Activating Capital for Justice with Debra Schwartz


Content: Video Webinar Presentation with Q&A

Length: 1:14:09

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In a recent blog postDebra Schwartz, Managing Director of Impact Investments at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, asserts that “at their best, impact investments deliver capital that aims for justice. They help build and fuel responsive, mission-driven institutions that meet essential needs. They enable innovation and rapid action to tackle urgent problems and seize opportunities for social, economic and environmental progress. They bridge financial and market gaps to empower families, entrepreneurs and communities that mainstream financial institutions and firms too often marginalize or leave behind.”

In this special fireside chat and audience Q&A, Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker welcomes Debra Schwartz to discuss MacArthur’s work in building the field of impact investing and activating capital for justice. We discuss, among other topics:

  • How conventional finance has fallen short for communities, families and critical needs – historically and today

  • The urgent need to transform our existing system of finance and investment to become purposefully inclusive, innovative and catalytic, actively advancing economic, social, and environmental change by being more flexible, patient and risk-tolerant

  • How U.S. community development finance institutions (CDFIs) trace their roots to civil rights and social justice movements of 50+ years ago and pioneering impact investors seeking to fight inequality and injustice

  • Recent MacArthur investments and ongoing collaborative initiatives that seek to build a more just, equitable and resilient future, locally, nationally and globally — including the Catalytic Capital Consortium and Benefit Chicago.


Debra Schwartz

Debra Schwartz

Debra Schwartz is Managing Director for Impact Investments at the MacArthur Foundation. Dedicated to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world, MacArthur has allocated up to $500 million for impact investments that advance its mission by fueling innovation, growth and inclusion. Since 2001, Debra and her team have invested in more than 200 funds and enterprises working in the US and globally across diverse fields, including affordable housing, community development, and clean energy.

Prior to joining MacArthur in 1995, Schwartz was an investment banker in public finance at John Nuveen & Co and CFO for a nonprofit child welfare agency. She has been a guest lecturer at Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Duke and other schools and was an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago for several years.

Schwartz currently serves on the board of directors for the Mission Investors Exchange and the International Women’s Forum - Chicago Chapter. She is a former trustee of the Yale Club of Chicago Scholarship Foundation and a past presidential appointee to the US Treasury Department Community Development Advisory Board. Schwartz has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a BA from Yale College, summa cum laude.

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker

Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, PBC, an impact economy business that hosts the Impact Entrepreneur Network — a large, global network of “systems-minded” entrepreneurs, investors, and scholars of social and environmental innovation — and editor and publisher of Impact Entrepreneur, a digital magazine covering the emerging Impact Economy. For over 30 years, Laurie has been a “pioneer” (Forbes) and recognized leader in sustainability, social enterprise, and impact investing. Laurie was the founding Executive Director of the international environmental organization, Orion Society, which publishes the celebrated Orion Magazine, as well as the founder of a global sustainability think-tank, the Triad Institute, and Hotfrog, a Founding B Corporation, GIIRS Pioneer Company, and the first company ever to complete an equity transaction on an impact investment exchange. Laurie is the bestselling and multiple award-winning publisher and editor of books and magazines on sustainability and social impact — having worked with such acclaimed authors as Wendell Berry, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, and David James Duncan — and the author of numerous articles on entrepreneurship and impact investing. Laurie is contributing author to the recently published academic textbook from World Scientific, Sustainability: Business and Investment Implications (2023).

Impact Entrepreneur