Among “Occupy” Solutions, Invest Locally

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The Occupy Wall Street movements across the nation have been captivating to watch. For almost a month people have gathered in the world’s financial centers, unwilling to return to their homes without an answer for change. Whether you support them or not, you better take notice.

I decided to check out the Occupy SF campsite set up in front of the Federal Reserve Building for myself. After reading about and watching footage from the protests in New York City, I was curious to see how the ideals from Wall Street had materialized in San Francisco’s financial district. The demonstrators in San Francisco seemed to reinforce the cliché of San Franciscan radicalism and thus for me, became more destructive than constructive for the Occupy movement and its image.

Discouraged, I crossed the street and headed towards USF, but not before I looked back at the demonstrators and saw a woman holding her young daughters with signs around their necks. Jodie has three children, is in her mid-thirties, and went to college during the time of the South African apartheid, which was the last time she had participated in a protest. Holding signs reading “Our children’s future should be bright,” she felt like she needed both to represent people outside of what she calls “The Fringe” at the Federal Reserve, and to set an example for her kids about expressing themselves and their beliefs.

Speaking to her made me return to my initial jubilation of the Wall Street movement. Meeting with her reminded me of what this movement means to me: that this seedling revolution is about how we, the future, will solve the pressing issues of our generation.

One of the solutions I believe that is pertinent to the Occupy movement is to integrate community investment into the movement’s vision for a “new economic system.” Community investment, an investment strategy where investors and lenders direct capital to communities which are underserved by traditional financial services firms, has the potential to answer the demands of the Wall Street protesters. If USF were to divest from Bank of America the funds directed from the school’s endowment to community investment assets they would provide the underserved with access to credit, equity, capital and basic banking products that these communities would otherwise lack. By simply placing USF’s cash (our money) from the endowment, into a community bank with equal and fair rates, USF would benefit, as would our surrounding community in San Francisco.

Like USF, individuals can take control of their money by terminating their accounts with big banks and choosing community banking to keep our money in our community. On November 5th, thousands of students and Americans across the nation have pledged to transfer their money.

The idealist in me has a lot of hope for the Occupy movement. I am heading to New York City for the Responsible Endowments Coalition national conference and am excited to visit the demonstrations at Wall Street and be a witness to history unfolding. Despite my enthusiasm, the realist inside of me also recognizes that at some point the protests will end. After that point, what will come? Historians have always been the quickest to remind us that the rebuilding and restructuring of a new society after the revolution are the most difficult parts. You and USF have the opportunity to do something very easy: moving money. This can provide a more effective alternative to create a better America: constructing an economic system which does serve the 99%.

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