What Will It Take to Build a Truly Inclusive Economy?
The Role of Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Impact Capital in Fostering an Economy that Works for All

The U.S. and global economy does not work for everyone. It was never meant to. We know the failings: climate change, racial injustice, gender inequities, extremes of poverty and food insecurity, and more. The innovation and scalability at the heart of capitalism should serve as a wellspring of solutions to these challenges. Some companies, like B Corps, use their business as a force for good can and are actively reducing inequality, lowering levels of poverty, building a healthier environment, strengthening communities, and creating high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. But B Corps are still the exception. 

There are billions of impact investment dollars - and millions of Black, Indigenous, People Of Color and women-led ventures and entrepreneurs with highly fundABLE business ideas  - and yet very little of the available investment capital makes it to them. Why? What can we do to close the gap? 

This session features social impact leaders: 

exploring what we can do as business leaders, entrepreneurs, systems change agents, and investors to make sure our capital flows and societal structures are lining up to support the kinds of communities and businesses that will lead us to the just, equitable, and regenerative future our children deserve.

Land Acknowledgement and Introduction

Kim Coupounas: Before we begin, I'd like to take a few minutes for us to acknowledge that every community owes its existence and vitality to generations from around the world, who've contributed their hopes, their dreams, their energy, to making the history that led to this moment. Some were brought to a place against their will. Some were drawn to leave their homes in hopes of a better life, like my ancestors, and some have lived in place for more generations than can be counted. 

Truth and acknowledgement are critical to building mutual respect and connection across all barriers of heritage and difference. We begin this event by acknowledging and honoring the truth. I'm calling into this webinar from within the ancestral lands of the Ute, Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho peoples. Further, I acknowledge that 48 contemporary tribal nations are historically tied to the lands that make up the state of Colorado, where I'm privileged to live, and I pay respects to their elders past and present.

So please take a moment to consider the tribulations behind our triumphant stories– including violence, displacement, migration, and settlement, that bring us here today. And please join us in uncovering such truths at any and all public events in the future. Particularly through critical reflection and conversations within your own community.

I'm inviting you to consider the land on which you live, we're inviting you, and the confluence of legacies that brought you to be where you are today. I invite you to share in the chat, if you're willing, the land and the ancestral lands from which you're calling into this webinar and to acknowledge the first nations people of those lands.

If you are not sure what ancestral lands you happen to be on, you can find out at www.whose.land or native-land.ca, both fantastic websites for identifying what land you happen to be on. 

I'm going to take a minute.

So friends, this pandemic has laid bare many things, including the fact that our economic system is foundationally broken. Did you know that just 42 people on earth hold as much wealth as 50% of the global population. And while the virus has reaped financial havoc on hundreds of millions of people around the world who are really suffering, many in our families, the world's billionaires' wealth rose to $10.2 trillion during the pandemic and an increase of their personal wealth by over 25%, according to The Guardian

Society's benefits are structured to advantage majority groups at the expense of others. And there's unequal access to opportunities, even the COVID-19 vaccine. Racism is flat out systemic; it's woven throughout the fabric of our institutions and our culture. And then we have a climate injustice, something that I spend a lot of my time on within the B Corp movement. The devastating impacts of climate change are felt first and worst by those people who are least responsible for creating it. 

So how did we get here? The history of capitalism is inextricably linked to the projection of power in pursuit of profit. And that focus was, and is the driving force and imperialism, colonialism, slavery, war, and genocide.

And is it any surprise that more than 80% of young people don't identify with the term, or the idea of, capitalism, but here's the thing, the innovation and the scalability that's at the heart of capitalism should serve as a wellspring of solutions to the challenges that we all face. 

Capitalism and the capital markets are not only the biggest impediment to the change we're seeking, for the future we want, but they're also our greatest opportunity.

So amidst all this chaos, there is actually this underlying current, this historic global shift that's happening to harness the power of business to help address our biggest challenges, challenges that we've traditionally left to the government and to nonprofits to solve. 

Part of that massive cultural shift, and in some ways at the heart of it, is the B Corp movement, a global network of almost 4,000 businesses and over a hundred thousand businesses that are a part of the wider network and a group of leaders who are focused on using the power of business for good. So if you don't know about B Corps, please check them out at Bcorporation.net.

B Corps are unfortunately still the exception. Now let's look at the state of entrepreneurship and venture and impact investing. There are billions of impact investment dollars available and there are millions of Black, indigenous, people of color and women led ventures and entrepreneurs with highly fundable business ideas, many of them with real solutions to the problems that I just laid out and that we're facing. Yet very little of the available investment capital makes it to these entrepreneurs. 

