Every generation lives on the cusp of major social transformations. Ours is witnessing revolutionary changes in the role of capital in society, with trillions of dollars migrating toward positive social and environmental purposes. It would be a tragedy to let this moment pass without attempting to maximize its potential as conscious consumers of impact investment. In my new book “Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change,” I offer a framework that I hope will inspire and guide us to real, world-changing impact.
Social change is a process in which people — perfectly imperfect as we are — work together to create better outcomes. Though our efforts often fall short, we are still responsible for doing the best we can. Real Impact is my attempt to do my part by providing a roadmap for people who are interested in engaging in the practice of impact investment with integrity and accountability— and in a way that really solves problems for the long term.
I have spent the past 15 years working at the intersection of finance and social justice, building four leading organizations in the field. These experiences have given me a unique perspective on the practice of impact investment — but I by no means claim to have all the answers. The approach we take at Transform Finance, the organization I cofounded to build a bridge between social justice and impact investment, is to focus predominantly on making sure the industry asks the right questions, knowing that it will take a broad community and the lessons of experience over time to answer these questions effectively.
So, what will it take to make impact investment truly transformative? One of our greatest resources is our own intellectual capital. On the one hand, we have frontline communities and activists who share a deep understanding of the costs of doing business as usual and a vision of what social and environmental harmony might look like. On the other, we have experienced practitioners in the investment community who know how to bring together large amounts of capital and effectively leverage it toward a goal.
If we put these two forces together and develop new structures to ensure that they share power equitably, we will have a much better chance of building an economy that is generative and just.