Community Conversations


It’s wonderful to meet people from the Lab community, to put a face to a name and find out more about their projects and passions.  It’s especially nice when that meeting is unexpected.  So it was a couple of months ago when I bumped into Rafael Gomes at the WIRED Money event.  Rafael had only recently joined the Lab community so that moment of serendipity gave me the chance to find out more about him.

Rafael’s day job is as a risk and sustainability consultant, where he’s often re-imagining how people, processes or systems work to help create new solutions for business challenges.  Recently, he worked with a British Olympic sport team on risk-based strategy.

Social finance is Rafael’s other passion, exploring social business models in finance, and financial activism (of the kind explored by Brett Scott in The Heretics Guide to Global Finance).  He regularly invests in or through platforms that facilitate P2P lending, crowdfunding, ad hoc currencies, financial activism, or sharing.  He often goes to talks on these topics, and always happy to have a geek-out over a drink.  Which probably explains why only a couple of weeks later Rafael joined us at the Summer Lab Drinks to do just that.

I met Rafael recently for a coffee and thought it would be too good an opportunity to miss to get ideas around community.  So after we’d finished talking social finance I asked him a few questions:

What does community mean to you?

When I think of community, I imagine people coming together around themes of common interest.  You can feel like a member of a community where you know that you belong, even though you don’t know others well.  You are with people who may not be your closest friends but who you trust to recommend to others.

And for me, an online platform like the Lab’s membership site is really useful to help a community to take shape.  But it’s not the community itself.

How is trust created in a community?

I think people build trust by overcoming preconceptions and depending on each other.  You can also lose trust that way.  I suppose for the Lab that would mean encouraging joint projects between members.  I trust many people who may have different political values, for example, because we went through a common journey of discovery and dependence.  I hope a few people went through that journey at the Summer Lab Drinks when they met the corporate-looking guy in a pink shirt… That was me.

What attracted you to the Lab community?

The Lab really exudes innovation and creativity.  It’s independent and has diversity.  It addresses many different sides of finance.  And it feels very impact-orientated.  The participants are making changes.  Everyone at the drinks had an interesting project, a business or a campaign, that they’re working on.

Why do you think a community is important to the Lab?

The Lab may not need a community; it may just need a more dispersed kind of tribe.  There is an intangible value in a network, and each person will figure out what that value is for them.

That’s the story of social media.  No one knew at the start how it would grow or why it would grow, but organisations rushed to them for this intangible value.  The important thing is to build it. Who knows, one day it may even help to fund the Lab.

How would you like the Lab community to evolve?

I could imagine the Lab evolving around its three main groups of stakeholders: entrepreneurs, campaigners and thought leaders, and ordinary citizens.  The Lab can be a quick catalyst to incubate project ideas, provide facilitation and research, truly tangible practical support.

And personally I’d like to see a grass roots service for people who know they want to move away from conventional finance but don’t know the alternatives – alternative financial advice.

Inspiring Stories

These are Rafael’s views.  What do think?  What does community mean to you?  How do you feel about how the Lab community should develop?  Now is the time to have your say.  

Do you have a great story to tell about your personal journey or about the exciting work you are putting all your energy into? Maybe you have a great story showing the importance of community and their power in creating positive change in society. If you do we would love to hear from you. Please send any stories you have to