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Wealth, funding and investment practice

To shift wealth, we need to change how we talk about money

We need more than the redistribution of wealth, we need a redistribution of knowledge and narratives, says Megan Lucero from The People’s Newsroom.

Written by:
Megan Lucero
Date published:
Reading time:
5 minutes

"If people understood what inequality was doing to their lives and the future of their families, they wouldn’t accept it. The thing that’s preventing the change we need is for people to understand how serious the problem is."

This statement from Gary Stevenson, ex-trader and inequality economist, acknowledges an important piece of the puzzle for reimagining wealth and investment for the future: the need for bringing people into greater knowledge of, and participation in, a just transition.

Last summer, I collaborated with Emma Shaw, New Constellations and JRF to conduct a series of interviews with people across the financial system. We wanted to identify opportunities for reimagining wealth, funding and investment that better serves people and the planet.

Stevenson was one of 25 leaders and practitioners we spoke to across various fields, including finance, innovation, systems change and wealth advisory. The result was a collection of perspectives and mapping of levers of change, including ideas for multi-asset class products, reinterpretations of fiduciary duty and interventions for ‘trust-busting’ and ‘pre-distribution’.

One theme that emerged across the varying ideologies, perspectives and ideas was a call that echoed Stevenson’s provocation: we need all people, across the wealth spectrum, to hold the knowledge of how our economic system works and how it is connected to our ecological and social systems and inequities. We need a universal movement where all people share in the collective sensemaking and generative storytelling of the now and what’s next. We need more than a redistribution of wealth, we need a redistribution of knowledge and narratives.

To move money differently, we have to talk about it differently

While our research found a range of technical mechanisms for shifting wealth, many of the people we spoke to talked about the invisible ones, tied to our cultural norms, logics and narratives. that are barriers for change.

One participant said:

"The taboo (not talking about money and more widely, the money system), is what holds money in place."

Other participants added that even when we do talk about it, we get ‘trapped’ in social constructs and myths like ‘meritocracy’, ‘macho heroism’ and ‘self-made entrepreneurs’. We often use terms like ‘the rich’, ‘the wealthy’ and ‘plutocrats’ but lack clear definitions and explanations on what exactly we mean and what we are tactically responding to.

Across our conversations there was a call for us all: individuals, families, communities, organisations, to speak more openly about our relationship and history to money and wealth, and to deconstruct and decolonise the logics we currently hold about ourselves and the system.

Participants were asking, what and when is ‘enough’? What are the values we want to design our systems around so we can live in balance with people and planet?

The appetite for a societal conversation, to ask and answer these together, to understand what we currently face and what might be possible, is desperately needed. It’s this collective logic and knowledge shift that makes the work of transition, the work of everyone. Or as one participant said, a “universal fight”.

Collective narratives pave the way to a shared future

Throughout our research we were consistently told about the problematic verticals of our economic system that extract value and move it up, largely to a small few at the top. Central to this is the realisation that our information and narrative systems have been designed the same way.

We are living through a period of vast inequality, ecological and social extraction and destruction, and simultaneously we’re experiencing mass dissemination of content that harms, isolates, distracts and individualises us. These systems are connected and symbiotic.

Those that believe wealth is not just the prerogative of the wealthy, but the right of everyone, must acknowledge that we also have the right to understand and steward these systems. Our research found that any approach to redistribution must look beyond money and include storytelling that informs, makes sense of things, and power-builds.

The good news is that the stories of a just transition are already here. It is in the storytelling of the Doughnut Economics Action Lab and the New Economy Coalition. It’s in the Media 2070, Southern Media Collective For Movement Journalism, Allied Media and the Media Against Apartheid and Displacement Coalition (MAAD). It’s in the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) solidarity of the South African anti-apartheid, Palestinian and Climate Justice movements.

The People’s Newsroom, a project I’m working on in the UK, is even forming a storytelling commons with organisations working on transition. This research, and my work with People’s Newsroom, now has me exploring what a doughnut economics model for storytelling might be. It could one where we examine how our stories and information can meet our social needs, while not exceeding our ecological ceiling nor contributing to excess and harmful consumption through excess and harmful content. I’d love to explore this with others so please get in touch, if interested!

There are many interventions needed to face the transition before us. A pluralistic approach is vital for detangling, decolonizing and re(and pre)distributing our wealth system. Central to this is how we bring our information and narrative ecosystem with us, or us with them. When we do so, we will pave the way for everyone to be part of the transition of wealth and beyond.

You can read more about what we learned through the collaboration in this summary article ‘How can the Great Wealth Transfer enable people and planet to flourish?’, and Gemma Mortensen reflects on the work in this piece, ‘Creating global financial systems that value people and planet’.

About the author

Megan Lucero has spent a decade practising a people-powered approach to reimagining, reclaiming and rebuilding journalism. She founded and ran the Bureau Local at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an award-winning grassroots and community-led investigative network, and was the first Data Editor for The Times and Sunday Times (UK).

Megan is now based in San Diego and supports organisations and projects around the world working at the intersection of systems change, community power and journalism, including The People's Newsroom, News Futures, Journalism + Design, and others.

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