According to PitchBook, less than 10% of venture backed companies had a female founder. Only 1% had an African-American founder, according to CB insights and 78% of all venture capital in the U.S. went to just three states (to use an American example) California, New York and Massachusetts, leaving the other 47 States to share just a quarter of the pie. Yet we know that these companies with diverse leadership teams are providing greater returns for investors according to Harvard Business Review. So all of this brings us to the purpose of today's conversation: 

With all that is broken, what will it take to build a truly inclusive economy? What is the role of innovation of entrepreneurship and impact capital in fostering an economy that works for all? What can we do as business leaders, as entrepreneurs, as investors, as social change agents, to make sure that our capital flows and our societal structures are lining up to support the kinds of communities and entrepreneurs and businesses that will lead us to the just equitable and regenerative future that we know our children deserve.

We have an incredible group of leaders with us today to help us answer these questions. Each of these powerhouse leaders is changing how our economy works. They're making it better every day from the inside out. I'd love to start the conversation today by asking each of our speakers to introduce themselves.

Starting with you, Alfa, who are you? What do you want, what do you want the audience to know about your organization and what you're working on? Why does this topic matter to you personally? And then, to shift gears what is the biggest obstacle between us and the inclusive and equitable economic system we want? And then relatedly what's your biggest frustration? The one you share with your trusted friends and family. What is that thing you wish would change if you could just wave a magic wand in yourself and in others and in the system? 

Alfa Demmellash: My name is Alfa Demmellash, I'm the CEO and co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Rising Tide Capital, which I've been leading for the past almost 17 years now. 

I'm currently hailing from New Jersey. Northern New Jersey, Jersey City, Bayonne, Newark, those areas where I've been committed for the past many years, is the land of the Lenni-Lenape. 

I was not born in this country. I was actually born in Ethiopia, where I was raised. And then my mother actually brought me to this country. She had been a refugee and she ended up coming to the U.S. to escape violence and collapse in her own country as well as to try and create new opportunities. She had made a promise that she would reconnect with me upon coming to this country. She realized that if she was to continue to do what she was doing at the time, which was waitressing, she would not be able to save enough money, in the current economic dynamics of that sector, to actually be able to fulfill on her promise of saving enough to buy my plane ticket and bring me and educate me and feed me and do all of the good things that every parent wishes they could do.

So she did start a small business, an entrepreneurial sewing business that she grew over 10 years and used her savings, which she put into a credit union. So when I first arrived in the U.S. I didn't know how to speak English, but I walked into my first credit union to see my mom saying, See, I did this, I did this for you, so we can be together. And even though it was 10 years in the making, I could be reconnected with my family. 

Since then I have devoted my life to other entrepreneurs and women like her in particular. And let's acknowledge it's women's history month and every day should be women's day–especially given the current economic condition and the pandemic.

And so that was my impetus for trying to understand what about our economy is not welcoming or inclusive or intimidating to people like my mother who have ample not only entrepreneurial energy and talent and creativity, but also really important and critical and urgent personal missions, like reuniting with their families or feeding their families and making sure that they could have a decent life.

At this moment, as we're sitting amidst this pandemic, with Rising Tide Capital, we work with entrepreneurs, 90% of whom are people of color, 70% of whom are women who are working predominantly in the service sector. They would be what the United Way of Northern New Jersey calls ALICE: Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed. Meaning that these are folks who are working two or three jobs on minimum wage and creating their businesses on weekends and nights to try and create a form of economic mobility and to be able to save for the future or have the opportunity to be able to thrive.

So that's who we work with. We work with about a thousand entrepreneurs a year now in Northern New Jersey. We have codified our model as a platform so we can share it with other community partners. So we're in nine other States where partners are using our curriculum, our data systems, our infrastructure to actually be able to support their own local communities and being able to have this micro grid of an entrepreneurial community that can create the jobs that are necessary for the future.

I will briefly just say that from my vantage point where I sit today,

as a result of this pandemic, we have 40% or more of small businesses owned by people of color at the point of permanent closure. And business, as Kim mentioned, is not only a force for good, for what we can envision for the world, for the future, but it has been a critical way in which communities can enable themselves to have a sense of agency and voice over their economic destinies. And so when we talk about 40% of those small businesses permanently closing it is catastrophic.

There are other kinds of catastrophic data points, including the wealth gap and some of the income inequality statistics that Kim had referenced. But from where I'm sitting, I'm seeing a call to action that is necessary and urgent for every person, every institution, every investor that has cared about equity and justice to actually bring those businesses back and do so on terms that are vastly different than what they experience currently.

And so there is a huge need that is in front of us. And I think there are organizations like mine across the country. There are not enough of us, frankly. But there is some infrastructure there and we have plenty of data about what we can do and what is necessary to actually reemerge the kinds of businesses that will enable families to feed themselves and have agency and be able to dismantle the systemic inequities and supremacy we see within our culture.

Kim Coupounas: Thank you so much. Alfa, Rising Tide is doing such incredible work. It's just been amazing to see the kinds of entrepreneurs that you're supporting. Thank you for all you're doing. 

I would love to pass it over to Val to share similarly. 

