We use terminology that is already defined and codified (see our resources section), and to ensure that CCI contributes meaningfully in circulating powerful terms, we want to be transparent in explaining what we mean when we use certain, essential terms.
There are a number of terms that we align with (e.g., new economy, just economy, solidarity economy, green economy, etc.), but we have adopted Alternative Economy for its explicit goal of replacing the current profit-only paradigm of capitalism with an economic system that is redistributive to those who have been marginalized or exploited (oftentimes people of color and those in non-metropolitan regions). When we say Alternative Economy, we mean an economic system and financial tools that work better for those who have been marginalized. We use this term to broadly refer to various economic justice movements.
We use this term to mean many types of artists, including artisans, creatives, creative entrepreneurs, cultural producers, culture-bearers, cultural anchors, craftspeople, and makers. In other words, this is a broad group of individuals, sometimes working independently or to manifest a community identity, whose deep creative or cultural practice sets them apart and makes them essential in shaping society, culture, and communities. We take a broad definition of artist to get away from the conventional definition that only recognized artists who are professionally degreed as “fine artists”. Our usage of this term includes them plus so many more. The United States is an exciting, thriving, and vibrant country made so because of the diversity of its people and their varied forms of expression. Our definition, therefore, makes room for artists who move our hearts and minds through aesthetics, social relevance, and community connectivity.
In order to change the current economic paradigm, there needs to be massive changes that shift how the market works and how things are valued. These changes need to happen across the entire economy, including in the nascent digital space. The cumulation of changes that shift how the economic system works is disruption. When we talk about disruption we are referring to disrupting the current economy, that works for a few individuals, in order to create a system that will work for everyone. We see that we are in an already disrupted moment due to combination of demographic shifts, generational attitudinal changes, technological advancements, and unrest due to growing inequality, thus making this moment optimal for enacting systems that effect economic justice.
Charity and philanthropy often respond to immediate problems and needs. For example, helping an artist afford pursuing an artistic project that the artist could not have afforded on their own. Even support that is characterized as teaching beneficiaries “how to fish” (i.e., capacity building) is project based, working to fix a knowledge or network problem. CCI believes that we as philanthropic support need to move into the realm of creating financial independence for those we serve. It’s not enough to afford an opportunity, fix a problem, or teach them how to fish: We need to build structures of support at systems levels that ensure that people can realize financial self-determination so they don’t have to jump through funders, lenders, and other supporters’ hoops to pursue the path they should have the right to set for themselves. For us, attending to financial self-determination sets a high bar to move from project-based, transactional investing to unconventionally supporting people’s potential that extends beyond our own initiative’s timeframe and reflects an “upstream” approach.
We use this term to describe communities on the front lines of our current economic crisis. We believe that communities who have been left out of the current economy or forced to suffer through massive debt and an inability to participate in economic growth understand how to build an economy that will work for everyone. These communities are often predominantly African American, Indigenous, immigrant, or Latinx. AmbitioUS is aimed to support these endeavors and these communities.
We borrow RSF (Rudolf Steiner Foundation) Social Finance’s term “integrated capital” to describe how AmbitioUS provides many forms of support–grants, investments, and loans–in order to be helpful to investees as well as incubate the various approaches conventional funders might use in moving beyond nonprofit-only grants. Nonprofit financial models need to be disrupted as their lack of useful, unrestricted capital has undermined their efforts to realize missions, and nonprofits need a diversity of support that is not one-type-fits-all.