Get smarter about impact investing by joining us for a series of conversations with changemakers from all walks of life who are using for-profit principles in surprising and creative ways to drive social and environmental impact.
Continue the conversation with us by signing up at davidoleary.ca/community and joining live conversations on 👋Clubhouse (@davidPoleary).
25 - Leveraging employee ownership to fight wealth inequality
Welcome to episode 25 of the Impact Investing Podcast.
The richest 26 people on earth own as much wealth as the poorest 3.8 billion. The wealthiest 10% control 84% of the world’s wealth. Meanwhile, 4.8 billion people fight for just 2% of the world’s wealth. Reducing wealth inequality is possibly the biggest moral imperative of our time. It also happens to be one of the largest threats to global peace and geopolitical stability.
My guest today is Jon Shell, Managing Director of Social Capital Partners (SCP). Social Capital Partners looks to bring market-based approaches to solving complex systemic social problems like wealth inequality. The organization has tackled a variety of problems through different approaches over the years. What stands out about Social Capital Partners is its commitment to impact. The organization has made numerous radical pivots in its approach over the years, as its staff experiment, test, and learn. For a full rundown of the organization’s fascinating history, listen to episode #01 of the podcast where I chat with SCP’s founder, Bill Young.
In this episode, Jon and I discuss the organization’s latest pivot and the publication of its newest public policy discussion paper titled: Building an employee ownership economy. During our chat, we dive into the importance of employee ownership as a channel for distributing wealth more equitably, the necessary conditions for employee ownership to thrive, and the differences between the Canadian and US environments. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end when we discuss the types of organizations that are well suited to utilizing the employee ownership trust.
Resources mentioned during the podcast
Jon Shell’s blog post explaining SCP’s latest pivot.
SCP’s employee ownership webpage.
SCP’s employee ownership discussion paper / one-page summary.
Jon Shell’s Twitter and LinkedIn.
24 - The Purpose of Capital with Jed Emerson
Given the capitalistic societies most of us live in, we spend an inordinate amount of time focused on accumulating, growing, and deploying capital. You could fill a library with all the books dedicated to the what and how of capital. Yet, we devote shockingly little time to considering the why of capital. Much in the same way Simon Sinek asks all businesses to “start with why”, Jed Emerson would like us purveyors of capital to start with why.
In other words, we would be well served to stop and ask ourselves, what is the purpose of capital? With me today to tackle this question is Jed Emerson, one of the impact investment industry’s elder statesmen who literally wrote the book on this topic. In addition to his writing, Jed currently focuses on working with families exploring how to ensure a long-term legacy by managing their full net worth for impact. He also advises investment firms on the implications of an impact investing framework for their practice. He is an internationally recognized Thought Leader in impact investing, social entrepreneurship, and strategic philanthropy.
During the episode, Jed and I discuss his journey through the industry from his early days as a social worker to his current work as a writer and adviser. We also dig into the major themes in his book, The Purpose of Capital including the role of spirituality in impact investing, the role of Western dualism and our separation of self and other, and how Jed’s views have evolved over the years. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we talk about what Jed believes we’re getting wrong when it comes to impact measurement and management along with his outlook for the future of our industry.
You can learn more about Jed by visiting his website or following him on Twitter.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
The Purpose of Capital homepage
The Purpose of Capital FREE E-Book
The Purpose of Capital teaching notes
The Purpose of Capital Guidebook
The Purpose of Capital Music Video: What If?
23 - Breaking the shareholder primacy paradigm with alterantive ownership models
Welcome to episode 23 of the Impact Investing Podcast.
The idea of discussing ownership and legal structuring of businesses may not sound super exciting at first blush. However, it’s a vitally important topic, especially for impact businesses. The issue founders must contend with is, how do they protect the purpose/values of their business as it grows and brings on new staff, clients, suppliers, and most importantly, investors? Investors are particularly problematic given the prevalence of the shareholder-primacy paradigm which dictates that company executives seek to maximize shareholder value above all else. How do we avoid the pitfalls of Capitalism’s relentless pressure for profit growth from distracting us from our core purpose?
That’s what today’s guest is here to explore with us today. Natalie Reitman-White is Ownership & Governance Design Advisor with Alternative Ownership Advisors. Natalie’s firm is a Stewardship Ownership consultancy that works with impact businesses to think about alternative legal structures that can embed a company’s purpose into its organization structure, governance, and financing.
During the episode, Natalie and I discuss the origins of Alternative Ownership Advisors and how it got its start when Natalie was running an organic food producer and had difficulty finding answers to her questions in pursuit of a more suitable legal structure. We then dive into the details of how Alternative Ownership Advisors helps business owners. We dive into the details of various legal structures, examples of businesses that have utilized them, and discuss how these models solved the challenges of protecting their purpose and values. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we talk about the types of businesses that are best-suited for considering an alternative ownership model like a perpetual ownership trust.
You can learn more about Alternative Ownership Advisors by visiting its website or its LinkedIn page. Also mentioned during the show were Natalie’s original sustainable food business Organically Grown and the website The Purpose Economy.
