London and New York are the world’s most powerful financial centres. Financial intermediaries in these cities steer money across the globe, impacting all industries, governments and individuals. London and New York though, also host some of the world’s largest concentrations of social, environmental and economic justice campaigners.
There’s an opportunity here. By coming to grips with the financial sector, campaigners in these cities have an unparalleled potential for global impact. For many people though, access to the financial sector remains limited, and its workings appear obscure and alienating. I would like to help change that.
Who am I?
I’m Brett Scott, and I’m on a constant search for ways to redress the power asymmetries built into economic systems. I have a book published by Pluto Press called The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money, which applies economic anthropology, gonzo exploration, hacker philosophy, DIY culture, and a bit of mischievousness to the world of high finance. I’ve been involved in various financial campaigns, including MoveYourMoneyUK, and I’m a Fellow of the Finance Innovation Lab. I also undertook a two-year adventure within mainstream finance, working as a derivatives broker. I’ve written for publications like The Guardian, The New Internationalist, The Ecologist, and openDemocracy, and I’ve been on such shows as BBC World Update, Arte TV & the Keiser Report. Here's my LinkedIn profile and my Twitter.
I don’t like being called a financial expert, because the financial sector gains much of its strength by the imagined boundary between insiders and outsiders. I do, however, enjoy demystifying the sector and helping others undertake their own explorations of it. We often view finance as a niche area characterised by numbers, complex graphs, and professionals wielding obscure techniques, but the sector is in fact underpinned by human relationships, power dynamics and philosophical concepts that we all intuitively understand. Realising this is a great step towards keeping the financial commons open.
Earlier this year I got seed-funding for a London School of Financial Activism. It's still a work-in-progress but at its core LSFA is about experiential learning, offering fun, adventurous, and experimental courses that immerse campaigners within the financial dark arts. We may, for example, visit a derivatives exchange, or see how a trading platform works by using one. We’ll look through the actual manuals that a J.P. Morgan M&A banker uses, and interact with financial models. We’ll analyse news stories in the Financial Times, taking on the persona of a fund manager, trader and corporate banker. We’ll seek to identify sources of disconnection in finance, and explore ways in which they may be reconnected. We can discuss alternative systems in Canary Wharf bars, test out alternative currencies and lending systems, and meet people with bold new ideas for future economies. I've started building the first set of workshops and will add more over time. Here are some examples:
Example 1: Hacking global finance - A guided workshop
Example 2: Anthropology of the City
Example 3: Design your own pop-up currency
To find out more about workshops I can offer, please do contact me on brett [dot] scott [at] cantabgold [dot] net. I'm prepared to accept a variety of alternative forms of payment for courses (including barter, bitcoin, timebanking credits etc.), but if individual activists cannot pay to attend workshops, I am happy to accommodate them for free. I'm also very keen to speak to organisations that would like to sponsor these workshops, so that young campaigners can go for free, and so that the programme can be scaled up.
Chartered Financial Activism
Over time these various courses will form the core of the Chartered Financial Activist Programme, a heretical version of the mainstream Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) programme. I'm just one small part of this though. Over the years I've met many individuals passionate about developing forms of financial activism – from rainforest campaigners in the US, to Swiss investigative journalists, to township activists in South Africa, to professionals in major banks. The School will seek to build a network of such people, develop resources for campaign groups, and encourage bold experimentation in alternative economics.