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  • Writer's pictureFredrika Aakerman

Impact Investor Spotlight Series: Creating new narratives around capital with Imaginal Seeds

At Mana Impact, we have the privilege to work with family offices and foundations on their impact investment journey. In the Impact Investor Spotlight Series, we invited them to share their take on impact investing to exchange thoughts and ideas with our community. This time, we feature Unsu Lee and Elisa Kang, Mission Circle members of Imaginal Seeds. The Mission Circle is a group of individuals co-creating the impact vision and strategy of the capital, providing an alternative form of governance centering collaboration and diversity of thought.


Tell us more about your background and how you got started in mutual aid/impact investing.

In 2020, we had the opportunity to make some changes in our future life trajectory and how our capital could be managed. Unsu had engaged in creative pursuits and the magic that happens in non-transactional and reciprocal gift economies, whilst Elisa was active in social justice issues of equality, through the relational work of counselling. We had a network of people in these areas of interest, but it was not easy to find other capital holders who were questioning the purpose of their capital.

When we joined Toniic, an impact investing network, however, we found that we were not alone in believing that it was necessary to completely re-think our relationship to capital. Much of the current capitalist system is harmful and extractive, and it no longer makes sense to keep capital invested in the current system (if one cares about social impact other than profit-making). Most of our current work involves trying to imagine what a regenerative, post-capitalist system might look like and then identifying plausible transition stepping stones to support with our capital.


What’s your main mutual aid/impact investment focus?

Our main focus is to support individuals, communities, and organizations that recognize the deep flaws in our current paradigm, and who are actively trying to build an alternative. They are the true realists of this world, the ones who do not buy into what Greta Thunberg calls “fairy tales of eternal economic growth.”

Such examples include Ground Up Conservation and Mitra BUMMA. Although they operate in completely different regions, they share some similar themes. They work with local organizations that are connected to the land. They center the experience of local communities that protect biodiversity. They practice reciprocity with nature and operate from an ethic of love.

Imaginal Seeds community members GroundUp and Mitra BUMMA are supporting sustainable land management by local communities and Indigenous peoples through capacity building. (Image: GroundUp Conservation)


Another example is Ooooby. They bring local, organic, and artisanal produce to consumers whilst letting farmers share in the profits.


What are some of the opportunities that you are excited about in Asia?

While Asia has been the site of rapid economic development in the past half-century, we are more excited about the potential to re-discover the relevance of ancient spiritual worldviews in this moment of history. Asian worldviews have tended to be cyclical and in harmony with nature, in contrast to the West’s linear narratives of progress and separation from nature. Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism - when these worldviews are integrated with the most contemporary findings of science, one finds a compelling new cosmology centered around inter-being, animism, and complexity.

What have been some of the main lessons learnt in your journey?

One main lesson is that relationships are at the heart of what we do. If colonialism and capitalism function by severing relationships (with people and land), then the only way to reverse the harm is to re-establish relationships on a different footing - based on reciprocity, radical inclusion and belonging, shared vulnerability, and emotional maturity. And this includes our relationship to ourselves. We strive to embody what is best described by Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu:


If I keep from meddling with people, they take care of themselves,

If I keep from commanding people, they behave themselves,

If I keep from preaching at people, they improve themselves,

If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves.


Another lesson would be the important of synchronicity and being open to the subtle signals that come from the wider living system, which tell us that we are coming more and more into harmony with it. There is a lot of noise in the modern world, and it is important to cultivate enough stillness and quietude so that we can attune to the living reality that exists on the other side of our mental models and cognitive filters. We have all been blinded by colonialism and modernity, and it takes effort to see this.


What would be your advice to someone getting started in their mutual aid/impact investment journey?

To be guided by curiosity, to find heart-centered people who are willing to journey with you, to come from a place of gratitude and humility, and to listen to Nate Hagens’ Great Simplification podcast. That one podcast contains all the clues needed to see clearly where we are all headed and gives enough entry points that anyone can find an idea or two to get started with.


Another piece of advice is to go where the energy is. There will be many people who just do not vibe with what you are doing. It can be very draining and discouraging to spend a lot of time with them, trying to convince them of your ideas. Find the people who will give you the benefit of the doubt and who will help you hone and sharpen your intuitions.


Read more about Imaginal Seeds on their website.



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