Say what?: Capital Stacks…

In 1999, I went to divinity school and in the then dean’s opening address, he noted that each profession or field has its own vocabulary and part of our learning should be to attend to that vocabulary so that we might feel our way to the core of the work through those guiding words. At the time, concepts like “kyriarchy”, “conscientization”, “hermeneutics of suspicion”, and “dualistic apocalyptic fundamentalism” meant very little to me, but over time, I came to learn, through those words, my way into the fields of feminist theological ethics and liberation theology.

I was reminded of this while sitting in the noon break-out group of the CPA retreat, listening to our colleagues discuss “capital stacks”, “dividends”, and “minimum viable product (MVP)”. Say what? It was dizzying, disorienting, and exhilarating to realize I am being given the invitation to become deeply curious about a different field, and to leverage that curiosity, as Felipe urged us, to understand the needs of the future CPA partners and buyers. I was intrigued by Amine’s incredible technical assistance background in how to access capital for CPA’s work; intrigued by Doctor’s insights about how small business owners can lose their shirts (literally and figuratively) because we may not be aware of the tax breaks, capital, and other resources available to us; and curious about each colleague’s blend of organizing, business savvy, and personal values have propelled them to this place of collective creativity and action.

I had a very frank conversation with Boris in which I asked him if he’d be willing to share a few short videos explaining aspects of CPA financing to a 5-year old (that 5 y.o. is me!)? He was incredibly generous and suggested that he could possibly join one of our Tuesday am calls for 30 minutes to answer our questions: How do dividends work? How is the rate for the rebate negotiated? How is capital raised? How do member organizations (especially faith institutions) make sense of writing a check to join CPA when, as Paul H. pointed out, they are used to receiving checks?

Merald offered a very thoughtful reflection to several of us about the challenges in bringing people together across lines of difference for a common purpose (i.e. collective buying from local businesses owned by people of color). I saw the theme of challenge around this topic in several other conversation or points of tension and moments of clarification throughout the day. It is humbling to reckon with the challenges that colleagues are facing as they do the work of building CPA models around the country. And, I am heartened by hearing stories like that of Justin, who has been an early adapter of CPA and on board with not only the savings and problem-solving provided by CPA, but also the larger mission. So, maybe that’s what I am left with – how to hold the larger vision with integrity in the midst of the painstaking small steps that are required daily – calling vendors to get estimates, listening to potential members’ concerns, and slowly building that vocabulary to render the work more transparent to myself, to the customers, and to the business owners whose labor offers us a continual measure of accountability for our choices in this building process. It was inspiring and humbling to spend time with all of you and the CPA community. Much gratitude and looking forward to getting to work! 🙂  

Summary of Take-Aways:

  • Don’t wait to take action; learn as we go
  • Get really, really, really curious
  • Ask lots of questions out of that curiosity
  • Ask for help/offer help (Juan Francisco, I am looking at you)
  • Be explicit about the why of this work, and keep it in mind when making decisions about how to solve customers’ problems
  • Don’t take it personally when potential members don’t “get it” and try to help them anyway
  • The work is messy! Embrace the chaos!

Reflection Script_Week 3

For your reflection, maybe I’d ask you: beyond technical knowledge, which can be acquired rather quickly for someone of your loved (lived) experience and talent, what personal resources or talents would you need to further develop on your (our) quest for CPA Miami? What’s the next frontier for you?

Juan Francisco, it made me smile that you wrote “loved” experience! I think you meant “lived” but still, it is all beloved experience. Thank you!!! I have been reflecting on our conversation in DC and am realizing that, in academia/at the U, what is rewarded is 1) keeping students happy 2) service to the institution. And while these are both understandable and even noble pursuits – mentoring and service – they get distorted by time and pressure and everyone, including me, gets ground to sand. We all start out wanting to be helpful, but we each have at least one other job to support ourselves/our families and the institution takes without giving the necessary support (financial or otherwise) to faculty, staff, or students. Cue the harps. What’s the point? I am not rewarded in my day-to-day work for building networks and forging new relationships, so there is little incentive or even opportunity to meet people who could be partners in building something new and amazing and in service to my students, something like CPA J So, I need to do a better job of reaching out to you to check in and I need to do a better job of building contacts in Miami who share a common purpose and vision! I know we should have a meeting coming up with Fr. Sosa; I wonder if we could brainstorm additional relational meetings that I can help facilitate over the next month to six weeks?

