[Michael A. Wright is mentor, life coach, entrepreneur, curriculum specialist, and Owner/President of MAWMedia Group. His interests span behavioral health, family systems, and wealth creation. Follow @MAWMedia ]
Near the end of the semester-long MAWMedia Group Financial Capability & Asset Building pilot, it was reinforced to me that an expansion is required on the old adage. The adage suggests, “If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” I would add,
“If you provide her with infrastructure and challenge her to make a living from fishing, you ensure a legacy of health and prosperity.”
It would not be completely true, but it is a good start to say that the genesis of this project was a student who said to me, “If I could get $1,000, I would be all set!” I quickly quipped, “…this month. But, what could you do with a $1,000 investment?” The truth is that I have been looking for ways to begin micro-business venture capitalism since 2004. I am consistently amazed by the ingenuity of people who have just enough resources to cover 3 weeks of a month. Thankfully, they have enough creativity to cover the last 7 days.
In my work this semester, I have learned something revolutionary to me, but discussed in financial capability and asset building literature from Individual Deposit Accounts to consumer debt programs to social welfare programs. The name for the area is behavioral economics. In a nutshell, behavioral economics explores the major challenge in wealth creation that is to move individuals from immediate gratification to long-term sustainability. I now speak of this as the movement from surviving to thriving.
In order to make this movement behaviorally, my skills in Sociocybernetics and agent-based modeling are indispensable. As a primer, I offer three important considerations in the support of wealth creation from surviving to thriving:
1. Honor a Hierarchy of Behavioral Health
Poverty is traumatic. A new friend said it best, “It is nonsensical the things we [society] expect the poor to deal with each day and still function as if everything is fine…If a [wealthy] person had to experience [similar things], they would need counseling!” As advocates, practitioners, and coaches, we do not always recognize the cognitive, behavioral, and sense-making patterns that emerge from living each day in constant want and uncertainty. Interventions must first honor the needed resources like Maslow’s hierarchy of food, shelter, then security, then belonging, then achievement, then morality. Interventions must next honor a hierarchy of behavioral health: honesty, priority, help-seeking, investment, self-management, ownership.
2. Teach the Basic Habits of Wealth Creation
Survival tools are not the tools to Thrive. In the pilot and in life, I have witnessed the most creative and resilient ways to make a dollar stretch and maintain a family. I have also been shaken by the “have tos” and disempowerment that results from unsustainable promises made and obligations brought on by an insistence on survival.
I have further been amazed at what collaborative provision of financial tools and behavioral tools can mean to a family. Important are the basic financial skills like a 12-month budget of income and expenses, a time schedule, and a 3 year future plan. Also important are the basic behavioral tools like a written set of personal rules, a sponsor relationship, and behavioral health checkup.
Social welfare is obviously beyond simply giving money. Financial capability development must have a behavioral component that engages the individual in the habits of wealth creation to thrive. These habits are in stark contrast to the “when I have, I spend” habits of debt management to survive.
3. Challenge with Entrepreneurship
Financial support must be an investment. Investors provide clear metrics describing what is expected in return on their investment. Venture capitalists, in addition, provide the training, social capital, and infrastructure supporting the best chance for the start-up to succeed. The hierarchy of behavioral health clarifies the training needed. The basic habits of wealth creation require sponsorship relationships included in financial and behavioral tools. The final need is infrastructure.
To date, the MAWMedia Group Financial Capability & Asset Building pilot is providing this key component implementing every element of its competence: Social Research, Publishing, Consulting, and Media Development. The results will be detailed next Spring 2013 with the grand launch of innovative micro-businesses in retail and social good. The launch will introduce an inspiring group of innovators who were challenged to fish, but also to build a legacy on the strength of the fishing skill.