Big Change Comes With Deep Reflection

It’s amazing what can be accomplished in a year, for any individual or organization. In this case, I’d like to draw attention to the efforts, and for some, the existence of the Accounting Alchemy Network (AAN).

Back in March of 2022, Ingrid Edstrom, Alina Nikishina, and Mathew Heggem helped put AAN out into the world with the goal of building a network of like-minded individuals dedicated to seeing accounting’s higher purpose come to fruition. I wanted to take some time in this post to get you all familiar with AAN, what it’s accomplished over the past year, and peek into where it’s headed.

I was personally introduced to AAN last year by co-founder Ingrid Edstrom herself, who pitched the concept on an idea we both share: the accounting profession is ripe for change by the very professionals that are in it. Moreover, there’s never been a better time to shape its future and have accounting itself be redefined as a force for good in the world.

Having participated in several monthly meetings and written about one of its core ideals, “living in the uncomfortable,” I can say the past year for AAN has truly been one of growth and increasing awareness.

First off, to help get you acquainted with their body of work, AAN has assembled a series of YouTube videos. Over the past year, AAN has, among other achievements:

But to truly get a sense of this group’s accomplishments, and thoughts on the future of AAN, we need to hear from the key members themselves.

Thoughts from Ingrid:

Many people have been looking for a long time for ways to opt-out of the current status quo, the systems of oppression, extraction, and exploitation that perpetuate these unsustainable norms. We haven’t been able to shift this historically because there haven’t been alternatives available. We are now actively creating new alternatives for people to consciously opt-into.

There may be a bit of hesitancy and suspension of disbelief at the moment, as people don’t want to get their hopes up that change is possible just to be disappointed. Nonetheless, it is happening. We are demonstrating that we can be the change we want to see in the world, and it is working.

Just having the opportunity to connect with other financial professionals around these important topics makes all of the effort we have put into building the AAN worthwhile. All of this work is volunteered on our part.

The learning, growth, and connections are worth more than money for me. We are already a great example of how we can shift our habits to create a full-circle and well-being economic structure.

I am very excited, as we are just getting to the point of the growth in our community where new leaders are stepping forward. The AAN was always intended to operate on a decentralized leadership model, and we are finally to the tipping point where we can really begin to see and feel what that will look like.

We are empowering each member to step forward in their gifts to create the opportunities they are most passionate about and using the AAN as a platform to amplify the truest expression of their personal values in the world. I am excited for the future, because it is unknown. I am excited to see what others have to bring to this work and to support those initiatives.

Finally, I am excited to see what evolutions in technology emerge that could create new opportunities for accounting pros to account for more than just money. I would love to collaborate with software that can automate some of the processes for accounting for our values and measuring new KPIs that account for our wellness and the good we are doing in the world. It is high time for this priority shift to really take effect in our society, and accountants can lead that change.

Thoughts from Alina:

One of our biggest accomplishments has been creating a “Playbook” that outlines AAN’s Theory of Change and how someone new to the network can get a feel for the culture and get involved at whatever level works for them. As someone who’s always asking the question, “Okay, but how do we actually DO this?”

In the beginning, it felt like a very expanded concept that was still a dream, so it’s cool to see how far we’ve come along there. Also, I’m excited to see that we have multiple people now making contributions, participating in education, and getting the word out through the media.

For the future, I’m most excited to see the impact and ripple effects of everyone now contributing and sharing. I continue to be inspired each month as we have unique Lyceums, Social Forums, and educational and community discussion opportunities.

It excites me to keep learning and growing! I’m setting the intention for more financial professionals to take a stand to create more positive change in the world and start having discussions in their firms and local communities about our climate, social justice, and wellbeing of all.

Thoughts from Mathew:

One of the accomplishments I want to highlight is the fact that we get to see folks starting to mobilize, take leadership roles, and help us to build this thing like Donny Shimamoto, CPA and Jina Etienne, CPA to name a few. I love working with Ingrid on initiatives like JEDI and Humane workplaces. And, people who are stepping forward to host conversations and facilitate meetings.

It’s great to see that unfold, because it shows that this movement is not just about us and that other people care too! I am also convinced that we are sitting on a gold mine of content. The material we’ve created/recorded through our Lyceums, the content we’re investing in creating, is content that will shape an industry and move our future towards something that is regenerative.

I’m excited that I get to look back at what we created and have all these tangible lyceums to point to to say: “Yes, we talked about that in a Lyceum and that’s something that any purpose-driven business can lean into to get advice on how to be better for the world.”

I also love that we’re having an impact on the accounting industry, because we are demonstrating that even something as “boring” or “mundane” as accounting can be a pathway towards social impact.

I think folks believe that we have to be working in a nonprofit, or on the front lines of racial justice, climate action, or working in the Arts or Social Services to have a direct impact… That’s not true! We can stay exactly where we’re at, as accounting professionals, and simply do things differently!

Finally, I’m proud of the ground work that we’ve laid and the fact that we created a Playbook and Theory of Change. These are not easy things to manifest, but that they exist for the community is a huge asset for the scalability of this community over time. We’ve laid the foundation, now it’s time to build the house and let folks ini to fill it with their brilliance & beauty!

I would love to see us automate our onboarding process for new members, so that it’s easy for folks to get all the info they need in a clear sequence that empowers them to be educated, informed, inspired and mobilized within a short period of time from finding our community. This means making sure that we have the welcome mat out and a clear set of instructions, including making sure that folks watch and take action on the Playbook.

As the next few years unfold, I see more people getting involved, having to create committees to take on certain initiatives, and possibly even a conference or in-person gathering that is multiple days long where we can really invest in building relationships and getting to know each other as we cultivate a strong community of leaders within the industry that serve as beacons of light for the everyone else.

One of the most essential partnerships we’ve formed is with the Pachamama Alliance and the Game Changer Intensive and that is going to have a great impact on where we go.

Final Thoughts

I know, that was a lot to take in. And as AAN’s founders often say, it is not just about them, there is no centralized “leadership” to the group. Rather, it is about YOU, the accounting professionals and influencers in this space to get involved. As such, please consider joining their newsletter. It will give you access to their LinkedIn & Facebook groups, where you’ll be able to join the conversation more actively. You can also view and comment on the videos mentioned above.

“You have a voice, come share it.”

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