Community Revolving Loan Fund Project Developer
Today’s mainstream economy leaves so much to be desired, and undoubtedly its failings are likely one of the many reasons we embrace and value our time banking community as much as we do.
Many of us have already come to the conclusion that money can’t buy happiness. And in fact, much research shows that it’s the quality of our relationships, sense of connection and engagement in community, and access to resources that will determine whether we feel like we’re living the life we want instead of the one allowed us by mainstream paradigms and systems.
In large part, the extractive economy asks us to bear the hefty burden of its machinations - as laborers making less than a living wage, as hopeful entrepreneurs who believe in the “American dream”, as people saddled with far too much predatory debt in the pursuit of education, happiness and an elusive quality of life. But time bankers are people of great agency and the tool we use to create community – the exchange of our time – is proof alone that by looking through a different lens, we can wrestle a great many beautiful things into being just by turning some of these parasitic systems on their heads.
It is in this spirit of innovation that the Community Revolving Loan Fund was created and particularly in partnership with the Permaculture Credit Union. In truth, it would be wonderful to have a local credit union working with us to administer our loan fund, but in our search for a local partner, we were met with blank stares. When asking local banks what they do for the community, we were told, “we give to the United Way.” Though charitable, it’s a strategy that doesn’t directly benefit the community in which they operate. That’s just one example but it says a lot about how little the financial world understands sustainability, community enrichment and human-scale economics.
The Permaculture Credit Union not only understands these principles, but is willing to participate in a loan fund for us that quite honestly is peanuts compared to their other programs. They understand why “small is beautiful” (E.F. Schumacher) and how even a small fund can make a very big impact over time if stewarded thoughtfully.
This week I’ve been working with the PCU’s president, Bill Sommers, on our Memorandum of Understanding that spells out the roles and responsibilities of our loan fund and their credit union. When I asked if we could have a 60-day grace period between signing and repayment, Bill answered, “yes.” When I asked if we could extend the default period to 120 days, Bill answered “yes.” And when I asked if we’d be allowed to get creative to help a borrower in trouble, Bill answered, “of course – you can design this program however you want.” And that’s the beauty of our particular loan fund – we are building it in a collaborative world of yes’s rather than the usual extractive world of patent no’s.
We’ve already done the hard part to give our members access to invaluable resources by leveraging those already present in our community. And by doing so, we’re able to stand together and make many small voices become loudly unified.