Right now I’m hopeful: more people are getting vaccinated every day, gender and racial equity remains top of mind for all even though a year has passed since the murder of George Floyd, and more money is moving into making a positive social and environmental impact. After getting my start in impact investing in the 1990s with Prudential Financial headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, I’m particularly excited to see other corporations join the party. Many investors are requesting “education to action” engagements, which is also a change from just a few years ago. And social entrepreneurs like Kate Mortenson of iPondr, the gener8tor team, and Dr. Paul Johnson of Brown Venture Group, the heart of why we do the work we do, well, they continue to inspire me with their tenacity and brilliance.
As we emerge cautiously from our pandemic caves, it’s wonderful to be out with humans again, at least a little bit. Then again Zoom is part of our workplace culture now and I’m grateful for the technology, as is our Cogent principal, Terri Barreiro, who I enjoy seeing weekly at Impact Hub MSP, which she co-founded with Katie Kalkman. Lately, I have had the good fortune to be spending time with talented Black entrepreneurs and they give me a lot of hope for our communities: people like Ian Alexander, Anisha Murphy, and Karine Blanc. You’ll note that many of the people leading this work are women and in honor of Women’s History Month, I also want to give a shout to someone I’ve admired for years: the late great Madeline Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.
It’s got me thinking about the suspicion many in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have regarding the for-profit sector. Skepticism and pointed questions are good but it is possible that the for-profit sector will develop sustainable, scalable solutions to our pressing challenges: racial justice, gender equality, climate change, economic opportunity for all, to name a few. My advice--look beyond someone’s tax status and focus on the work they’re doing. If you’re not sure of a for-profit entrepreneur’s motives, see if they are a Public Benefit Corporation, like Cogent and/or B-Lab certified like one of my favorites: Binary Bridge founded by Lori Most, bringing mobile health technology to places around the world.