(MARCH 26, 1918 — JANUARY 13, 2003)
Founding President of the Schumacher Center, friend and inspiration to us all.
“The idea that land should be treated from an economic point of view as it if were a commodity that you buy and sell and make money on has to change. Land can’t be treated that way. It has to be treated as a form of trust, and we have to be stewards of the land. It’s that philosophical idea behind the community land trust that I’m really interested in because that’s the basis of our livelihood. Everyone needs land. Everyone has to have some kind of land no matter where you are. Even if you’re living in an apartment in the city, underneath it is land. It’s always there. . . .” – Land Reform as Community Land Trust, 1990
“For it is obvious that while on the one hand we are at a historical point when local and democratic participation in the economy is essential to our economic survival and to our humanity, it is also clear that we live in a world that is rapidly moving toward a one world economy. This new, local and appropriate system would consist of thousands of small, primarily self-reliant regions exchanging or trading directly with each other using a common unit of exchange. Thus the foundation for a true world economy would emerge.” – Appropriate Currency, 1974
Robert Swann was the founder of the E. F. Schumacher Society, now the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. In 1974 Swann, Hazel Henderson (author, futurist), and Ian Baldwin (who later founded Chelsea Green Publishing) arranged for E. F. Schumacher’s first lecture tour in the USA. While on the tour, E. F. Schumacher asked Robert Swann to start a sister organization to his own Intermediate Technology Development Group, but it was not until 1980, when prompted by Resurgence editor Satish Kumar, that Swann organized the E. F. Schumacher Society in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Its work now constitutes a direct link with Schumacher’s philosophy and is a tangible embodiment of his message.
Schumacher chose wisely. Robert Swann brought the pragmatic skills of a builder to his lifelong commitment to both community and decentralized economics. Before founding the Society he worked with Ralph Borsodi to issue a commodity-backed currency in Exeter, New Hampshire, a forerunner of today’s local currencies. In 1978 he launched the Community Investment Fund, one of the first investment initiatives with socially responsible criteria, anticipating a national movement in social investment.
His 1960s civil rights work led to an effort to secure land for African-American farmers. With Slater King and other activists he founded New Communities Inc. in Albany, Georgia, using documents modeled on those of the Jewish National Fund. As founder of the Institute for Community Economics he helped other groups around the country form similar community land trusts, which earned him the title of father of the American land reform movement.
Bob passed away peacefully at his home in South Egremont, Massachusetts on January 13, 2003. In his honor we continue our work to promote the widespread use of local currencies.
On Gandhi’s Path: Bob Swann’s Work for Peace and Community Economics by Stephanie Mills, 2010
Redefining Development, recorded 1985 & broadcasted 1990
(Transcript starts on page 30 here)
Tributes and Miscellaneous
Young Vigor Searching for Light by Stephanie Mills
Bob Swann’s “Positively Dazzling Realism” by Stephanie Mills
Bob Swann Obituary by Stephanie Mills
Stirred by Necessity and Promise by Susan Witt
A New Peace by Susan Witt
Robert Swann’s Personal Library and Archives
The personal library of Robert Swann (1918-2003) can be found in the Library’s general collection by searching for the term “Donated by Robert Swann“. The personal papers and manuscripts of Robert Swann can be searched on the archives database and can be viewed in person at the Schumacher Center Library.