Valerie Red-Horse Mohl: First of all, I want to say that I'm thrilled to be coming to you today and to be participating in this important topic from the lands of the Muwekma Ohlone people. I myself am of Cherokee ancestry and I am delighted to see all of the acknowledgements of the land of our ancestors.

I currently work, as Kim mentioned, as the CFO of East Bay Community Foundation. And prior to that long journey, I won't bore you with all of it, but for over 25 years, I worked as a securities professional, as an asset manager, investment banker and owned my own investment bank. I primarily worked with tribal nations. So I've been focused on racial equity and gender equity in our investment strategies for a very long time, before it was even a topic–before we made it popular. 

But I am very, very pleased to be at East Bay Community Foundation where there is a deep commitment to see a shift in our assets because, I will make a bold statement as I start,

I do not believe there is an intersection between economic justice and racial and gender justice and all of the issues that Alfa mentioned, whether it's healthcare, affordable housing, education, I don't believe there is a separation between all of those and economic justice. We have to approach economic justice and that will approach racial and gender justice as well.

And so with that in mind, every single day, I look to shift assets and fortunately have the support of the leadership and the board at East Bay Community Foundation. We are primarily a DAF manager and we have a little under a billion dollars under management, but I think we're also a role model, established in 1928 in downtown Oakland with a very strong focus on racial equity in our own community. 

I want to start by addressing the problem. If you think about representative numbers, we are about 51% women in our population in America. We're about 40% people of color and globally we're 70%. Now consider the fact that 97% of our assets are managed and controlled by white males.

This is an issue, if you think about it, of proper representation and how our money gets allocated–what Alfa is talking about. It's not getting to the communities, it's not getting to the businesses of the people who look like many of us. It's being recycled into a system that is broken. 

And I want to use an illustration to really drive home the problem as I see it because I am a storyteller and I worked for many years in tribal gaming. And I want to just give you an illustration of a roulette wheel. Let's think about a roulette wheel that has a red square and a black square. The ball will mathematically fall into the red or the black square 50% of the time. It is not a guess. It is an absolute mathematical function. Now imagine that that table, one of the tables is broken and we find out that the ball is landing 90% of the time on the black square and only 10% of the time on the red square.

Well, I know what would happen because I've worked with so many facilities, owners and managers. Immediately, there would be a cry of, Oh my gosh, something's wrong. This table is broken. We need to fix it. We need to address it. And let's think about what they would do. 

First they would look at how do we make the customers whole, who were actually participating at the table and got cheated? So we talk about reparations. You have to go back. You have to think about what has happened and what has been denied. But let's suppose that those customers were never addressed, that they were ignored. 

And now let's suppose that that table was broken. For decades, centuries. Just one interesting story from my personal life. My brothers were part of the origination of the American Indian movement, which started in Minneapolis in the sixties as an outcry to police brutality of Native Americans in Minneapolis in the sixties. We fast forward to the George Floyd murder. People who think the George Floyd murder is what has caused the outcry, don't understand that there have been over 50 years of a broken system of police brutality that was never addressed. So again, we're looking at a systemic issue that has been very, very long standing. 

Now let's go back to my roulette example. Suppose the reparations are made. Well, you still have to fix the table. You can't continue with the broken table. So let's pretend that the mechanics come to the owners and say, we can kind of fix it. There is a barrier and we recognize that it's broken, but we can get the ball going into the red square 20% of the time and into the black square 80% of the time is that okay?

The managers would say, are you crazy? That's still broken. We can't have that. We get that table off the floor and we either bring it a new table or maybe even a whole new game. This last part is very important for me because I work every single day, trying to shift capital into diverse fund managers, again, with the support of East Bay Community Foundation, which I'm so grateful for. And it is a system that, in my opinion, is rigged to where we define risk, we define fiduciary responsibility, we define operational risk to simply recycle back into the same 97%. And what's important to understand is there are many white males who want to help with the solutions. And so I know that we have to create a new game and a new table. We cannot keep the broken table on the floor. We can't ignore it. We can't ignore reparations are needed, but if we want to move that capital into the businesses of our community and to really heal many of the issues, whether it's climate, or homelessness or healthcare or education that money has to shift. And in order to do so, I definitely think we need a game, we need a new system. I'm happy to talk about that when we get to the solution part, but I really want to thank everyone for being here today and coming alongside all of us is so important. It's a collaboration. So thank you, Kim 

Kim Coupounas: Val, so amazing to hear such powerful storytelling and a metaphor that people can wrap their heads around.  It was amazing. People in the chat are sharing so much gratitude for you putting it so simply. The table is rigged. We don't just need to fix the table, we need a new table. 

I would love to pass it over to you, Rodney. Share a little bit about what you're working on, why this topic is important to you and some of the obstacles that you know that we're facing.

