The co-founder of the UK’s largest crowdfunding platform says if we want a better world, then it’s about time we started monitoring where we put our money.
If you follow the script dictated by Hollywood, all you need to change the world is an inspiring individual. But change doesn’t happen in three acts. Change is everywhere. Change is a norm. In a context of constant change it is easy to get caught up in the daily shifts and fluidity and lose sight of the world that change empowers us to create. We focus on our individual situation and hope that the rest takes care of itself. This is the ‘sensible’ option surely? And no one ever criticised anyone for taking the ‘sensible’ option.
For example, in my own business enabling social and environmental investment, the biggest barrier to investing was the fear of being the first among your friends to follow a different strategy with your money and invest in something positive rather than blindly seeking profit from those who promise the most. This is because we assume that the numbers of people interested in changing the world are a minority; the underdogs, hippies and eccentrics of the Hollywood script. In reality, research tells us time and again that the majority of us are ‘moral’ in our outlook. That we care as much about our impact on society as our success within it and that we are uncomfortable with the idea of succeeding at the expense of others.
Radical change comes when the majority realise that they are aligned in their collective goals. These are the seismic social shifts that produce real change. We are social maximisers rather than individual maximisers. We want to live in a world that is better off not just make ourselves better off relative to others. The competitive ‘edge’ of The Apprentice is just a pantomime to most people – villains and heroes to cheer and boo. And there is an essential insight there.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that having a bigger, more expensive thing than someone else doesn’t make you ‘better’ or ‘happier’. The ‘more than’ competitive drive ends up just being an open-ended own goal.
The way you invest your money is no different. If you just invest for your own benefit, the danger is that is all you achieve.
Being better than others in a society that is worse off (lacking basic infrastructure and mechanisms for smoothing out the ups and downs of life) is to do yourself down. So if you want to change the world you have to realise that money is only as valuable as the activities it produces. Building up a pot of money for its own sake will only get you so far.You have to think about how you can deploy that money to help create a better world to spend it in.
So I would change the world in one simple way. I would find a way to make everyone understand that how you use money directly affects the world you see around you. The decisions about where your money goes and how it is invested are perhaps the most important you can make – too important to leave to someone else.
About Bruce Davis
Bruce Davis is co-founder and joint managing director of Abundance Generation and director of the UK Crowdfunding Association.