This blog is part of a series stemming from the Racial Equity Investing Collaborative’s Leadership Summit, which was co-organized by six investor networks in May 2023: American Sustainable Business Network, Confluence Philanthropy, The ImPact, Impact Capital Managers, Intentional Endowments Network, and Toniic.
At the Racial Equity Investing Summit, Toniic led a session about putting racial equity investing into action. Three co-leaders of Toniic’s Gender and Racial Equity Working Group – Amy Brakeman, regenerative investor, Catherine Burnett, Chief Impact Officer, Phillips Foundation, and Smitha Das, Director of Mission and Impact Investing, World Education Services (WES) – shared how this looks in practice and facilitated an interactive exercise to elicit additional perspectives on racial equity investing from the deeply experienced audience.
Through our discussion, we identified that racial equity investing has traditionally focused on who we invest in and what we invest in. However, to truly create systems change and drive greater impact, we must also shift how we invest. Following are three actions we highlighted in our panel that you can incorporate into your investing practice to rethink “the how”:
1) Redesign the Due Diligence Process
Investing to shift systems towards racial equity requires us to identify and address bias first from ourselves and then from our organization, and ultimately the systems that constrain societal progress. All three of us are actively on our own personal development journeys, and our organizations use the Due Diligence 2.0 and Racial Justice Investing frameworks to address inequities in the investment process. Our organizations use these tools to underwrite and, as a result, we draw from a larger, more diverse pool of qualified potential investees, particularly early-stage founders and emerging fund managers. Additionally, we collaborate closely with investees to ensure our partnership is generative and creates benefit for the full ecosystem of stakeholders impacted.
2) Demonstrate Trust-Based Investing
Trust-based investing is an investment philosophy and approach that reimagines the relationships between investors, investee partners, and communities to rebalance power. At the summit, Smitha shared how WES is demonstrating a trust-based approach and previewed a participatory investing toolkit WES launched with Common Future on May 31st. The toolkit is an interactive website designed to spark conversations, ideas, and actions for those looking to rethink who is at the table and how decisions are made.
3) Diversify Who Allocates Capital and Who Benefits
Ultimately, investing is a people business. We must change the face of finance – both who allocates capital and who receives capital. At the Summit, we shared how we are facilitating capital to BIPOC fund managers and founders and broadening access to asset ownership and governance. We are particularly interested in building inclusive, intergenerational wealth by investing in shared ownership models, such as employee ownership. For example, Amy is working in partnership with several other asset owners to launch a Shared Ownership/Shifting Power pooled fund that will have an inclusive decision-making body.
Call to Action
Incorporating a racial equity lens into investing is critical to address root causes of inequity and to identify overlooked opportunities. Let us rethink “the how” and deploy capital effectively and rapidly to those who need it. Together we must center a racial equity lens in our investments to meaningfully achieve systems change.
Amy Brakeman, Regenerative Investor
Catherine Burnett, Chief Impact Officer, Phillips Foundation
Smitha Das, Director, Mission and Impact Investing, WES
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