By Kaitlin Byrd, Program Coordinator of Capital Strategies Program
In a year of challenges, the 2020 Transform Finance Institute for Social Justice Leaders offered opportunities for Transform Finance: to reimagine connection, reconfigure our work, and reconsider the impact of the Institute on communities experiencing unprecedented difficulties. Observing the compounding consequences of social and political neglect for marginalized people, our Institute this year took on a new meaning: helping participants see how finance has contributed to the same forces that brought us our current inequality. But more importantly, we also covered models of finance or strategies to influence finance that serve as tools for recovery and resistance.
This being my first year with the organization and with the Institute itself, it was fascinating to transform the knowledge and insight of the in-person Institute into a multi-week online learning experience that could guide participants through the major players in finance, their incentives and limitations, the stakes and challenges of their work, and how to see themselves as capable, motivated actors in the midst of all of it.
Hearing from organizations and people who have done work at the intersection of finance and social justice -- Scott Klinger from Jobs With Justice, Nia Evans from the Boston Ujima Project, Bianca Tylek of Worth Rises, and Cathy Albisa, VP at Race Forward -- offered perspective and promise on the ability to take these principles and translate them into real effects. We staked out claims for what we wanted to achieve, and then delved into the points of power and leverage we needed to understand to make it happen. We applied ourselves to situations both hypothetical and tangible, taking steps in our learning to marry concept with conviction.
It was wonderful to engage with brilliant, energetic minds from across the country, to hear about their work, to see our spirit and resilience in the face of difficulties that have cost so many, so much. There were those with projects already underway -- revitalizing urban commercial corridors, seeking out alternative financing and educational structures for Native women, pushing local housing into collective hands -- and those with projects spurred by imagination and awaiting only knowledge.
As a new member of the Capital Strategies team, it was empowering to hear participants reconsider and reframe what finance is now into what finance could be. By the end of our sessions, we had begun the process of seeing new possibilities in how we interact with capital and community, and giving ourselves the opportunity to build something that could shift the conversation, even if only amongst those closest to us.
In this time of crisis and loss, we seek to protect the vulnerable and fuel the grassroots efforts that are combating the inequity and injustice we see today. We at Transform Finance are always learning about new tools, new models, new campaigns, and new logic that can serve as solutions to oppression. The Institute is a space to share this knowledge and iterate on it. We learned from each other, connected across the internet, and discovered comity without closeness. And in transforming ourselves, we can see how to transform our obstacles.