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Let's make the economy work for the people

Indigenous Peoples
The Majority World Blog
Ethical Consumerism
I'm quite chuffed because my last blog on Occupy Wall Street (‘Can America’s Spring change the world?’) now seems almost prophetic. An English friend said ‘we should be doing something similar here in Britain’ and a week later, I'm reading about tents pitched in the City of London, exhorting all to Occupy the London Stock Exchange on 15 October.

Back here in Gudalur, India, we've been thinking about how to bring justice into the economy for more than a decade now. From 1986, we, ACCORD, an NGO working with adivasis (indigenous people), began reclaiming ancestral land. To secure these rights, we implemented a livelihood strategy, planting tea to ensure land possession and an income for these people. But just when we felt things were going well, people had food for their families and malnutrition graphs were improving, the bottom fell out of our world. Tea prices crashed to rock bottom and our secure livelihood option disappeared.

Yet consumers in Bangalore, Bangkok and London never pay less even when the prices crash. Where does the extra profit go? The farmer is cheated, but so is the consumer, you, the person who buys food for your family. So why not unite poor producers with poor consumers, we wondered. Thus Just Change was born which did just that, allowing them to work together in mutually beneficial ways. Clean business is possible, we discovered.

Wall Street epitomizes all that’s wrong with the economy and we are delighted that our firm conviction, the idea that the economy should exist for people, appears to be echoed by protesters across the globe. Just Change is taking its next big step soon, hoping to rope more investors into the family. In collaboration with The Global Institute For Tomorrow, a Hong Kong-based think tank, Just Change will unveil a pioneering new concept called ’participative capital’, which allows ethical investors to link with producers and consumers across the world in ways that ensure a more just, equitable and sustainable economy.

We must throw out the clichés of both communism and capitalism. No more jargon. Our participatory model allows for investments to be made in a manner where ownership, benefit and risk are shared by all. This is possible only if we radically redefine the role of capital, otherwise the divide between those who have the money to invest and those who do not will only increase. This alarmingly widening gap is at the heart of social unrest across the globe and is a recipe for disaster.

The meeting to talk about participative capital and ethical investing will be held in Bangalore on 11 November, 2011. We would love people from across the globe to join us as investors. We don't merely want money. We want people who are excited by the concept, who believe that equity and justice should be the cornerstone of all business, which includes paying farmers and producers a decent price, not merely out of a sense of fairness. It’s about going a step further by making them equal partners in the food supply chain.

We hope to create a webinar to enable people to join us in Bangalore. If you wish to be a part of the global Just Change family, do send us sound bites, tiny video clips and your pledge as an investor. It's really exciting, we have people who want to Just Change the world from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, India, and even Africa.

The internet is a key player in every new revolution! If you'd like to be a part of it, please write to us. We will send more details to those who express interest. Do come on board.

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