Rodney Foxworth: Well, Kim first, thanks for inviting me into this conversation. I'm always delighted to be able to hang with Alfa and Val, colleagues and friends for some time. And it's also, you put me in a troubling spot because I had to follow up on what they said, and I'm not quite sure I have much more to offer in terms of the framing. But since we're talking about tables, one quick thing, I want to point out and emphasize, onto what Val said, when we're talking about forming new tables, it also is an opportunity to make sure that those who build that table and own that table are shifted. I think this is like the crux of the conversation certainly for myself, but I believe this is what Val and Alfa are on things as well.

So I'm Rodney Foxworth. I run a nonprofit organization. I'm the CEO of Common Future, which used to be the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. And we do a few things. We work with wonderful organizations led by folks like Alfa, Rising Tide is a member of our network. So we identify and support a range of organizations that are providing small business and entrepreneur support to entrepreneurs and business owners, and particularly looking at it from a perspective of building community wealth.

Right? So not just the wealth that's generated by the individual entrepreneur, but what does it look like for an actual community to benefit. We also do work around creating new innovations and finance to make sure that we're disrupting all the things, Kim, that you spoke about and all the things that Val spoke about. 

We know that things like venture capital, that the traditional banking system, these things have failed Black and Brown folks. They've failed communities that have been long marginalized and extracted and exploited from. And so we need to develop new instruments. We have to be able to acknowledge things that have been historic that have not been in the mainstream. And so how do we actually resource some of those things? We do some policy and influence work, and we also engage in advisory and consulting work with institutions that really want to be able to take an approach that's more, much more equitable, not extractive in communities.

And so I think one of the things that is, so, I mean, this is very personal for me. You know, I grew up in this wonderful place, Baltimore, that so many people understand it– if you're not from the city, you only see it on the news. You know, people want to talk to me about The Wire and all these sorts of things, but Baltimore is actually a place that you both see all of the opportunity and the innate talent and capacity that communities have. And at the same time, it's a place that really represents all these widespread disparities and systems that work against people that have been discussed already.

Right. So we're talking about certainly police brutality, over-policing and mass incarceration. We're talking about economic dislocation, unemployment particularly that's acute in communities of color, specifically in black communities in Baltimore. And so, as someone who grew up working class, I was fortunate to have parents that were able to work and oftentimes had to work two, three jobs to support their family. I did not have a family that was engaged around entrepreneurial and business ownership, but I did see just how hard it was to live up to the quote unquote American dream. Right. That the idea that you work hard, you get all the benefits afforded to you by that hard work. And I witnessed it first hand–both in my household, and in the community that I grew up in–that that was not true. It was very visceral. And I think about my own path to being able to get to where I am today, all the obstacles, all the barriers, all the supports that were required just for me to be able to get to where I am. And so it was very deeply personal. 

And I think when we ask the questions around inclusive economies, I know that equitable economies is a part of that. And I think that framing is really important because so much of what Val and Alfa pointed out is– how do we actually restore? How to repair? And one of the things that is so prominent to me, and so top of mind for me, is 

we have to really consider a shift in terms of thinking about even the framing, oftentimes of, you know BIPOC owned businesses, outperform, or return more capital to investors. I appreciate that framing and we've got to remember who actually is able to own and invest into these opportunities to begin with? Part of that is how we democratize investment opportunities? How do we make sure that communities actually have ownership of their capacities, right? That it's not extractive or deliberate, the returns not delivered to others, but actually are able to be retained in the communities of those who are really doing the hard work.

And so those are things that really come to mind for me. When I think about our biggest obstacles. Obviously, you know, this is a great quote from my favorite author, James Baldwin, “not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

And to Val's point, it wasn't just that George Floyd was murdered in police custody that initiated all of this outcry. This has been constant. We are now beginning, I should say, more people are beginning to understand the conditions in which people have been living through–not just over the last few decades, but from the beginning. Particularly, as I'm focusing this conversation, in the U.S. Until we can really recognize and acknowledge and grapple with these systems of racism, patriarchy, and all the isms and how that actually implicates our entire economic and financial system. So when Alfa was talking about the entrepreneurs that Rising Tide is supporting–there's a whole system that you could talk about that can make it resonant for people. But it's clear the experiences that those entrepreneurs are having: unable to get access to a loan from a bank, unable to get access to the kinds of supports that would enable them to grow. That’s why we have a Rising Tide, that's why we have those types of organizations. 

But how do we make sure that we're constantly acknowledging the fact that there's these systems that are at play? And one of the things, I think in terms of my biggest frustration, this is my biggest frustration. I'm really happy to say it publicly.

We've seen all these types of commitments and everyone's frustrated and understands that we need to move more quickly with urgency. And where I'm frustrated is that I haven't seen people really being able to willingly give up what they're so accustomed to. I'm talking about power. The entrepreneurs, the communities that I was talking about, the organizations that we work with, where we kind of sidestep is the question of power. We talk about access to capital. We don't talk about control of capital. We'll talk about ownership for those communities. And so I think that's a big piece of this is what are people really willing to give up?