I’m curious how you navigate incorporating what you learn from asking questions back into the process – what does that feedback loop look like? Also, I would be thrilled/am supremely curious to learn how you are bringing your knowledge, gifts, feminist theological ethics and liberation theology into this work. As these are areas in which I admittedly know nothing (!), how do you tie this body of knowledge back to CPA, and how can we all leverage that insight and wisdom into what we are doing?

Alessandra, your questions are so poignant and powerful. So much has happened in terms of my personal faith (and its dissolution) and yet, the fundamental truth of liberation theologies still resonate: we are truly one and the willingness to live as one – especially with the people at whose expense I, and others who look like me, enjoy unearned privileges including relative safety, bodily autonomy, and economic opportunity – is the essence of what religious folks call “salvation” or redemption. I see that connected to the work of CPA through the commitments we make to honor the rights of the worker; to center the experiences of people of color whose labor has historically been taken without regard for their rights to safety, bodily autonomy, and economic opportunity; and to build relationships across differences to build a world that restores relationships among humans and between humans and the planet.

What would the economic model for a co-op for Tavon for Restorative Justice & NVC look like?
Who would they key clients be? how much would they pay?
Who do you know that might be open to paying him for the kind of interaction / experience that he gave you?
How could you help him start getting paid work — just one paid gig tomorrow? Who would you call? How would you use your privilege and access and knowledge of how other worlds work — to help make that happen?

Felipe, great action questions! I have a call with Ron from Tilde on Friday, so I will let you know what I learn about that as a possible model for the RJ co-op. And we have a statewide RJ conference coming up; I know the president of the statewide org., FRJA, and I’m going to ask him if the co-op model can be a part of the conference (this could also be a place to pitch CPA???). For the gig, I keep thinking there’s got to be a way to get him and some of the other youth here jobs as RJ facilitators in the local community. I’m not sure yet whom to ask to make that a reality. I have a student in one of my classes who is involved with Dream Defenders; perhaps she and I can find a way to create an opportunity to fund some kind of paid in-service here at the SSW at Barry… Hmm…

How else can we capitalize on the expertise of the CPA team to help in this process?

What will be the first step you take after the convening? What type of support do you need to take the next step?

Asking for help is a very humbling experience. How will you balance the need to continue to build your capacity and knowledge with the idea that we continue to move forward?

Can you think of a time when you successfully embraced the chaos? What actions did you take? How did you react? What did you learn from that experience?

Yessica, I am so grateful for you and your clarity of purpose always. I agree! It is humbling to ask for help and I need to do so! I am doing some outreach for this RJ co-op idea and will let you know how the next steps go! In terms of CPA, I am hoping to plan more regular meetings with Juan Francisco to keep me focused and in a learning mode. I am on the board for a new entrepreneurship center at Barry and I could also join an action research cohort there, which would be another way to do the continuous learning needed for the CPA building process? Ah, the chaos! LOL. Yes, most recently, it was in one of my classes. Students were in full battle mode due to some issues that were not directly related to my specific class, but I was seeing a spillover effect from issues in their field placements. I took a vote among the class and we decided that we would detour from the course syllabus to do a class on motivational interviewing. It was a definite departure from the prescribed course content and the day I taught it, the students seemed sullen and even disappointed. But at the end of the semester, they each let me know that it had been their best class, because they felt heard and seen and had some tangible skills they could now use to work more effectively with their field supervisors. It was a good/humbling/welcome reminder that sometimes entering in to the chaos has more value than resisting it. I hope that I can summon that willingness to leap with our CPA work!

