Discovering the Purpose of Capital
From wealth & health disparities and racial injustice to economic upheaval associated with accelerating technological change, to the climate crisis and political polarization & instability around the world, we are confronted daily with significant, growing challenges. Financial capital plays a critical, if not central, role in advancing, sustaining or addressing them all. As a result, our individual and collective understanding of the purpose of capital, and the capitalist system itself, is being questioned from multiple perspectives.
The purpose of capital, Jed Emerson argues in his book with the same name, is to restore relationships; not just between people, nature and culture, but between what we value and what generates impact in the lives of those the society is used to “othering,” including the natural world. If our goal is social justice, understanding the purpose of capital requires much more than getting the numbers right on a spreadsheet, investing in accordance with our values or giving wealth away. How can we, in other words, legitimately use the word “impact” without first understanding the full extent of the dehumanizing forces that propel markets and businesses and undergird legal systems — forces sustained by our social institutions? What will it cost us to look? What will we gain?
In this program, Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker welcomes Jed Emerson, Sara Minard and Bonny Moellenbrock to discuss the actions we can take to live more intentionally and to stand up against systems and practices that harm people and the planet. During this conversation, we will discuss:
What is the purpose of capital?
Why this question matters now, across sectors, spaces and communities, and in light of the events of 2020
Insights from others who have grappled with this question
The importance and value of engaging with this question and defining one’s own purpose of capital, and tools for doing so
Jed Emerson has been a leader in the field of impact investing since before the term was coined and been on a path that has taken him from deploying capital to collaborating with venture, private and public equity and family offices to create innovative impact investing strategies. He has co-authored/authored 8 books and numerous papers/articles and held academic appointments at some of the world’s leading business schools. His last book The Purpose of Capital: Elements of Impact, Financial Flows and Natural Being, along with other supporting materials, is available in free digital format at www.purposeofcapital.org.
Sara Minard is the Founder and CEO of Manarine, LLC, an international consulting firm working at the intersection of impact investing, design thinking, economics, faith, social justice and sustainable development. She is the Associate Director of the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics in the Public Square at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, teaches an award-winning course (Aspen Institute) on impact investing and social finance at Babson College and other institutions, and facilitates an online community of faith leaders and social entrepreneurs for Faith+Finance: Reimagining God’s Economy.
Sara earned a Ph.D. in Economics from Sciences Po, Paris under the supervision of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on the topic of social entrepreneurship in the informal economy in Senegal, West Africa. Prior to Babson, she was Executive Professor at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business where she designed and taught impact investing, global social entrepreneurship, social innovation, and created several experiential learning programs in India and Appalachia focused on gender, food systems, social justice, and impact measurement. Before Northeastern, Sara taught and researched for five years at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs as Lecturer-in-Discipline where she co-led the required course in methods for development practice and designed Columbia’s first course on social entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Outside the academy, Sara’s industry experience includes five years as a socio-economist at the OECD in Paris, leading efforts to bring private sector investment to small and medium enterprises and to sustainable natural resource management across 18 West African countries, and worked as an international development consultant, managing both short and long-term social finance-related projects for international development banks, US and European companies and NGOs. After serving in the US Peace Corps in Senegal, Sara co-founded a village-level sustainable aquaculture business which ran for seven years.
Bonny Moellenbrock is an impact investing pioneer who provides strategic counsel to leaders, investors, foundations, and organizations deploying investment and philanthropic dollars to make a difference. For over twenty years, she has worked with leading firms at the creative margin of business, philanthropy, and policy to advance social justice and address environmental challenges. From 2011 to 2017, Bonny served as Executive Director of Investors’ Circle, the largest and most active early-stage impact investing network in the world. Previously, she was a Managing Director at SJF Ventures, a leading impact venture fund investing in high-growth, companies creating a healthier, smarter and cleaner future, and Executive Director of SJF Institute, its affiliated nonprofit. She recently co-authored The Practice of Purpose: Exploring Elements of Life, Meaning, and Impact with Jed Emerson, a guidebook to help readers grapple with the concepts he discussed in The Purpose of Capital.
Laurie Lane-Zucker is Founder and CEO of Impact Entrepreneur, LLC, 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 publishes Impact Entrepreneur Magazine. 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, and the author of numerous articles on entrepreneurship and impact investing.