Is an investor willing to say, it's actually more important than I consider the wealth of this community that has long been exploited. I need to consider that above my own financial interests. Are people willing to do that? Are institutions willing to do that?

So that's what frustrates me because I don't see enough of that. We see some really promising things, more specifically within our networks. But when we're talking about the broader ecosystem, that's a question that I have. I don't want to sound too cynical, but I have not yet seen the evidence that people are willing to give up that type of power.

Kim Coupounas: Thank you for just speaking truth, Rodney. I remember having a conversation with a white male impact investor one time and he's like, Oh, I'm so excited for all this impact XYZ, but we're not really willing to give up even one basis point for that impact. I was like, wow, that's a point of view. I'm really grateful for each of you just sharing a little bit about your amazing stories and backgrounds and really lifting up some of the obstacles and the problems that we're facing.

You know, I've heard from you, Rodney, mass incarceration and the over-policing, to lack of community wealth. The fact that we're not facing the truth, that people are not willing to give up their privilege and their power to make room for other people at the table, let alone the fact that the table's owned by the people who were sitting at the table. We need reparations. We need to find ways to heal the harms while we're fixing and replacing the table with a table that's owned by a broader range of stakeholders. The wealth gap, lack of agency, the lack of access to capital it's kind of overwhelming, right? When you, when you look at it in its totality. So we have a picture of what we're facing, but let's turn to solutions. 

You all are solutions-based entrepreneurs. You're out there doing it every day. You're breaking down those structures that are broken, you're building them back up, you're finding pathways. So in each of your work realms, you're really advancing specific solutions around these challenges. So I'd love to ask two questions. And we'll start with Val. 

What's working? What are you working on? What should people be tuned into that's actually demonstrably improving this system. This could include things that you are breaking down and then rebuilding, like replacing with a new table or it could include reformation. And then, we often talk about system change requiring our work across three levels: our personal work, operational and organizational change, and then the world–what's happening at the societal or the systemic level. So what change do we most need at each of these levels and what is working? 

Valerie Red-Horse Mohl: I couldn't have planned Rodney's segway to me any better. Because I double and triple second what he mentioned about the control and the power dynamic. And so when it comes to the solution, I'm actually going to use another illustration. I'm a storyteller, but this one is not my own. For any of you who don't know John Powell at University of California, Berkeley, you need to know him. He heads up the Othering and Belonging Institute. He shared this illustration with East Bay Community Foundation and I really have embodied it and want to share it broadly, and with his permission. 

He talks about the power dynamic as the problem needing the most attention right now. Just like Rodney said, it's about control. It's about that power of ownership. And he gives us the illustration of a party. I want you to think of a party where the party is being planned by the owner of the estate where it's going to take place. The owner is deciding the invitation list, the food that's going to be served, and the music that's going to be played. We all know what exclusion is. That means the owner decides who not to invite to the party. But more importantly, I think let's think about words that we are starting to use that actually don’t address the problem: 

  • Inclusion. That simply means the owner of the party is going to invite a certain group of people to come sit in a corner of that person's party. 

  • Tolerance. That simply means, you know what, the owner doesn't agree with your lifestyle or behavior, but they're going to be tolerant and let you come sit over in this corner of their party. 

  • Empowerment. We use this word a lot. I don't, but a lot of people use the word empowerment. All that means in this power dynamic is the owner of the party is saying, I still own everything, but I'm going to give you a little bit of my power and you can choose a couple of the menu items. That really is not empowerment or inclusion and tolerance–I don't even like that word. 

So what John Powell gives us is a belonging model. And that is where, if there's going to be a party, everyone involved comes together to co-own, co-author, and co-create. So we think of communities where everyone is involved–including white people, but it is not a power dynamic that puts one group of people above the other.

We come together to co-own, to coauthor, to create.

And it's also not just about racial and gender equity. In East Bay, we look at the immigrant community, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities. I mean, there's so many people in this belonging circle to come together and make all the decisions together. That's where we see the solutions. And I do believe it lies in communities that can then show a successful model that can be replicated, not just throughout the U.S., but globally. 

And I'm going to give you one specific example of where I saw this in our own application of our investment strategies. So we have a portfolio. It's fairly large. It's invested in the market. And I found one of our largest asset classes was global equities invested with a New York firm. Great for that New York firm. But I actually found a woman who lives in downtown Oakland and her fund is located in Oakland.

She is in global equities beating the benchmarks of the New York firm. She is employing people from the East Bay–training women and people of color to be managers and fund managers. She’s also doing shareholder activism–pushing any company that she's invested in to close the wage gap and close the board diversity gap. We should be invested in her, not the New York fund. Now I got some pushback initially. She's not big enough. Track record, maybe not as long as these big Wall Street firms, but after working hand in hand with our external consultants and our board and our staff, and really saying that this is where we want to be invested, we have now moved our money into this investment. We're getting a return on our investment financially, but it's like a quadruple bottom line. We're supporting a woman-owned firm, she's mission aligned, impact aligned, and community aligned. And that's where I think we need to go. We need to create these models that can be replicated. 