22 - Empowering indigenous innovators & communities
If there is a lesson to be learned for investors wishing to solve real social challenges, it’s that we need to do less talking and more listening. We need to make space for not only a diverse range of views and perspectives but particularly for those with lived experience. Perhaps nowhere is the need for listening and learning more pronounced than when it comes to tackling reconciliation and challenges faced by Indigenous communities.
The vast majority of investment capital is held by those with very little understanding and appreciation for Indigenous ways of knowing and being. And this is problematic because those differences have a profound impact on not only how to solve the challenges Indigenous communities face but, more profoundly, what “improvement” actually looks like. In other words, we can’t be true allies of any group of people if we don’t understand their challenges and desired outcomes.
That’s why putting capital in the hands of those who have been excluded from economic prosperity is so important and why the work that today’s guest today does is so important. Sara Wolfe is Director of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative with Grand Challenges Canada and her work is to provide both financial and non-financial support to drive innovation and social impact that is led by and/or created by Indigenous peoples.
In this episode, Sara and I discuss the broader mandate of Grand Challenges Canada, the birth of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative, the challenges Indigenous communities face, and the forms of financial support they provide to Indigenous entrepreneurs. We also discuss Sara’s fascinating journey that led her to where she is today, including her time spent working as a midwife. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we talk about the critical importance of the various forms of non-financial support she and her team provide.
You can learn more about Grand Challenges Canada and the Indigenous Innovation Initiative by visiting their websites.
You can follow Grand Challenges Canada on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You can follow Sara on LinkedIn.
21 - Harnessing the vast untapped potential of newcomers to Canada
Newcomers to even the most welcoming countries, face significant challenges. From language and cultural barriers to finding affordable housing, all the way to the mental health challenges of being alone in a strange new place. And supporting newcomers during this difficult transition is not only a moral imperative but makes compelling economic sense. The better and more quickly newcomers adjust to their new home, the happier, healthier, and more productive citizens they will be.
And while some of these barriers are difficult to solve, some are not. Nowhere is this more evident than the employment barriers faced by highly trained and educated newcomers. Who among us hasn’t been in a cab or an Uber driven by someone who was an engineer or other high-income earning professional back home. This can happen for a variety of reasons but one is that many newcomers cannot afford the necessary certifications/licensing necessary to find employment in their field of expertise.
My guest today is Claudia Hepburn, CEO of Windmill Microlending (formerly known as the Immigrant Access Fund). Windmill is a registered charity that provides loans of up to $15,000 to over 1000 newcomers to Canada each year who are unable to afford the licensing or certifications necessary to find employment in their field of expertise.
In this episode, Claudia and I discuss the challenges that newcomers to Canada face, the types of places and industries newcomers come from and work in, and how the organization’s efforts lead Windmill clients to see, on average, a tripling of their income and a 97% repayment rate. And be sure to stay tuned to the very end where we discuss how the organization utilizes both charitable dollars and impact investment capital to fund all of its amazing work.
You can learn more about Windmill Microlending by visiting its website or by visiting its impact dashboard. You can learn about how to either donate or invest with Windmill by clicking here.
You can follow Windmill on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You can follow Claudia on Twitter.
20 - How the Equality Fund is using Impact Investing to Fuel Feminist Futures
Most people don’t automatically look to the public sector for the latest and greatest innovations. However, when it comes to the world of social finance, the public sector is, in many ways, leading the private sector. In our last episode, we explored the world of blended finance – where governments are finding innovative ways to use public funds to drive private sector capital into projects that achieve impact. Another prominent example will be discussed in today’s episode.
Today’s guests Beth Woroniuk, Policy Lead, and Bonnie Foley-Wong, Head of Investment Strategy at the Equality Fund join us to discuss the work they are doing to support grassroots women’s movements in the Global South to advance gender equality. What’s particularly interesting about the Equality Fund’s work is both the manner in which it is tackling Gender Equality but also its genesis. The Equality Fund was seeded in 2019 by a $300 million contribution from Global Affairs Canada, in a first of its kind initiative to stand up a new type of entity that could use the government contribution to achieve not only financial sustainability but also catalyze an even larger commitment of private sector investment capital and philanthropic capital.
During this episode, Beth, Bonnie, and I discuss the origin story of the Equality Fund, the problems it was conceived to solve, its granting versus investment efforts, and the unique governance structure needed to organize its audacious approach. We also discuss the organization’s fundraising strategy and how it plans to crowd in private sector investment capital. And be sure to stay tuned to the end where we discuss the practical challenges of actually deploying $300 million of capital quickly.
You can learn more about the Equality Fund at its website and you can donate to support their work by clicking here. You can also follow the organization on Twitter.
You can connect with Beth on Twitter and Bonnie on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Customer ReviewsSee All
(Pub somewhat intended) thanks for the really insightful interviews and topics. The interviewer and interviewees are experts in the field but always manage to make impact investing digestible even to non-finance wonks. Please continue to elicit each expert and organization’s origin story. Very helpful for folks like me who are redesigning our careers to join this important and fascinating sector/movement.
I love all of the discussions on advancing impact investing’s role in reimagining societal and individual well-being! Thank you for the great guests