“You mourn the before but you are astonished by the resilient after.”
– Deborah Cullinan, CEO, YBCA
Our interconnectedness is more apparent than ever. This year will lay the foundation for a new decade in impact investing and inclusive economic growth. Our current global health crisis underscores the need for business to play a positive role in society and create innovative market-based solutions. Impact investors can and should lead the way in the movement toward an inclusive and sustainable economy. Real structural change is required. Rethinking and reframing is a must and demands bold and courageous narrative change as well as expanding and strengthening cross-sector partnerships. How will the SOCAP community–and beyond–move forward with increased urgency, flexibility, and vulnerability to harness the human spirit of resilience, hope, and adaptation in the name of real, equitable change?
With this backdrop, SOCAP Virtual presents themes for 2020. This can never be an exhaustive list, and it is not yet final. We want to hear from the community about what is top of mind for you. What conversations must be had this year to deepen our commitment to building a just and inclusive economy? These themes range from the meta-level to the specific. Often they overlap and intertwine. Submit your ideas for sessions, topics, and content on the SOCAP Open platform.
This global pandemic is creating a compound effect on our most vulnerable people and communities revealing the systemic inequities underneath. There is an imperative need for radical change. We need a comprehensive system-wide conversation. Getting out of our comfort zones is a requirement. The moment is now to create real structural transitions and scalable solutions. How do we seize this moment to take swift, courageous, and vulnerable action to shift toward an economy based on inclusion and equity? What specific actions, behaviors, and mechanisms are needed to create sustainable social and economic systems in the future? How are we harnessing the power and innovation of the capital markets, ensuring companies adopt a total stakeholder approach, and build the generation of impact enterprises to create an entirely new marketplace? What does it look like- and how- do we individually and collectively rigorously engage in building new belief systems, foster greater collaboration, and the narrative underneath?
This overarching theme for SOCAP Virtual can be used as a lens and to create specific, targeted conversations and the necessary imperative action.
Impact investors have a crucial role to play in leading our economic recovery and laying the foundation for a resilient, just, and inclusive future impact economy. How can impact investors help increase and accelerate investments in social impact globally? What needs to be built, re-structured and supported to ensure investing for impact becomes the new normal?
“Climate change is a wicked collective action problem.” -Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day
A global public health emergency has revealed that collective action is possible. How can this reshape what is possible on climate change? Investment needs to be made in solutions that create jobs and growth while reducing emissions. How do we allow more capital to flow to climate solutions? What are the investment opportunities and how are they funded from technology to energy, transportation to infrastructure, sustainable agriculture, food waste, and packaging to everything in between? What investment is crucial to create large-scale change and adoption while ensuring benefits reach the most vulnerable across the globe?
Coronavirus is ravaging health care systems around the world resulting in innovative solutions and workarounds. Makers and companies are pivoting to address gaps in health care products and production. The pandemic has made abundantly clear the need to invest both locally and globally to update medical and health care systems and improve public health. A much-needed debate on what is considered health and healthy is taking shape. What does holistic health look like post-pandemic? From mental health to physical health to access to nature and healthy food and water, how might we look at all of the social determinants of health in new and interconnected ways? What new investment strategies are needed? What should be discontinued to make room for new financial vehicles and models?
Future of Work
The nature of work is changing dramatically. Record unemployment globally will require a new approach to jobs, technologies, education and skills. Impact investors and mission-driven companies can play a significant role in shaping the future of work. How do we ensure that workers, particularly the most vulnerable, have access to re-tool, and learn new skills? What models, partnerships, and strategies do investors and companies need to seed, support, and scale? How might we apply equity to organizational design? How can we ensure that solutions will equitably solve the opportunity gap and workforce challenges of today and those of the future?
Next Gen Leadership
From Millennials to Gen Z we are seeing next generation investors step into investing looking not only at financial return but also social, environmental, and cultural returns. These next gen leaders want to find meaning and purpose in the work they do, companies they support, and investments they make. How are we equipping this new set of leaders at this time of significant change in the global economy and wealth transfer? What other cohorts need to join in the Next Gen conversation, such as formerly incarcerated individuals, individuals with disabilities, and Veterans to bring all voices into designing market-based solutions to global challenges?
Education for All
Education is an acute issue being exposed by COVID-19. As schools, parents, and communities struggle to provide online education and resources, the need for re-imaging how we educate is clear. More learning is happening outside of the traditional institutional system. Innovative delivery methods that combine online and classroom education are rising. How do we ensure that everyone has access to quality education from pre-kinder to life long learning? Solutions are needed to assist learners of all abilities. How are opportunity gaps, particularly for women and girls, addressed globally? What new approaches, models, and types of financing are required to enable and sustain these efforts?
In times of hardship, resilience allows individuals and communities to cope, push through adversity, and rebuild. What needs to be built today to allow the impact economy to not just survive but prosper? What skills, tools, knowledge, ideas, and perspectives are needed for the impact investing field itself to become more resilient? What practices exist or need to be built in this community to cultivate trust and collaboration? What examples and methods can be highlighted to lay the groundwork for a growth mindset of resilience?
An inclusive economy ensures that everyone is part of the system and vital to overall success. Inclusive investing and inclusive companies create cultures where everyone has the opportunity to do their best no matter who they are, what they do, or where they are from. Women, people of color, immigrant-led businesses continue to be underfunded and overlooked by the financial industry. What practices and products need to change for economic inclusion and better community outcomes? How can the impact investing community lead the way?
Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy
Artists and culture makers are at the forefront of every movement. Artists are uniquely equipped to appreciate and illuminate existing but often underestimated community assets that contribute to health and wellbeing, particularly in historically marginalized communities. There is growing evidence that art, creativity, and culture have measurable impacts on individual and community health.
How can the impact economy tap artists, makers and the creative sector to ensure equity and foster economic empowerment? How might investors rethink their role, working with artists, to create the conditions for new economic models, investments, and market-based solutions that drive social, environmental, and cultural impact and innovation?
What does true racial justice look like? Under-resourced communities are those most in need right now, and even in “normal” times are less likely to attract investment capital. Shifting and sharing power dynamics need to become a critical piece of the process to ensure more capital is placed in under-resourced communities. What are the gaps, mechanisms, and investment opportunities to accelerate the placement of more capital with founders and leaders of color, particularly women-led enterprises? How do investors ensure they are funding a diverse set of entrepreneurs and leaders to build an inclusive economy for all?
As the largest global convening of the social capital markets, SOCAP will continue to feature conversations that focus on the why and the how of Impact Investing – the state of the field, new product innovation, infrastructure, and service providers, impact measurement and evaluation – as well as conversations that elevate Meaning inside and outside of markets. By integrating our beliefs, communities, and families into conversations about business and value we build a solid foundation for a more equitable future.
There are many other emerging topics at the intersection of money and meaning that may develop into multiple sessions, a mini-track, or a full theme. We will be adding themes over the next few months as the final SOCAP Open submissions come in.