5 thoughts on “Say what?: Capital Stacks…”

  1. Sheila – A conversation with Boris will be incredibly helpful as we tackle answering the questions you stated. I am sure we will have to answer these to others at some point. Instead of doing more brain damage, I love the idea of not recreating the wheel.

    How else can we capitalize on the expertise of the CPA team to help in this process?

    What will be the first step you take after the convening? What type of support do you need to take the next step?

    Asking for help is a very humbling experience. How will you balance the need to continue to build your capacity and knowledge with the idea that we continue to move forward?

    Can you think of a time when you successfully embraced the chaos? What actions did you take? How did you react? What did you learn from that experience?

    I love the concept of collective creativity and action! Thank you for sacrificing so much to join us. I truly appreciate your presence. Also, thank you, Juan Francisco, for highly encouraging Sheila to attend!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sheila. You have a gift for writing. Do you see your prowess for an opening paragraph that pulls the reader in? To pack a punch in the closing paragraph that leaves me hungry for more? Each blog I’ve read of yours is brilliant. do you see that about yourself?

    another question:
    What would the economic model for a co-op for Tavon for Restorative Justice & NVC look like?
    Who would they key clients be? how much would they pay?
    Who do you know that might be open to paying him for the kind of interaction / experience that he gave you?
    How could you help him start getting paid work — just one paid gig tomorrow? Who would you call? How would you use your privilege and access and knowledge of how other worlds work — to help make that happen?

    I think you don’t give yourself enough credit for how smart you are. I don’t think Business (or co-op business) is as much of a black box as you think of it… There’s income, there’s expenses and then there is the “net income” which is the difference between the two. For CPA, the majority of income is roughly a 5% “broker fee” or “rebate” that we layer into the contracts or negotiate with the vendors, so that whenever we bring them a new client, the pay us ~5% of the contract value / invoice value after they get paid. It’s fairly straightforward.

    Similar to real estate or any brokerage business. If you help make the deal happen, there’s value to both sides, and they’ll pay you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sheila! I love your energy and willingness to embrace chaos! Your post read very logically, beautifully, and orderly to me – and then you acknowledged the chaos underlying it all… Ain’t that the truth? I’m curious how you navigate incorporating what you learn from asking questions back into the process – what does that feedback loop look like? Also, I would be thrilled/am supremely curious to learn how you are bringing your knowledge, gifts, feminist theological ethics and liberation theology into this work. As these are areas in which I admittedly know nothing (!), how do you tie this body of knowledge back to CPA, and how can we all leverage that insight and wisdom into what we are doing? I am certain there are links and I am looking forward to learning so much from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haha Sheila! I adored this post! It’s so true how jargon is scary and exclusionary but at the same time is your guide towards the core of the work and that a key ingredient is curiosity. Thanks for reminding me of that. Also thank you for reminding me to embrace the chaos. Know that you have an unconditional ally and friend in me. I truly truly appreciate you!

    For your reflection, maybe I’d ask you: beyond technical knowledge, which can be acquired rather quickly for someone of your loved experience and talent, what personal resources or talents would you need to further develop on your (our) quest for CPA Miami? What’s the next frontier for you?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes! I share your enthusiasm for being let in on the internal-speak/industry vocabulary of co-ops. I feel like I have a lot to learn. (And would welcome having more guest appearances to help with this). I remember clearly joining the IAF and realizing so quickly that while the inner-speak might be somewhat distancing to those outside of the know, it anchored the concepts and culture to me so securely that I recognized immediately its value. As I’m gaining the vocabulary of social services at work, I’m recognizing how powerful language is and how much I prefer the organizer frame. I’m curious as I grow and learn how the co-op builders’ vocabulary will compare. Maybe you should start a thread on slack called #vocab where we can all start collaboratively posting the vocab we are learning along the way?

    Like

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