And when you talk about the macro and the micro, every one of us is attached to money somehow, whether it's your 401k, the endowment of the school you go to, even the money you shop with. I have had to push, to say look at these other types of investments where we get the same amount of return, but look what we're doing in the community. Every one of us can be responsible and start to do that and push the people around us that control our money. 

Kim Coupounas: Totally. And thank you Val, for another powerful metaphor. It's just so easy to wrap your head around the invitation to a party. Love it. Thank you. I think 

I would love to pass it to you, Rodney to, to share what you know is working, what we can all tune into. 

Rodney Foxworth: Yeah. Thanks again, Val, for teeing this up for me. I just want to emphasize everything that Val pointed out. 

I go back to the point of power control. I see comments from Astrid Scholz in the chat–

the one solution is shifting who is able to actually allocate capital.

Right? That's really important. Get different outcomes, get better outcomes, to Val's point, in a whole range of different things. So that's one solution, right? I think about, you know, think about some of the work that Daryn Dodson has done recognizing all the biases that are implicit and explicit, at least from our perspective, within the private equities business. And how there are punitive actions that are certainly unintentional as it relates to people of color fund managers, diverse fund managers. Right. But there are actually many opportunities for these types of institutions, Val representing one of them, to invest that type of way.

And then you have the type of opportunities where I think we have to really consider about, again, the broader question of ownership, particularly around communities. And so, we have a range of things that we see in the Common Future network–things that many people are familiar with, whether it's worker ownership or things like Community Investment Trusts that at least give communities the chance to maintain what is theirs so that there's not a community getting investment and folks are dislocated. We're seeing this all the time. We certainly see it here in Oakland and the Bay area. Alfa is very familiar with this where she is. 

But what if we actually were able to have more and more of these sort of Community Investment Trusts, to have more and more opportunities in worker ownership that will really shift the ownership piece. Those are models that have existed for quite some time that I believe that institutions and individual investors can consider.

The other piece of it for us, for Common Future, is we work actively to help facilitate new models. I hesitate to even say new because we're really borrowing from things that have already existed and just having it become mainstream. And so I think the other thing about this technology is that when we talk about solutions, one of the things I've understood is that people want simplicity. They want ease. And when we're talking about actually transforming this economy, we actually have to change our expectations. This is very hard and challenging work, right? The work that Alfa and our colleagues are doing at Rising Tide, that type of work typically–if it's funded– is underfunded. But it's so essential to actually being able to build out these transformative economies. 

So I raise that point because when we ask the question about solutions–that in and of itself really kind of limits some of our imagination–because I believe that oftentimes institutions and individuals are looking for the simplest way to make a change happen, but not necessarily the most transformative way.

And so the expectation that we have to have, we think about some of these things, about Community Investment Trusts. When you think about some of the things that we're working on at Common Future to really be able to allocate both capital and power to institutions within our network so that they actually have the power to determine where capital goes. That's time intensive work. It's incredibly challenging and worth it. It's a beautiful struggle as I described it. And so I just want to reframe also about the expectations that we need to have.

So in our role at Common Future, when we're invested, we're working on something now where we're investing but we're also collaborating with the folks in our network to support them so they can deliver on what their ambitions are and what their visions for things are. That's very different from the typical mainstream approach to how capital moves and how power is activated. 

And so I just want to point out that we have to really reframe our expectations and really require more institutions and investment support organizations like Rising Tide, like the ones in the Common Future network.

Kim Coupounas: Love it. And that, that it gets to the notion that Val talked about in terms of belonging. One point I thought was really powerful was the power of the consumer to really make a difference here in how they spend their dollars, where they put their money in their retirement funds and how they pressure their institutions around their endowment investments and how we shop. What kinds of companies are we buying from every day?

Love to turn it over to you, Alfa to round us out. 

Alfa Demmellash: Yes. Thank you. And perfect segue. And thanks Rodney for lifting up the work of the Common Future network as well. When we are solutioning, I think it's very important–to Val's point–for us to know whether we're replacing the table or we're creating a new game.

And I would say, with remarkable urgency and clarity, we know we need to create a new game. So if we're replacing the tables, we're likely not going to make it as a species, just given the timelines. We have data, we use data for decision making and how we allocate capital and what businesses we create, what products we shape, what non-profits we partner with. That same data is telling us where on a timeline that requires us to have both the level of transformative impact and imagination as well as the timeliness.

And that's, that's just the constraints of this creative environment that we're in. And that can be paralyzing. We know we are in our bodies. We are humans in communities of humans. And the fight, flight, freeze response, and the fact that this pandemic has now given us, what one of my colleagues calls, an anticipatory loss journey from trauma work.

