Buen Vivir Fund, Washington, DC, 2018
The Buen Vivir Fund (BVF)–a project of Thousand Currents–is an early stage impact investment fund seeking to heal extractive approaches to financial investment. All investment decisions are made by a Member’s Assembly of grassroots organizations and financial investors, and loan terms are self-determined by the organizations seeking investment.
When the BVF team shared a loan agreement template with the grassroots organizations seeking investment, we were surprised by an initial lack of response. Surely organizations were in a hurry to set their loans terms, sign the contract, and begin work on the plans they’d been making with their communities?
To investigate the slow response rate, I convened conversations with each grassroots organization seeking loan funding. We learned that though they are our teachers in equitable economies, the grassroots organizations were looking to us for information about non-extractive loan terms. I was wary of sharing a prescriptive resource guide because we did not want to perpetuate the paternalistic dynamic of top-down traditional finance.
I created a menu of options for loan terms that organizations could choose from. I presented the menu in an editable format to convey our desire for continued co-creation, rather than top- down expertise sharing. Within a week, organizations began to share their self-determined, non-extractive loan agreements. One grassroots organization shared, “We find the material clarifying, and we are pleased with the flexibility and respect for our self-determination.”