the commercial system, Daily decisions are like votes for what products/services we buy for our needs but are also collective votes for the system we want and today we all maintain this unjust system by releasing money from our financial accounts to feed its limitless accumulation.

- This means financial accounts are powerful tools for systems change — if only they were designed for that. But the types of accounts we interact with today don’t empower us to change the system. Individual/private accounts are for personal decisions, and Public financial accounts as another member hinted, people don’t get to vote on what the money does.

So, what type of account do we need then? Or a more objective question is how should we be thinking about this? Here are three principles to consider for such an account — would be glad to read more from you guys.

1) DEVELOPS THE PERSON’S WILL TO THINK ABOUT THE WHOLE OR COMMON ISSUES.

If a personal account with $1M inspires me to think about (plan) a vacation in Hawai, or investing in a high-growth business, why isn’t there an account that inspires me to think about restoring a degrading peatland, or uplifting a homeless person I chatted with last nite? Yes, I can use my personal account, but in a system built on fear and scarcity, I can be more inspired to think about common issues if the funds aren’t coming from my account, but I still have an easy and high chance of accessing them to work on common interest issues. Since I don’t have access to public accounts or private foundation accounts, is a kind of collectively governed account that I contribute to, and have quick access to is handy for this?

2) DEVELOPS THE PERSON’S STATE OF BEING TO FEEL FOR THE HEALTH OF THE WHOLE.

If that personal account enables my material self to feel & fill for my material needs, why isn’t there an account that enables my holistic self to feel for the needs of the whole in me?

3) EQUIPS THE PERSON TO MAKE DAILY DECISIONS THAT BALANCE SELF WITH THE WHOLE.

If there are private business accounts for me (as a customer) to support businesses that feed my material needs, why isn’t there an account for me to support businesses that feed the needs of the whole in me? To feed my spiritual well-being while protecting the health of other beings?

So really, the types of accounts in our financial system are built on the colonial narrative of as John Fullerton says in the slides, separation and domination. The individual is separate from the whole. The worst part is that, as we interact with these individual financial accounts every day, they reinforce our individualistic beliefs and behaviour in every commercial transaction.

As, Jude Currivan would say, I’m in the whole, and the whole is in me. That’s the nature of life. This is nestedness and interdependence. According to Regenesis, Nested Interdependence is how a Place works as a living system. So, what financial account do we need for our financial system and the broader commercial system to function as a living system that dances in harmony with the natural world?

I propose a COMMUNITY FINANCIAL ACCOUNT. Can we prototype a community financial account that empowers the individual to make holistic decisions that collectively add up to shift our financial/commercial system from a degenerating system to a living system? I think so, and I love the way another member put it precisely, “Exit to Community”.

The community level is more accessible to the person than the national, regional, or global level. It’s in between the two extremes we’ve built to disarm people from influencing and being influenced by the whole — i.e. On the one hand, Hyper-Individualism that forces us to send more billions to billionaires on every commercial decision and has since graduated into State capture and thus State-Inaction on the other hand.

At the community level, individuals don’t need corporate or state permission to look out for the interests of the whole. On the contrary, it’s their daily commercial decisions that hold the power to shift the system with the underlying power of reciprocity.

If they make material decisions, the system remains, if they make wholistic decisions, the system changes.

But first, we need to enable people to be able to make holistic decisions. You know, it’s saddening that protests, whistleblowers, movements, etc. get billions of free impressions/views and ignite attention, and awareness, and get the intention of millions of people to act, but because there are no lightweight platforms to anchor these converts to push direct action, millions of converts retreat to inactive bystanders. What a waste of that free-earned media!

A daily use yet less demanding platform would bond millions of these converts to; collectively push direct positive action by businesses; and inspire individual action towards sustainable lifestyles. And although it’s at the community level, the impact of such an account can reverberate across the globe if well-designed.

That is for all of us to think about. My current thinking is that;

We can’t unlock private accounts of the ‘1%’ to timely send funds to climate solutions, however, on their next sale/purchase, we can incentivise businesses and customers to divert a fraction to a community-controlled financial account where community members vote to fund the climate solutions they care about.

So, Instead of waiting 7 to 20 years for a handful of m/billionaires to impact invest or donate to climate solutions, millions of people vote by;

1) choosing to buy from businesses that divert a fraction to a community account, and

2) choosing the climate solutions they care about to receive funding.

Perhaps in 3/6 years when Community Financial Accounts are ubiquitous, the many good millionaires that are literally begging Governments to tax them (which isn’t on any government’s radar) will consider channeling those billions through Community Financial Accounts. This I think can be the precursor to John Fullerton’s vision of the financial system being a commons.

On top of increasing the volume and velocity of funds from the commercial system, these Community Financial Accounts add another layer of regulation that can be designed to dynamically regulate wealth concentration.

In conclusion, Our financial system is disempowering for billions of people willing to change the system because financial accounts are designed to do so. As Donella Meadows says, “A small shift in one thing can produce big changes in everything.” The diagram below summarises how I think a Community Financial Account can produce tides of change across the system by self-organising our daily decisions around common interests.

If in doubt, look no further than how the current system has leveraged private financial accounts to self-organise daily decisions around self-interest.

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Originally published at https://justicemindset.substack.com.

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Abdul Semakula

Systems Innovator co-creating bottom-up a distributive & regenerative future at https://opencollective.com/nvc