Integrated and Integral: The Capitals of Mobius
It’s not been particularly straight-forward to explain what Mobius is. The answer changes depending on who is asking. Using conventional forms, Mobius can be thought of as a family office, a private foundation, or a diversified operating company. But none of those titles actually speaks well to our work. The bottom line driver of our activities is to support our internal sense of aliveness – and realizing that in order to do that, we are called to use whatever resources we are connected to, in service of a blossoming world. We do this as part of an interconnected ecology of relationships.
That’s a lofty aspiration, but our experiments to try putting the intentions into practice are where things get interesting. First we’ll quickly explain what we mean by ‘integrated’ and ‘integral,’ both of which are important drivers of our work. Then we can share a case study of one topic area where we have put these ideas into practice. We hope this can help explain a bit more about what drives our work and where connecting up may be meaningful. It’s our attempt to reflect on what we’ve been doing and try to explain it in a resonant way.
Integrated Capital was originally a term that was shared at RSF Social Finance. The idea was that more important than making money, the point of using money was to support the causes and issues we felt connected to. Financially speaking, whether investment, debt, donation, or otherwise, having a guiding light of purpose-driven use of financial capital would support the whole. We have expanded on this concept to apply to multiple forms of currency. There are many frames of how we can think of capital, but for us the below offers an actionable framing-
Financial (eg. equity, debt, guarantees, philanthropy)
Community (eg. movement building, noble friendship)
Human (eg. volunteering, thought leadership)
Inner (eg. attention, gratitude, generosity, compassion)
Political (eg. federal/state/local, propositions, grassroots)
The idea here is that engaging with key issues is the driver behind Mobius’ work, and there are many ways to offer – they are integrated, and hopefully synergistic. There is a whole body underneath this to break it down, including how we weight different capitals, how they can stay in the form of currency (flowing) vs wealth (stagnant, owned), how to compost degenerative forms of capital into regenerative forms, what gifts are ours to give, what this implies as far as structures/governance and products/services of what is supported, etc. Needless to say, this idea of integrated capital could be thought of as an art more than a science, and for us showing up to work is an opportunity to play on that canvas of service.
The view of Integral was first coined by human development theorist Ken Wilber, as a high-level map of how people and communities wake up and grow up. The underlying idea was that we are like flowers – in the process of blossoming, and that looked like different things at different times. A continual expansion of one’s relationship to time, space, and self. The opportunity was for us to get out of the way of the natural process. This carries many components, such as ‘meeting people where they are,’ assuming value everywhere, and designing for growth.
Integral capital is the idea that resources can be used in support of this human development process. That it looks different in different circumstances, but the intention is not just to ‘make the world a better place,’ or ‘doing well by doing good,’ or ‘save us before it’s too late,’ it’s to design at the edges for waking up to deeper insights about ourselves, as best we can. Again, more art than science. These are experiments, but ones we feel alive in trying out.
Add it together and you have Integrated and Integral, utilizing a variety of capitals in service to the blossoming of people and communities. So how does this play out? I’ll pick on one of our topics of interest – compassion towards animals. Here’s a bit more color commentary….
It began with a sense of compassion towards animals and their suffering. 1 trillion living beings (fish, chickens, cows, etc), each with a nervous system, treated to horrible conditions as >98% of farmed animals are in the industrial animal agriculture system. The idea of support for companion animals was normalized, but not for the plight of farmed animals, whose numbers were much larger and sentience unquestioned. And of course the collateral damage of untold workers’ mental health from being in this system, much less human health from eating such products, and environmental ramifications. The list goes on.
So we started supporting non-profits with philanthropy. A variety of theories of change, many locations, etc. We started seeing groups and individuals burning out, given the emotional toll of the work. Our response was to offer meditation retreats and ongoing reflective community for those doing this work. Over time this led to more relationships across organizations, and an interest in movement building work, which we supported for non-profits, funders, and companies. Through this we saw that there was actually a significant ecosystem of for-profit businesses trying to build compassionate alternatives to industrial animal agriculture, and we started supporting those companies through both direct equity investments and funds. Those companies started to grow and needed infrastructure investments, creating the need for debt investments which we engaged with as well. Through this ecosystem we were introduced to political leaders who shared our values of compassion, and thus began political efforts through legislation, appropriation, and propositions to support this general direction at state, federal, and international levels. And on and on it went, in most cases with funding happening collaboratively. All through these activities, our group has taken roles in sharing perspectives and offering our time as volunteers such that there may be more harmony and compassion in relationship to farmed animals in the world.
As we built ‘the road,’ the road built us as well. We were learning about how to engage in issues multi-dimensionally, how to support collective trauma, how to get laws that serve passed, how money can be a tool of service, how to build connections with allied interests of justice and ecology. The ‘wins’ along the way thus far are hard to count. In short, the world is starting to change – it’s still early days, but we see serendipity in everything from major growth in investment capital in the space, to philanthropic dollars, to mindshare, to behavioral shifts, to shifts in global laws. And in these activities, an aliveness on our part to grow deeper in our service. The financial upside mostly being composted back into the service activities (living relatively simply is more joyful anyways), building communities of practice to grow together, and witnessing a regeneration beginning at the subtle level.
As we experimented in these directions, we didn’t hold to one theory of change. This is where the integral approach comes in. There are many organizations out there, with different theories of change based on their understanding of how the universe works. Our interest was to support across the spectrum, and create the conditions for all of us to continue to refine that understanding over time. For some, that meant that the world changes when markets tip due to taste, cost, and convenience advantages; for others, that meant building awareness of what exactly is happening with industrial animal agriculture; for others still, finding the areas where the most suffering was happening and prioritizing those spots (effective altruism). Different forms of capital to different minds and perspectives – but similar underlying values. Regardless of the perspective, the integral interest is to hold the spectrum and support continued insight, so that the approaches become more nuanced and deeper over time. For example, that means that the folks interested in markets look into why subsidies are going to the degenerative system; the awareness-builders grow their own awareness of ecological food production; the effective altruists ask deeper questions of how suffering can be alleviated; and we all learn from each other the fruits of our insights.
Over time, we have found that this approach – integrated and integral – supports emergence, self-discovery, and regeneration. We compost wealth, and on the other side of this natural process is more community, more insight, more compassion. We would not say that we have all the insights, there is clearly much we remain blind to, and invite integration over time, but we have found our approach helps us to skillfully do just that. It’s unclear if all these activities will add up to a collective that can actually withstand the breakdowns coming our way, but the point of the action is not for outcome alone – it is joyful to do this work, every day we do it.
The microcosm of integrated and integral towards compassion to animals has been something we have tried in other areas as well – physical spaces, alternative energy, human development. In many ways, we didn’t pick these topics, they picked us, similar to what happened with animals. We started with an intention to serve, and a toolkit of ways to offer. Then as we came across opportunities to engage, we asked if it felt right. Was it just a few feet away from the jungle we were already a part of? And over time, that’s how the jungle of our work has grown.
How to explain this? The conventions aren’t great supports. Nor do we wish to frame this approach as ‘the right answer,’ as we ourselves continue to experiment and grow. It’s simply a story of the journey thus far – another way to live into the great questions. Borrowing from the mindfulness teacher Jack Kornfield, whose Spirit Rock Meditation Center is an inspiration, “while the way may be pathless, if you come across a campsite along the path where you see orange rinds, you may not be quenched, but you know, somewhere here, there was nourishment.”
Integrated and integral, the experiment at Mobius.