JFI and Berggruen Institute Launch Series on Practical Pathways to Public Banking

Christopher Eldred

Media Contact
Chris Eldred


Molly Dektar

Forthcoming publications lay out playbook for how a publicly-owned bank could unlock solutions to Los Angeles’ pressing challenges; new digital tool will power analysis for policymakers and advocates


JFI and the Berggruen Institute today announce a joint report series to assist renewed efforts by the Los Angeles City Council to establish a public bank. The series, with an introductory working paper released today, describes viable approaches the city could take to setting up and administering a municipally-owned financial institution; and analyzes the impact of new lending programs on affordable housing, small business, and green energy.

The Los Angeles City Council began a Request for Proposals process for a viability study and business plan by unanimous vote in October 2021, and efforts to produce these materials are beginning to take shape this year. This series of parallel JFI-Berggruen Institute reports, to be published through May of this year, give researchers, advocates, and the city a template for the programs and administrative structure of such a bank that can best serve the public interest.

Using expert interviews, aggregate data on citywide trends, and the expertise of researchers at both JFI and the Berggruen Institute, the series adds to a nascent research base on public banks in the US and internationally; incorporates key lessons from successful public banks such as the Bank of North Dakota; and builds on a report from the Democracy Collaborative and Public Bank of LA advocates from 2022.

The project is co-led by JFI VP for Policy Halah Ahmad and VP for Social Wealth Paul Katz alongside the Berggruen Institute’s Associate Director of the Future of Capitalism Program, Yakov Feygin. Co-authors include Jonathan Calenzani, Jack Landry, Chirag Lala, Leila Lorenzo, Michael McCarthy, Eric Medrano, Patrick Robbins, Sina Sinai, Miranda Strominger and Paul Williams.

The introductory working paper released today provides summary analysis of lending programs that:

  • Create more affordable housing through lower-cost debt for construction, an acquisition fund for affordable housing preservation, and expand low to moderate-income homebuyer assistance;
  • Empower worker ownership of small business by financing small business worker cooperative conversions; and
  • Accelerate the green energy transition through loans for retrofits and utility-scale investment, among other programs.

Forthcoming reports will explore these programs and the bank’s overall administration in the following sequence: affordable housing, financial justice (small business and related investment), green energy, and democratic governance. The series will culminate with the release of a balance sheet simulator that enables the wider public to interactively allocate resources among the proposed lending programs, and to test cost and profit assumptions across the bank’s hypothetical balance sheet. This tool will democratize a view of both the financial possibilities and constraints of a public bank in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles has many unserved financial needs. Our city can start thinking about using its finances more creatively and proactively to solve the city’s problems by investing in itself,” said Yakov Feygin. “A public financial institution like a public bank, or municipal finance corporation can be a critical piece of the puzzle for solving the city’s pressing problems.”

Halah Ahmad said, “These reports help to anchor these exciting public bank discussions with practical options for a portfolio that builds stability, wealth and climate readiness across the city—and does so in collaboration with existing players.”

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About the Jain Family Institute:
The Jain Family Institute (JFI) is a nonpartisan applied research organization in the social sciences that works to bring research and policy from conception in theory to implementation in society. Founded in 2015 by Robert Jain, JFI focuses on building evidence around the most pressing social problems.

About the Berggruen Institute:
The Berggruen Institute’s mission is to develop foundational ideas and shape political, economic, and social institutions for the 21st century. Providing critical analysis using an outwardly expansive and purposeful network, we bring together some of the best minds and most authoritative voices from across cultural and political boundaries to explore fundamental questions of our time. Our objective is enduring impact on the progress and direction of societies around the world. To date, projects inaugurated at the Berggruen Institute have helped develop a youth jobs plan for Europe, fostered a more open and constructive dialogue between Chinese leadership and the West, strengthened the ballot initiative process in California, and launched Noema, a new publication that brings thought leaders from around the world together to share ideas. In addition, the Berggruen Prize, a $1 million award, is conferred annually by an independent jury to a thinker whose ideas are shaping human self-understanding to advance humankind.


composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE