As a local Occupy organizer I am focused on the evolution of Occupy. Our local Occupy group is a progressive and spiritually conscious group made of mostly of Unitarian Universalists and Unity members along with a healthy representation from the local ACLU and a local women's organizations. We are not so much into “occupying” as much as collaborating and co-creating. It seems dissent raises awareness but without pointing to a better way a movement of only dissent will become tiring to the public. So what are we doing?

As a successful businessman I realize I have failed miserably at something: retirement. I sat around for one year drinking beer and surfing channels before I realized - retirement is not about doing nothing. Retirement is about being free to stop doing what I'm required to do and start doing I want to do, even if it is work. So I have evolved from builder and developer to a teacher. I now offer three work shops. One is The Q-Effect by Dr. Gary Simons which helps people identify and integrate their “shadow” so as to overcome unconscious and limiting beliefs (issues) and live more authentically. The other two are my personal passion and creations: "Bridging Science and Spirituality" and more recently "Birthing the New Economy".

I recently created the “Birthing the New Economy” workshop as part of my Occupy activity. I was moved by the realization that complaining about the way thing are without offering solutions is unproductive, even irritating. Knowing there are some wonderful things happening like the Evergreen Cooperatives modeled after the famously successful Mondragon Cooperative, it seems appropriate to inform our communities about these alternatives. So having made the commitment about a month ago I lined up a location, put out the announcement, and feverishly began development of the material. It is work, but so much more gratifying the beer and TV.

This workshop first explains what is wrong with the present economy: crushing debt, unsustainable consumption, interest on debt requiring unsustainable growth, loss of commons as well as social ills due to wealth inequality. It next focuses on Conscious Capitalism and the new corporate tools emerging such as B-Corps and L3C's. From there the workshop spotlights worker/owner coops and their phenomenal success. It finishes with workshop with about an hour of brainstorming local market needs as far as services or products that would also offer social benefits. 

To promote the workshop, I invited our occupy group, unions, notified the media and this past Sunday I presented the morning spiritual 'message' at Unity of Panama City promoting the New Economy. I linked it to Unity International's collaboration with Barbara Marx Hubbard's Birth2012 movement. That afternoon we had a wonderful group of about 30 people. It was very well received by the group. One attendee, Dr. Jim Claunch, was so impressed he insisted that, perhaps, my part in birthing the new economy would be to take this workshop on the road as it not only raises consciousness but moves people to action.

From disruptive to productive: the last hour of the workshop the group was asked to help co-create the new model. We brainstormed: What need could we fill with a profitable business founded upon conscious capitalism that would enhance social and ecological health? As a result we have a new group formed that will meet again this Sunday to develop our Values and Vision. Several will be downloading the 'Kit' available at Evergreen Cooperatives. Many will be seeking more information regarding local needs. All have moved from to berating to creating.

What will develop ultimately is impossible to say. We have at least raised consciousness. At best we will eventually produce a business caring for the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profits. As a bonus we may one day have a local business model for future social entrepreneurs. What do you think? Is this the direction for Occupy to evolve?

media report

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Comment by Ben Roberts on August 21, 2012 at 3:20pm

Bravo, Steve!  Many of us here in the Cafe have been answering your final question about whether or not this is the way we would like to see Occupy evolve with a resounding "yes!" that goes back to the first days of the Cafe when "new economy" was the most animated conversation topic we had.  It continued last December with Charles Eisenstein as our guest for a Monday Vital Conversation entitled "How Might Occupy support a New Economy?" 

Out of that call a group formed to solicit declarations of possibility around a New Economy and Occupy's role in bringing it forth.  Much of your thinking around moving from dissent to building new alternatives was a part of that conversation.  I felt a similar vibe at the recent National Gathering as well, as evidenced by the focus on a positive vision for the future on the final day of that event.

Here in the Cafe, the "core team" thinking about how we might evolve our work continues to be focused on the new economy as a major theme and to consider various ways we can contribute to its emergence.  One is to have the Cafe itself become a model/laboratory for ways to not only make a living while serving a triple bottom line but also employ modes of exchange that might at least partly (for now) replace conventional currency.  

Another way that we imagine we can serve the New Economy's emergence is through the kinds of inquiries we host, the depth to which we might take them and the various groups beyond Occupy we might reach out to as we convene them.  Personally, I'm inspired by the idea of anchoring the conversation around a number of on-the-ground initiatives and inviting people in other communities who are interested in exploring similar efforts to join in as well.  It could then become a global inquiry based on a number of local "nodes."  We're not quite ready to commit to this yet, but I continue to explore possibilities for the nodes as the first step in designing this deep dive inquiry.  Perhaps we might collaborate on this.  This thread in our New Economy group tracks some of the thinking on this idea.

I have a meeting with some people in New Haven CT next week that might move us closer to having a core group there that could anchor a node.  Asheville NC is another fertile area where we have some deep connections to the Cafe.  And of course there are many other possibilities as well.

Comment by Steven D. Imhof on August 21, 2012 at 4:40pm

Yes Ben, I remember the conference with Charles Eisenstein and some discussion but lost track of those threads. I had read two of David Korten's books: Agenda for a New Economy and The Great Turning. Hearing Charles here resulting in reading his book. 

What has changed for me is moving beyond reading and talking to manifesting a changed reality. It sounds like you are saying this is generally where Occupy is going. That's great.  I hope your trip will be fruitful because the better models are there waiting for social entrepreneurs to take them on. I guess I'm getting energized, like the early Occupy groups marching and making noise. But my excitement is over the realization that real systems have emerged that are solving the jobs problem, social issues, sustainability problem, wealth inequality problems- while virtually eliminating the need for Wall Street. 

Let me know if there is anything I can do to assist in what you are doing.


Comment by Steven D. Imhof on August 22, 2012 at 8:39pm

Hello C.A.

I'm not much in favor of reform or revolution. This economic system is standing on the wrong foundation so reforming is not useful. Revolution appropriately has the root, revolve, in it. They usually exchange one bad hierarchy for another. Studies of human development tell us we are facing a human evolution. Consciousness is going through a transformation and when enough people reach the next tier, systems will change. The needed systems have been emerging and addressing the problems that this old economic system fails to even concern itself with. These new systems are not perfect but they are working. One has been working for half a century, Mondragon.  One system, like a new business model may address the income inequality issue and provide jobs and self esteem as well as a low carbon foot print but fail to reach a no impact level. That will require another system. But yes, I think a combination of these existing systems along with the raising of consciousness will happen, but perhaps only after things get much worse. We have gone through several extinctions in our evolutionary process but each had survivors which took an evolutionary leap forward. However, some of us believe that for the first time in the history of life on this planet, the highest life form is smart enough to guide this transition without another major extinction. The emergence of workable models addressing our problems is promising.

As for UU, they are mostly great people. Although I have chosen Unity as my spiritual community, they are not yet as socially conscious as UU. Quakers are another group known historically for meaningful social action. The Integral Spiritual group is just beginning to sign on to making real change. I don't think you have to subscribe to a group but there does seem to be a progressive spiritual nature to those taking the lead in this conscious evolution.  



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