For most Americans, the word “slow” is anathema. When tied to “money,” the slow money movement hasn’t exactly chosen a brand that will have positive connotations to the majority of the population. However, the slow money message is increasingly making sense to those fed up with the waste and apathy with which nationalized chains operate in local communities. With precepts loosely similar to the slow food movement, slow money proposes to support the next generation of small food entrepreneurs who are simultaneously rebuilding local food systems and economies.
While the underlying factors and causes that generated the recent, and some would say ongoing, global recession are ambiguous; it is clear that the interconnectivity of markets on a global scale has gone from being an asset to an uncontrollable, devastating force. One area in which the ramification of a global import/export system has become particularly apparent is the global food supply. With food prices lingering near an all time high, rebuilding the economy from the ground up takes on a greater precedence, and new meaning. Slow money emphasizes a localized approach that recognizes the need for a focused economic approach that embraces carrying capacity, care of the commons, and a dedication to changing economic practice from extraction and consumption to preservation and restoration.
Slow Money has strategically placed itself at the intersection of food activists, concerned citizens, and environmentalists while appealing to the entrepreneurial, small capital spirit of most Americans. Put simply, Slow Money addresses the economic stumbling block often faced by proponents of Slow Food. The primary goal of Slow Money is “One million people investing 1% of their money in local food enterprises, within a decade.” However, Slow Money organizers are not just waiting for money to spontaneously be donated. Local organizations have been developed to generate seed money, with unlimited options for deals including loans, equities, and credit extensions. Bartering is also a strong component of many groups. Essentially, Slow Money applies organization to the vision behind current local food movements. For example, many cities have local farms that have set up CSAs or farmers a market, which begins to keep the money local, but Slow Money shifts the scale of occurrence and provides the organizational resources small groups need.
How to Leverage Slow Money
The disdainfulness progressives traditionally associate with capitalism and entrepreneurial spirit have no place in Slow Money. The foundation of Slow Money is built upon investment, promoting the idea of an exchange of money to build local economies. Although the movement is centered on supporting local entrepreneurs, investment opportunities for larger corporations are obvious. Any corporation supporting sustainable initiatives and locally sourced options is presented with a prime opportunity to invest in a legitimate establishment to establish a community presence and demonstrate involvement in localized regions. As ongoing government restructuring continues to undermine the EPA and Department of Energy (the two main federal determinants of environmental policy), national nonprofits will continue to acquire legitimacy and support from consumers.
The Triple Bottom Line
Although the truth of Mark Twain’s “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore” may have changed (Dubai), the essential fact that humans are entirely dependent on the land to survive has not. Investing through the slow money approach changes making money from the credo of the capitalist pig into a sustainable activity that will maintain local communities. Although Slow Money is not the first organization to support the idea of investing in local food systems and economies, it is the first to provide a structured approach that addresses the ideological concerns of multiple groups; thereby gaining a diverse support base. The continued long-term success of Slow Money remains to be seen, but the opportunity to achieve the elusive triple bottom line makes a Slow Money investment a gamble worth making.
Emily McClendon is an environmental marketing specialist currently working at NeboWeb. She has a B.S. in Applied Biology from Georgia Institute of Technology and is currently pursuing her M.C.R.P. in Environmental Planning, also at Georgia Institute of Technology. She believes that communication and shared knowledge are the most important facets of conveying environmentally friendly practices. After participating in biological research, inter disciplinary planning, and interactive marketing, she is convinced a comprehensive approach is the only solution for creating a sustainable economy.