The last several weeks, some of us have been keeping up to date with the Occupy Movement . Originating in New York City, and sprouting in various cities across the country, including my beloved Los Angeles, protestors are taking to the street and camping out to demand economic equality.
To be sure, the protestors have a point. Wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the top 1%. And while those few individuals are making more and more money, an increasing amount of people are losing their incomes , losing their homes , and losing their services. Times are indeed tough people.
The Occupy movement is a big opportunity to raise awareness about the economic divide in this country, but more importantly, it is an opportunity to create new ideas for re-building a strong economy, create new jobs and re-invest in our neighborhoods.
New challenges require new thinking.
Pitching tents and yelling at corporations will only do so much. (yes, I said it) The emerging agenda of the movement should not only have good policy recommendations that facilitate a healthy economy, but it should also outline pathways to create new systems.
We know what we have doesn’t work, so why are we working on changing the same systems?
When your cellphone gets outdated, you can only keep upgrading software for so long. You’ll eventually need to get yourself brand spanking new hardware.
Apple teaches us that every year. It’s engineered obsolescence and we have to ask ourselves if some of our economic systems are obsolete and failing us too.
What we may need is new economic hardware that will create wealth for the people and by the people.
We need to pool our collective buying power and our collective minds to think about real solutions for economic prosperity. We have to create. We have to build.
If we don’t think about solutions, and continue to romanticize revolution and free speech, we’ll fail the millions of people who are not participating in the Occupy movement. They deserve new solutions and they can’t afford a revolution that takes them nowhere.
The great thing is we have a lot of amazing ingredients to create awesome systems. My two favorites are:
1. Collective buying power – In neighborhoods, like Boyle Heights in East Los Angeles, the purchasing power boasts over $325,000 per acre. Now that neighborhood is very low-income, but the density of the area makes it a force.
What if we organized that economic power? What if we did something with all that and invested in our banks and in our own companies?
If the Occupy movement was able to spur a large disinvestment from the Big Banks, they’ll certainly do more than raise an eyebrow at what’s happening. We have to vote with our wallets people.
2. Our talent –Harvard MBA’s usually don’t scramble for the nonprofit jobs that do socially responsible work. But make no mistake, there are smart and progressive entrepreneurs out there.
We need to engage them, and recruit them to create new businesses, new banks, and even new cooperatives. These new institutions need to be profitable, responsible and sustainable. I’m confident we can make it happen.
Imagine financial institutions that supported their customers? Businesses that invested locally and hired local workers? If they don’t exist, we have to create them.
So, while we pitch our tents out on the street, let’s think about what’s in our wallets, the companies we’re supporting, and the companies that are yet to be created. Then we won’t have to see our protests met with debit card fees. (It’s only going to get worse)
This is an exciting time people. Let’s not miss the boat. If we’re going to Occupy, let’s also create. Let’s BUILD.
Photo credit: Stephen R Mingle