Rethinking Finance: A Recap of the Feb 4th 2021 GAIA Session

Feb 8, 2021

On Feb 4th two sessions focused on mission-driven finance were hosted, the first one with guest speakers Mizi Mtshali and Nsika Masondo -- focusing on the question of how financial systems can serve communities and local entrepreneurs -- and the noon session featuring Mercedes Bidart, who asked the questions: What is money? And who designs it?

The 2021 cycle of the GAIA Journey kicked off on Feb 4th and was co-hosted by Katrin Käufer, an executive director at the Presencing Institute and director of the Just Money program at MIT’s Community Innovators Lab. The GAIA 2021 cycle will, on a monthly basis, continue to move through different acupuncture points for societal renewal and planetary healing.

Coinciding with the release of Katrin’s new book, Just Money: Mission-Driven Banks and the Future of Finance, this GAIA session focused on the acupuncture point of finance. If you're curious about the book, read an excerpt here and order the book here.


Warm Welcome

Antoinette Klatzky opened both Global Sessions with the phrase: "This is the moment I was born for", referring to a sentence spoken by a participant of an earlier session in 2020. Antoinette reflected on how this phrase relates to the global disruption of COVID-19, remembering how GAIA itself was also sparked by this pandemic. She pointed out that there often seem to be two responses to such a disruption: turning away from it, as a moment of hopelessness and depression, or turning towards it, as a possibility. Antoinette emphasized how GAIA (which stands for: Global Activation of Intention and Action) was intended as a space for a global sense-making experience, where people from all across the globe can come together and reflect on the questions: "How we can respond to this crisis, and disruption, as a source of profound possibility? How can we respond from the deeper source of our humanity, instead of merely reacting towards it?"


Reimagining a Broken System

Otto Scharmer continued by picking up the phrase, "This is the moment I was born for", by reflecting on its collective dimension as a call for us to turn towards each other in attempting to make sense of what’s going on. "We see an old system no longer working," Otto continues, "and there is a widespread realization that our old ways of organizing (our economies, society, learning systems) are no longer appropriate to the challenges that we face." Otto reminds us that this calls for: being fully present to what's happening, and bringing our own agency to the table. Many people feel that something else is needed, I want to be a part of it, but I don’t know how. The 2021 cycle of GAIA, as a response to this widespread feeling, was envisioned as a journey to catalyze awareness, agency, and the sense of rising to the occasion in the midst of transformation.


Cracks in a System as Opportunity

Next, Otto introduced and welcomed Katrin Käufer, who reflected on the role that finance plays in our society, and how it can be used as a tool for social change. "If humans intend to take care of the planet and society, then the purpose of the economy is to provide those things that we are in need of," Katrin reflects. The banking system, then, has the task of facilitating financial transactions in this economic system. "Yet something is wrong: this system is upside-down," Katrin tells us. She reminds us that the human and planetary needs are not driving the system. Rather, money has become the driving force. What is needed, according to Katrin, is for the order to be flipped right-side up again, so that human well-being and the health of the planet become the driving forces of the system. We are in the middle of a societal waking-up, visible in various cracks in the financial system that bring to light our own agency in co-creating money both on the individual and the collective level. 


First Session: Mizi Mtshali and Nsika Masondo

Katrin welcomed Mizi Mtshali, a South African entrepreneur and CEO of the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NASASA), and Nsika Masondo, CFO of NASASA. They explain that stokvel is a type of credit union, where a group of people enter into an agreement to contribute a fixed amount of money for a common purpose, built on a rotating saving and credit system. NASASA’s mission is anchored in the Freedom Charter, responding to the promise that the people of South Africa will share the country's wealth. By connecting over 800,000 stokvel groups, NASASA has created a deomcratic infrastructure to support the missions of the individual stokvel groups, with the intention of making money serve society. 


Second Session: Mercedes Bidart

During the second session, Katrin introduced Mercedes Bidart, an Argentinian social entrepreneur who developed Quipu, a community marketplace where people can trade without money, with a focus on vulnerable communities. Because the marketplace works in terms of proximity, each community has its own marketplace. The purpose of Quipu Market is to create and maintain money locally, as well as transform the social capital of the local community into economic capital. Mercedes concluded by reflecting on the importance of listening: if you want to help a community transform, it’s necessary to be an active listener.


Resonance: With One Another, and Through Scribing

The session then shifted into small-group discussions in breakout rooms, reflecting on the question: "What is activated in me now around money?" A short while later, the participants returned to the main room, and had the chance to voice some of the questions and insights they had discussed. Essentially, it became clear that rethinking money means rethinking the relationships we have to our planet, each other, and to ourselves. Otto summarized this by reflecting that: "It is about a paradigm, and if the paradigm doesn’t shift, we will just continue to do just more of the same."

Turning to the scribing image by Olaf Baldini, the participants entered into, and concluded with, a resonance process with the image.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge – scribing image by Olaf Baldini

Watch the session recordings below.


Session 1

Session 2


You can also explore other scribings created by members of the GAIA scribing community by clicking the image below: 

(If the slideshow controls are not displaying for some reason, you can click through to the album on Flickr by clicking on the image below)

Scribed by Vivien Leung