My work and calling is social innovation. Someone once called me a “strategic meddler” – I observe how human systems function, imagine how what small intervention could do a world of good and start to experiment on a small scale until it’s ready to spread. Financial independence allows me to practice this art and trade with love, immediacy and accuracy – even if no one else understands what I am doing until the idea has taken off.
A social innovation is like a catalyst – introduced into an environment it will initiate a cascade of chain reactions. You can imagine it like a boulder which, when dropped in a river, redirects the flow for everything downstream. Or call it a “life-hack” for a society or like a little piece of code put in some unconscious life process that improves results or wakes people up enough to see new possibilities. It’s deceptively simply yet can have a significant effect. Social Innovations work with culture and systems, not politics, but they can make waves and change that politically seems impossible.
The social innovations I’ve worked on are designed to transform those ordinary daily life processes – like shopping, cooking, spending and saving money, talking to one another – from habits and beliefs, programed by the dominant story tellers (advertising/media) and run mostly unconsciously, into a “woke” sense that life is about learning, self-discovery and connection. The three big ones are:
The 9-step program in Your Money or Your Life
The Conversation Cafes
The 10-Day Local Food Challenge
From these simple protocols many fun, interesting activities have evolved.
Your Money or Your Life is the book I coauthored with Joe Dominguez that presents his 9-step program. We wrote it to be a bestseller – and it has been for 25 years. From this transformational approach to money have come local and global communities, study groups, conversation groups and much more. Please join us at http://yourmoneyoryourlife.com to harvest the rich set of tools many people have created over 25 years.
After years of participating in small group conversations designed to dig for truth rather than repeat platitudes, in 2001 two friends and I started hosting conversations in cafes to see what kind of leaven for democracy, connections and peace would ripple out. And ripple it did. The Conversation Cafe method is used around the world.
In 2010 I undertook a 30-day, 10-mile diet to test the viability of my local food system. I’d seen the need for greater community self-reliance in the disruptive years ahead and knew that our island community was far too dependent on the mainland for… well, everything. As part of this I helped start Transition Whidbey (see video below) which spawned and supported new projects and institutions on Whidbey Island, from an Organic Farm School to a fruit tree gleaning project to my subsequent book, Blessing the Hands that Feed Us. In Brazil and in the US I designed and hosted community Local Food Labs to seek next steps in building a thriving local food system.
It’s March 2018 as I write. I continue to innovate, yet I also now understand how important political change is as well. Like so many, the “innovation” of the election of DT woke me up to the need to challenge those in power to do better – and at least do no harm. Still, the update of Your Money or Your Life is designed to seep financial common sense into the culture through the 9-step program and the basic analytic tools that work miracles on people’s relationship with money. I still believe that millions of people unhooked from the toxic messages of consumerism and dedicated to making happy, productive financially independent lives is both personally fulfilling and a model for society: financial security – however it comes – yields amazing returns in health, happiness, longevity, connections, meaning, purpose and civic engagement. It’s an innovation that keeps on giving!