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  • Rich Tafel

Don't Occupy Wall Street - Transform It

It’s time for a new generation of social change leaders to move beyond occupying Wall Street to transform it.

Occupy Wall Street has done a great job of shining a light of truth on the failed leadership of our greedy, crony capitalist business sector. Inadvertently, it shines an equally unflattering light on what’s missing in the leadership of our nation’s social justice sector.

There’s no debate that our business culture has failed Americans. The last time this small number of people held this level of power and wealth while the average citizen felt powerless, we held a revolution to overthrow a monarchy.

Though its members have been lampooned as left wing nuts, OWS has garnered a majority of the American public’s support. However, lacking a clear plan of action, they risk forfeiting their ability to lead. Already, their most embarrassing participants define them. Their messages are lost to a turf war against liberal mayors who will shut them down as public opinion turns against them. They confuse awareness with actual real change, believing that rhetoric is action.

There’s no shortage of brilliant ideas to change our broken world, but there is a shortage of leadership skills to actually implement them.

Polarization makes things worse. Labeling each other as good vs. evil, profit vs. not for profit, the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent, or Republican vs. Democrat do not move us forward. It keeps us from finding common, complex solutions to difficult problems.

A rising new generation of social change agents will defy the labels as border-crossers, oxymorons, paradoxes, jacks-of-all-trades, and masters of none, speaking the language of the free market while giving voice to those suffering from crony capitalism. They will change the rules by collaborating across sectors, demonizing none, and accepting support from all. They will learn the rules, and then change them.

Where will we find this new generation of leaders? Try Wall Street.

Meet Bobby Shamsian, who can easily traverse the most profound teachings of spirituality, cutting-edge green technology, and the state of international markets in a single conversation. Having succeeded in the financial services industry over the past 10 years, Shamsian is using his knowledge to save the environment. Passionate about climate change, he helped launch TerraVerde Capital Management, one of the first hedge funds in the world dedicated to global change that invests in strategies across the entire supply chain of clean tech, renewable energy, and water.

“We are in the early stages of a technological revolution that will see the way in which we produce and consume energy dramatically,” says Shamsian. Harnessing the power of the free market, he believes that this new cycle will be marked with success and failure. “Many companies will survive while many simply won’t make, and TerraVerde can capitalize on both through a diversified portfolio of hedge fund strategies that focus on sustainability.” The more money prudently invested in this sector, the greater the chance that systems changing innovation will be real in our lives.

But Shamsian still faces challenges. He says, “Most socially conscious investors still do not understand how the terms hedge fund and sustainability can be used in the same sentence, and choose to do business the same old way by putting their money into companies that do nothing to improve sustainability. They don’t understand the markets, so they just rail against them. We can create a new model of capitalism to bring more value and benefit into the world, but it’s a hard sell.”

It may be a hard sell, but this boundary-crosser has an action plan, and it’s exactly the kind of new social sector leadership we need.

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