And so we're, all of us in our own respective traumas–using Val’s metaphor–looking at this table that is broken. Maybe we've tried to rejigger it and fix it. And there's a lot of paralysis on the periphery. Who gets to fix it? Who should be touching the table? Who should just raise their hand and say, oh my, I think we have to just create a new game? By the time we're done trying to figure out the table we may be in a ditch that we can't get out of. Or underwater as our climate experts tell us. Or we can look at the data and say, you know, there's some great information that we can follow from the institutions out there tracking this from even the mainstream institutions, the McKinseys, the Brookings. And, you know, you look at the data around automation and artificial intelligence and predictive data analytics. And you say, what is the impact of that in every fiber of our community, especially when those that could migrate onto digital platforms, like the ones we're using today to communicate is miraculous–and I'm so grateful that we're able to communicate–also has then created a very data, rich environment, more so than we ever thought was possible. 

All that data is living and being certainly monetized and, and utilized for a variety of different reasons within the broader economy. But the fact is that it has implications.
It has implications in what we create and how we should create it and who gets to create it. So I raise these up because it's very critical that we be on the same page, more than ever what we're up to and what our solutioning is, because if we're creating a new game, then our imagination and what we're using to create that new game, it looks very different than if we're trying to fix the table.

Now people like Bill Gates have shown up to say, hey if we're going to meet the climate challenge, I think Bill Gates talked about this in his latest book, we're going to need to reimagine the entirety of every single thing that we produce and use in our economy: globally, locally, and every, in every respect. Where the concrete comes from, where the burger comes from, every single thing has to be reimagined so that all of us, not just people of color, but every single human does not fall into the kind of desperate, migratory, fear-based worst nightmare scenario. 

But we are the generation. This is the generation and this pandemic in many ways, on the flip side of the grieving and the crisis, may have given us the opportunity to really look at what the challenges and what other smart people, including the Bill Gates of the world are saying. Not only do we have to do that reimagining work but we can do it. We have literally, as a species done unimaginable things and so we can do it. So that means the term sheets will have to change. That means, it's not just that I agree with Val and Rodney, that it matters whose hands the capital is in and who controls it. 

And I will give you a very concrete example. In April I got a phone call from Rodney. to say, I have some capital that I've aggregated and I know you're doing important work, and I want to make sure I get it into your hands as soon as possible. Our conversation lasted three minutes and a transfer of substantial funds had been made to my organization. I did not have to sit down to write any kind of a grant.

I've been running this organization for 17 years. We do impact measurement up the wazoo. But also at some point those who are controlling capital need to make a decision based on the timelines, and the game that we have, and how long we have to play it, and what effective strategies look like to say we're going to have to allocate capital so fast, so fast. It needs to be more like what Rodney did. If you're going to spend six months having somebody write and rewrite their plans from here to eternity, we will not make it. All of us. 

So the speed was which in the same way, now that we have sophisticated algorithms that could do global trading, we in the social sector and those philanthropists, those who like Val have control over resources, need to make a decision and make speed of investment, a key criteria for arriving at the destination we need to get to. It's a pretty documented period of time so it's not a mystery. But, and so that is the thing that I would want to kind of share, speedy investment into pre-vetted organizations and those who are just starting out, but for whom you've set your criteria to say they're critical. They're the essential workers, they're essential businesses.

There are sectors like the childcare sector, 94% of all childcare in the U.S. is provided by women and people of color. These are tiny businesses, they're doing it in their homes. They're doing it at centers. They're regulated up the wazoo, for many of them operationally, so that forces them to go underground. It creates an informal economy. Whereas we just need to recognize, we as a population have children and therefore we need to shore up the 94% of women and people of color who care for these children in ways that are that are not only accessible, but that enables their ability to sustain our children, literally, so that we can get on with the work of repairing and re-imagining an entire economic system on a global level.

That level of clarity, I think that has become very evident. The things we need to do and the speed with which we need to do them are evident. The rules that we use to assess risk, that level of documentation that we use, the criteria we use for who we hire, all need to shift based on a calculus of the overall picture of risk that we're facing.

And then lastly, Kim to your point around our purchasing power. Each of us who've been quarantined, essentially, almost. I mean, I hate to use incarceration as a term for it, but for many of us were quarantined in our homes and we're using our computers to work–for those of us who are in the knowledge economy–we still get paid the same thing, but we're not using a lot of the things like Uber, et cetera.
And so on. So all of those savings let's use them, not just to say, Oh, wow, this is a great savings. And you know, it goes to my 401k, but maybe this is an opportunity to do a reset on values and say, I'm going to make sure that if you run a company, how about contract with a local cleaning company to make sure that all of your employees' homes are cleaned.

You may not need it for a commercial cleaning purposes, but there may be other opportunities to make sure that essential services are being purchased by locals and are creating the kind of economy that allows us to have a micro-grid of sustainability and stability to be able to do the big reimagining work and coordination work we need to do ASAP.

Kim Coupounas: Alfa–so fantastic. And thank you for having a positive spin on humanity's capacity to actually lean into this need, to identify the solutions that are working and replicate them as fast as possible. And that it takes all of us. 

