Beneficial State Foundation Perspectives

Our thoughts on changing the banking system for good and building the new economy

New year, new power dynamics

The New Year is quickly approaching, so you might already be thinking about your own personal and professional goals for 2019. As we head into next year at Beneficial State Foundation, equipped with a new strategic plan focused on changing the banking system for good, we’ve identified goals for 2019 and are making sure our organizational values are reflected in our workplace. One major theme from this year has been examining the ways in which we distribute power, both within our organization and through our interactions with community partners.

What does distributed power have to do with banking?

Distributed power is a key component of our vision for a new economy, and plays a large role in how we manage our work at Beneficial State Foundation. We believe concentration of power is dangerous in any context, and especially in the banking industry, as demonstrated by the massive political influence of Wall Street banks. Big banks continue to engage in shady business practices in part because the fines are insignificant when compared to the profits generated by such practices. These shady business practices, like charging customers hidden fees, offering predatory loans, or financing fossil fuel production that spew toxins into our air, disproportionately impact low-income communities leading to deepening economic inequality.

As a nonprofit that owns the economic rights to a triple-bottom-line bank, distributed power comes up constantly when we think about which communities we strive to serve at Beneficial State Bank. It is also a value that underlies how we help to build and engage with the equitable banking field, whether by sharing relationships, networks, connections, or resources.

Whether empowering immigration advocates through our work on  the #HereToStay Campaign, advocating for public banks, or engaging directly with banks on how to implement equitable banking practices, we recognize that there is a need for people—particularly people from historically marginalized communities—to have power over where they bank, the types of activities their bank funds, how their city invests in the community, and just as importantly, power in their workplace.

Examining how power is distributed within your own organization

Mission-driven organizations often form as a response or alternative to the destructive power dynamics that exist in mainstream oppressive systems. Yet, these same mission-driven organizations unintentionally often end up replicating those power dynamics within the organization. Round Sky Solutions was created to explore how organizations can effectively work collaboratively while actively examining and shifting power dynamics that arise in their work. 

The concept for Round Sky Solutions emerged from passionate conversations about how to facilitate greater health and resilience in individuals and organizations. Inspired by the principles of Integral Theory, Round Sky Solutions was founded as a worker-owned cooperative in January 2012 to launch an online democratic management and leadership training for other cooperative and like-minded organizations across the world.

We each have a lot to unlearn from the extractive economy and culture in which we’ve been conditioned. Part of Round Sky’s role is to support and strengthen teams’ ability to share power and collaborate, so that they can work more effectively. As nonprofits, social justice organizations, cooperatives, and other mission-driven businesses strive to create a new economy, it’s crucial for us to remain intentional about distributing power within our organizations and businesses, rather than replicating harmful power dynamics unconsciously.

Round Sky Solutions, a fellow member of the New Economy Coalition, is doing the work of holding space for when those power dynamics that we are fighting against creep up in our work. Their 7 Day Self Care Challenge, which runs through January 10th, is designed to support leaders working in social and economic justice movements reflect on their experiences from this past year, and envision their goals for 2019.

What are some of your personal or professional goals for the new year? We encourage you to share them in the comments below!

Symone is the Digital Engagement Manager at Beneficial State Foundation, based in Oakland, CA. This post was written in collaboration with Rebecca Fisher McGinty, the Communications Wizard for fellow New Economy Coalition member Round Sky Solutions.

This blog post reflects the authors’ personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.