Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.

Leslie Christian is one of the shining lights of humane finance, and in her most recent missive, she zeroes in on a subject near and dear to our permie hearts: the importance of putting our money to work in service of healthy soil and intact habitat.  She brings us into the room as she and a circle of collaborators find their way toward new models for owning and managing farmland (the image is from their property, Living Lands), and then takes us along to a meeting of NatureVest, a new Nature Conservancy initiative aimed at bringing private investment into some of their conservation efforts.

But then she steps back and challenges those who dismiss such efforts as “on-offs” that are not worth our time because they can’t scale; her title says it all: Getting Off the Scales. The rest of the piece is a clarion call for a new way of looking at growing good ideas—getting bigger is often counterproductive; instead, let’s replicate and localize the core impulse and benefits of such projects.  We’re totally behind her appreciation for the inherently local qualities that underlie what we call regenerative investing.

You should definitely go read the whole thing (it’s only a few powerful paragraphs); here’s a teaser:

We seem to think it’s appropriate to scale everything—farms, education, healthcare, and even relationships. Yet, people and places are so much more diverse, nuanced and interdependent than assembly-line products or software code. When we scale enterprises that directly serve people and places in all of their uniqueness and weirdness, we must inevitably standardize our understanding of those people and places. In the process, we surely fail to engage them and ourselves fully. We sacrifice quality for quantity.  My reaction to scale is visceral and intense. I find it dehumanizing, single-minded, and boring!

These are the kinds of investments that should take over the world—not by scaling so that VCs and Wall Street can swoop in and do their “magic”, but by inspiring the participants, engaging the public and working at an essential level—real dirt, real trees, real plants, real people, real understanding and real value.

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