It wasn’t long after arriving at Boughton Estate in Kettering for Resonance’s first Greenbelt Festival, following the five hour drive from Cornwall that I began to wonder, “what have I got myself into?!” Lugging endless bags and tents through the long grass, under the blazing sun, my panic deepened by the second as the realization that the next few days were to be lived with no electricity, basic washing facilities (ah the dreaded portaloo) and once the 10,000 other festival goers settled in no meaningful mobile phone reception… had civilized life come to an end???
Thankfully, once all the tents were up and we’d settled in our venue at The Exchange, my positivity and excitement began to return. Five of us from Resonance were there to co-host The Exchange, alongside other pioneers (Anthony Collins, Traidcraft, CMS, Central England Co-op). The Exchange is Greenbelt’s venue for festival goers to explore how business can be a force for good. We raised questions and solutions surrounding reducing inequality, building community, and pursuing justice. We heard first-hand from social investors and leaders of businesses, about their journeys, values and principles that have shaped and defined them. In the moment, it’s difficult to fully process the constant flow of inspiration you are experiencing, when you’re surrounded by so many innovators, passionate about creating real positive social impact in their local communities.
Running for forty-five years, Greenbelt’s mission is to create a safe and yet challenging space for art, faith and justice to collide. A place where artistry and activism, spirituality and politics, faith and justice are celebrated together. Our first session, “A drop in the ocean,” featured some of Resonance’s partners including Stockwood, Ethex and Mustard Seed Property. All of these organizations use community investment to secure local assets for future generations; and it’s accessible to all, as savers can pool as little as £100 each.
Resonance’s second session focused on “The power of place”, where the panel explained how place-based investment can have an effective impact and transform real people’s lives. Here we were joined by ACH (Ashley Community Housing) and The Pickwell Foundation, who shared their passion for Advantage Thinking (seeing the advantages in people before the disadvantages), and how we can all benefit from engaging fully with our refugee neighbours. ACH were recently nominated for the coveted SEUK Social Investment Deal of the Year for their sharia compliant bond offer, arranged by Resonance, to help acquire new, affordable homes in Bristol and Birmingham.
My personal highlight was the Sunday morning session. Despite being 32 degrees in the middle of a heatwave, it was Christmas! And no, we weren’t suddenly in Australia! We heard the sound of a brass band proudly playing traditional Christmas carols, and before long the Big Top was full of Christmas music and games. Rev’d Nadia Bolz-Weber spoke about the Virgin Mary, who was chosen by God not because she was full of virtue, but because she was full of grace. “What qualifies us for God’s grace is only our need for God’s grace. End of list,” she clarified.
It was refreshing to hear how openly so many ‘ordinary’ people doing extra-ordinary things crediting their faith as a motivation; a code for how they approach seeking justice, and how they prioritize ‘being the change they want to see in the world’. First coined by Ghandi, this quote has now become the mantra for the 3,000 strong B-Corporation movement, but it came out equally strongly in the headline ‘wit and wisdom’ interview with Russell Brand. I had initially been sceptical about Brand’s presence at the festival, but he shared his story with authentic vulnerability. He explained how he was continually challenged and energized by the teachings of Jesus to focus on how he reacts to situations, and encouraged to not judge or look for recognition from others. He was clear that a “real and living present connection with God,” was a key part of his recovery from addiction.
In our final session, “Want to join the revolution?”, we looked at how we can become a part of creating an impact in the systems that control our society. In this talk, James Perry from COOK and Daniel Brewer from Resonance (both certified B-Corporations), facilitated an interactive session, inviting members of the audience to the stage to join them in conversation grappling with the question, “What story does your money say about you?”
Over 2,000 people passed through The Exchange. And it was great to interact with those wanting to learn more about investing for social impact. Thank you to those who had the chance to sign up for the Resonance newsletter. If you’d also like to keep up to date with the latest news on how investing for impact is making a difference, join our mailing list here.
Katalin Juhasz, one of my Resonance colleagues, concluded her session with a vision for the future I think we can all agree with: “Won’t it be good when social investment is seen as the normal way of doing business, and other types of investment would be viewed as the unusual way of doing business?”
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