As the world seems to grow smaller and more accessible in the wake of globalisation, it becomes easier to connect with people of all different ages, backgrounds and beliefs. While there are incredible benefits to this connectivity and the technological advances that can bring us closer, many of us in the US and the World have lost touch with what exists closer to home. Increasingly, our sense of community is diminished. However, lately–in these unprecedented times–the importance of locality and communality has come back into sharp focus.
At Ashfount Investments, our projects and investments are embedded within the communities they serve, and play a vital role in the development of local food security and economic resiliency. We believe in the power of community to make meaningful changes for the common good, helping to serve the world better by improving the circumstances for others within our immediate community. This work starts at home: with friends, colleagues, community members, and local politics. All our projects should be seen as working locally first and foremost, being involved in the everyday community life and with purpose and meaning that is integrated into this involvement. We believe this approach has a snowball effect – by working together to improve our immediate communities, this will in turn, ripple outwards and positively affect change in wider circles.
With current national and international economies struggling amid crisis after crisis, it is more important than ever to focus on creating locally resilient economies. This includes building local food security, encouraging a sense of community, and building economic networks that can support themselves. This requires participation on the part of any of our projects. Protecting workers, supporting community projects, encouraging and incentivizing involvement is all part of making this happen.
The Problem: Globalisation and the Loss of Community
We are currently living in an age of individualization. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the United States. Since the 1980s, individual-centric work ethics, mantras, and mind-sets have been on a sharp rise. In a land where the opportunities are considered endless, being self-made is the highest form of success. But with this comes a heavy burden. We have lost our ability to support one another, to build up a community and share our successes, to help each other when we need it most, and to believe that fundamental changes can happen if we rely on one another.
Interestingly, the rise of the internet and all its technological advances have given us more possibilities than ever to stay connected and to achieve our goals. The world has become smaller, more accessible, but along the way we’ve forgotten about our neighbours, or those just around the block. The New York Times points out that we are living in an age of loneliness, a confounding paradox considering our relatively recent boom in communicative tools.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we’ve been forced to reexamine our relationship to technology and our most immediate physical surroundings. As we collectively shutter our doors to protect ourselves and those we love, our saving grace has become our varied communities. For the first time, we have witnessed the collaboration of localised communities, enhanced, on a global scale, by technology. But the need for physical, localised community has taken center stage. Neighbours have helped each other, buying food or waving from as they pass the porch of someone lonely. In the darkness, we have found a reminder that, in times of crisis, our nearest provide the greatest support.
For us at Ashfount Investments, being involved with the community is paramount in all of our projects. Our projects are integrated and available to the local community, in times of strife and bounty, to help rebuild resiliency and support stability.
The Problem: Individualized Profits, Public Losses
Too often projects and investments are focused on the individual gain of a singular person. If a company or investment does well, the investor reaps the benefits. However, when the opposite scenario happens, the failures must be shared by all. This mindset of privatizing profits, yet publicizing profits is unbalanced and undue. Currently, these mindsets have led to a disproportionate distribution of wealth, and nowhere is that keener felt than in the U.S. In fact, the highest-earning 20% hold more than half the U.S.’ wealth. Income inequality in the U.S. is the highest of all the G7 nations, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
At Ashfount Investments, we believe the burdens and the rewards, the highs and the lows, should be equally shared. As we see each of our members of business as integral parts of our projects, to us, this is only natural. In order to be able to support our investments in both the good and the not-so-good times, we believe that sharing these experiences are integral to developing robust, sustainable business models long term.
Developing slowly, organically, and with the long-term in mind, we can implement solid procedures and processes that allow for supportive, shared networks throughout the varied life of a business.
We are not speculators. We believe wholeheartedly in being involved at a true collaborative level. We are deeply involved in our framework of investments, sharing the ups and the downs, and contributing to making community dreams a reality. We aim to reinforce the importance of working together for the common good.
As well as to ensure food security and healthy communities for the generations to come, and sharing this amongst all members of a project or business, we believe all layers of individuals involved should benefit from working together, instead of focusing on singular individuals that reap all of the rewards.
Giving the Power Back to the Community
As part of our involvement in local projects, we also firmly believe in local autonomy. As one of the key pillars of Catholic School teachings, subsidiarity is the belief that, “matters should be dealt with at the lowest and most appropriate authority and that a central authority should perform only those tasks that cannot be carried out at a more local level. The ‘higher authorities’ should ensure the freedom and initiative of local groups and should enable these groups to fulfil their duties towards the community.
Local participation is essential to subsidiarity; it places responsibility upon the individual to work towards the common good.” [ref] Although these sentiments are quoted in relation to the Catholic faith, many commonalities can be found in other faiths and stand true as a manner of supporting local autonomy.
As such, we aim to empower our localised projects to participate and involve themselves directly – to be actors of their own change and a source of positive support in the community. For us, that means providing the necessary means to those individuals in order to carry out these actions and allow them the freedom to initiate them.
In the face of growing globalisation and increasing economic fragility, empowering communities and local actors to initiate their own changes is powerful, and necessary. This creates local resiliency, both economically and politically within a community. It helps to build connections between those that shape the community, to build a brighter future that is reliant on the support of a local population.
By being involved and supporting local communities to thrive and grow, it is then possible to develop a sense of togetherness. This is something that must be cultivated, and is the product of several individuals’ willingness to participate. By creating connections and fostering supportive networks, the foundation can be laid for a true community spirit, which, over a longer period of time, will greatly benefit each member of its community.
We realise that controversy or conflict can be a part of local debates and involvement, but we strongly believe in peaceful, democratic solutions to verbalizing differences and respecting the diversity of a community. Integrating community-based political action, support, and debate into every aspect that we do is the key to the longevity of our projects. By being directly involved in positive change, with respect for the environment and those that inhabit it, our reach and impact is much greater.
Understanding Our Agency
We recognise that our society is increasingly individualised in the face of globalisation. However, we believe that if you want to carry on this civilisation and the great advancements it has brought, getting involved in the community is exactly what we need.
“Just as each of our bodies has several parts and each part has a separate function, so all of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to each other. Our gifts differ according to the grace given us. If your gift is prophecy, then use it as your faith suggests; if administration, then use it for administration; if teaching, then use it for teaching. Let the preachers deliver sermons, the almsgivers give freely, the officials be diligent, and those who do works of mercy do them cheerfully.” Romans 12: 4-12
As such, we understand that each of our roles in society is key to building an increased sense of agency, support, and involvement. For us at Ashfount Investments, this means getting our hands dirty, and integrating directly to support change-makers, getting to know every person involved in our project, and remembering the beauty of humanity that we work with every day.