Thousands of Americans have begun affirming a new direction for the economy. It’s called Slow Money.
Inspired by the vision of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing As If Food, Farms and Fertility Mattered, published in 2009, the Slow Money Alliance is bringing people together around a new conversation about money that is too fast, about finance that is disconnected from people and place, about how we can begin fixing our economy from the ground up… starting with food.
Through Slow Money national gatherings, regional events and local activities, more than $30 million has been invested in 221 small food enterprises around the United States since mid-2010. Seventeen local Slow Money chapters and six investment clubs have formed. Slow Money events have attracted thousands of people from 36 states and 9 countries. Over 30,000 people have signed the Slow Money Principles. The first international Slow Money investment—a $20,000 loan to a solar dairy in Switzerland—has been made. Slow Money France is in the early stages of organizing, and inquiries about chapter formation have been received from Canada, Australia and Japan.
The broad appeal of Slow Money has brought together tens of thousands of individuals, in person and online, via its emerging network of chapters, investment clubs, regional and national gatherings, webinars, social media, and educational programs. Through this network, angel investors and foundations are making Slow Money investments of $50,000 or more. Non-accredited individual investors are putting sums closer to $5,000 to work through investment clubs.
Yet only a small fraction of our growing constituency is in the position to make a $5,000 or a $50,000 investment. Gatheround offers an affordable entry level to participate in funding local food businesses by making a tax-deductible $25 donation.
One of the most difficult balances to strike in developing a thriving local investing field is between the advantages of broader sharing and the desire to “keep it all local.” At this early stage, we believe Gatheround has an important role to play sharing best practices and facilitating the formation of a “trans-local” community. We’ve seen the power of this kind of sharing at Slow Money’s National Gatherings, which have brought people together for inspiration and sharing, helping attendees to return to their local communities energized and empowered, with the knowledge that going local doesn’t have to mean going alone. If you’re looking for ways to get more directly involved in Slow Money’s local activities, we encourage you to see if there’s a chapter or lending club near you, and if not, to think about getting one started! Check out www.slowmoney.org/local-groups, or send an email here.
For those of you who have followed the development of Gatheround, we know this structure is a bit different from what you’ve seen before. There are a few reasons we decided this structure makes the most sense. Most importantly, we want to emphasize the power of gathering; a time-tested practice for building community and learning skills, used throughout history to raise barns, harvest fields and rebuild from disaster. The collaborative, event-based structure of Gatheround is a chance to put the literal crowd back in crowdfunding– an element we decided is critical to Slow Money’s use of the internet. In addition, this focus builds on what Slow Money as an organization does best– bringing together luminaries, investors and entrepreneurs in a way that is more than a sum of its parts. We hope you are as excited about this new platform as we are, and welcome your comments and feedback as we move forward.
Yes. A part of the reason why loans traditionally charge interest is to cover the risk of default. Based on comparable loans from microfinance institutions, Gatheround would need to charge between 15 percent and 50 percent on its loans in order to reliably break even. The alternative to these high interest rates would be to give money only to established businesses striving for high growth rates with less attention to mission. Gatheround is about coming together as a community, learning and investing in the slower, smaller businesses that make our food system healthy and resilient. We select Gatheround entrepreneurs in part because of their mission-driven approach, and believe they will do their best to pay us back and enable the next generation of Slow Money businesses.