Apr 18 2019

Using a Multi-capital Approach to Design a Wisdom Economy for Refugees and Immigration

In our global-interconnected world, the issue of refugees and immigration is more important than ever. This is a multifaceted issue with many layers and aspects. It is a domain that is often both heart wrenching and inspiring. It is a topic that brings us into direct contact with our own individual and shared humanity. It’s also one of the core issues of the 21stcentury and without a doubt a wicked problem. So the stakes are high, and we need an integrative and multidimensional approach to address the delicate humanity and dynamic systems involved. 

There are many tools, frameworks, methods, and processes to be used in our efforts to engage the topic of refugees/immigration. We need to approach this issue from many angles and perspectives. We need all hands on deck! There is no one-size-fits-all silver bullet. We need to collaborate across boundaries and mental models in such a way that we ourselves are touched and transformed in the process. One framework that I feel provides a much-needed meta-view of the complex intricacies involved is a multi-capital approach

In his recent article “A Marketplace That Values Refugees is forming”, Kevin Jones discusses how refugees are actually investible. There is, he explains, an important opportunity “to create a marketplace that values and is centered on refugees and immigrants.” Inspired by his vision, I began to consider the many forms of capital that can and need to be grown and exchanged within this context. He is absolutely right – we often think of refugees in terms of what they don’t have, but if we just turn ourselves inside out or upside down (depending on your preferred spatial metaphor) we can quickly see how much value they do have – across numerous categories. If we can better see these areas of value, then we can invest in them and grow them – connect them – and in so doing empower refugees and immigrants to thrive and teach us new lessons in how to be together – unity-in-diversity. 

As a result, I began to create an initial multi-capital “asset map” of refugees and immigrants. This is based on the 10 capitals that comprise the MetaImpact Framework. Keep in mind this is just a high-level overview. My aim here is simply to expand the conversation and help us all see that we can invest in refugees and immigrants across all 10 capitals. And by doing so we will in effect create what I call a wisdom economy. A wisdom economy is a self-regulating system of value exchange that has built-in checks and balances (with subjective, intersubjective, and objective feedback loops) across 10 foundational dimensions of reality.

Below are each of the 10 capitals (organized by the four types of MetaImpact) with a brief definition and single bullet point showing how this capital can be leveraged and investible in the context of refugees and immigration. Several of these are based directly on Kevin Jones’ recent blog post.

CLEAR IMPACT: Transforming Bodies and Behavior

Health Capital– The entire expression of physical health and wellness for an individual.

  • New health services that are tailored to the unique issues immigrants and refugees face.

Human Capital– The total experience, “know how”, and capacity to perform specific skill-sets of individuals.

  • A wealth of skills and capacities exist in refugee populations and communities, many of which are needed or can be tapped for new kinds of problem-solving and innovation.

HIGH IMPACT: Transforming environments and systems

Manufactured Capital– The complete expression of assets and infrastructure of an organization.

  • Helping big corporations manage their supply chains in dynamic and ever-changing conditions associated with refugees and immigration trends.

Financial Capital– Any economic resource measured in terms of money used to make products and provide services.

  • Creating new financial tools that support things like savings circles, which provide new forms of community wealth.

Natural CapitalThe stocks of natural resources or environmental assets that provide a flow of useful goods or services, now and in the future.

  • There are many ways we can leverage refugees to protect and promote our natural resources.

WIDE IMPACT: Transforming relationships and cultures

Cultural Capital– The internal and external processes of shared meaning making of a community.

  • The new generation that is up and coming doesn’t want to keep reproducing unjust systems. Thus, there is a lot of room for innovative social systems design that honors and amplifies the cultural diversity of immigration populations.

Social Capital– The range and variety of social connections with others.

  • Technology-based startups are creating new apps that allow refugees to stay connected.

DEEP IMPACT: Transforming hearts and minds

Knowledge Capital– The amount of information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom found in individuals and how that is transformed into something useful for others.

  • Refugees and immigrants are storehouses of valuable knowledge that can be shared in ways that generate value for many. 

Psychological Capital– The capacity of individuals to think, reflect, and have access to internal psychological resources.

  • Creating a new “entrepreneur profile” of successful immigrant entrepreneurs who are able to skillfully pioneer innovation and leverage their own self-reliance and maintain optimism and hope in the face of dire circumstances. 

Spiritual Capital– The capacity of individuals and collectives to seek, find, and access sources of ultimate meaning.

  • Working on behalf of refugees and immigrants allows us to connect to something bigger than ourselves – this gives us a shared vision of creating a world that works for all of us. This is priceless. 

As you can see a multi-capital approach to refugees and immigration makes a lot of sense! It opens up new vistas of innovation and investment. It helps create the new multi-capital vehicle that Kevin Jones is calling for. A multi-capital approach to this issue enables and inspires us to “organize and coordinate communities of support and alliances” for these vulnerable people that all too often are demonized or shunned by our current nationalistic and capitalistic commitments.

Join us at the Transform event in San Francisco (May 22 – 24) to explore with us this and many other pioneering approaches to transforming climate, community, and capital.