You know, there are models that are working out there. So many examples from Val, from Rodney, from Alfa. Tune into those, see what you can do to amplify and accelerate them. 

From my part, for B Lab’s part, B corps are working. If you're not buying from B Corp's, they're amazing companies, they have embedded stakeholder interests legally into their legal DNA. And one of the things that the aspects of systems change that B lab and the B Corp movement seeks is to modify the legal structure of the corporation to enable business leaders, to take into consideration a broader set of stakeholders than just its shareholders. So we're wrapping up here and you've heard amazing things. 

I want to wrap by asking each of our panelists to close out with a pointed, no-holds-barred, spicy call to action for every single person who's on this webinar. If you do nothing else differently after this webinar do this. So I'm going to pass it over to start us off to you, Rodney. 

Rodney Foxworth: I don't think it's going to be spicy considering what I've said already, but everything Alfa said is exactly right. And 

I want to get really pointed to anyone who is an investor or funder in this conversation is listening. We were talking about the framing of risk. Let's reframe risk. Because the greatest risk is inaction–our collective risk, not just from a financial perspective.

One of the things that enabled us to move so quickly with Alfa and others was because there was trust. We understood them and we just made the decision. And so I think there's this speed. We have to reframe what risk is. We have to acknowledge all these things we call biases and really call them for what they are in stronger language. And I think that is something I would just call on everyone, and I'm talking especially to the investors and funders. There are so many opportunities and if you don't know the opportunities, there has been growth of other institutions that actually do. And so do the homework, understand and connect with those organizations and they can steward you through the process if necessary. 
Kim Coupounas: Right on. Thank you, Rodney. Alfa? 

Alfa Demmellash: I would say that the belonging framework is a really important one. Everybody belongs. So if you're standing on the sidelines watching the broken wheel and you know a new game needs to be created–get in and create it. 

And that may mean allocating your capital to trusted organizations or businesses making hires for people who don't have college degrees. If you're in rooms that very few people get access to those kinds of rooms, being willing to step up to ask the questions about the impact of this on local employment, the impact of any kind of an investment decision on local ownership and what it means to create resilience.

So I would say the last thing is we need to create infrastructure, social infrastructure for that trust building. So we can't do enough of that at the moment because we're talking about transforming our entire economy and culture. And then let's not forget about policy. So you know, chase out the cynicism, we got to get in there and know that it's gonna require our public policy side to play with the private sector and capital allocators to make it happen.

Kim Coupounas: Totally. With fierce voice, absolutely. Val, bring us home. 

Valerie Red-Horse Mohl: Yeah, I'm going to have to build on what Alfa just said. I'm going to have two calls to action here. I'm involved, along with many of you, with American Sustainable Business Council ASBC. And we're very active in trying to advocate and change policy. If we're creating a new game, we can't do it without policy. 

And so be aware, be involved, really push your legislators. Just a quick example. I found out at East Bay that while we were advocating for a local proposition in Oakland and the surrounding communities, one of the positions we were invested in in our portfolio out of New York, that fund was actively blocking us by donating money to a PAC that was in opposition of our own local props. So transparency– demand transparency. See what's going on. Sometimes we have no idea what we're supporting with our dollars, either in our 401k or our shopping dollars. 

And finally, I want to really challenge anyone who's involved with the philanthropic sector–when we talk about shifting capital and redefining risk and getting money into the hands of diverse fund managers and women fund managers so it gets into the community that is defined, unfortunately, as a risky move. Pension funds are not going to be the first ones to leave and rightly so. We can take that chance. And I don't even believe it's a chance. But we can create the model and we can show that it's a proven model where you're going to make more return and also impact and community support.

So if you are with a foundation, especially a community foundation, if you're with an endowment, if you work in the philanthropic sector, push, push, push to have us all create the new models that create the new game. And I just want to say the chat is amazing. This, this audience is incredible. So I'd love to stay in touch. You can reach me at East Bay Community Foundation or on LinkedIn, but love this group. It's amazing. 

Kim Coupounas: Yes and hopefully we'll get a copy of the chat as well. There are some fantastic ideas in there. Thank you. This has been so powerful friends, the gravity and the scope and the scale of the crisis we are facing demand, as Alfa pointed out so well, the very best that we can muster–all of us–fast in terms of innovation, replicating scalable solutions. And I'm so grateful that we have amazing leaders like Rodney, Val, and Alfa leading the way with our young people standing up and demanding better. And with so many of us working on the systemic renovation of this brokenness, this economic system. 

I have hope I hope you do too. Let's each do our part and make sure our capital flows and societal structures are lining up to support the kinds of communities and businesses that will lead us to the inclusive future that we all hope for. Thank you so much for the amazing speakers today. Thank you for your wisdom and thanks for all you're doing to make so much for being to make the world better. And thanks all of you for being a part of this conversation.

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