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Impact Investing

This category includes articles about people, firms and foundations that invest in social good by investing in social entrepreneurs, social impact or pay-for-success bonds, etc.

Would Your Financial Advisor Trust You Enough To Let You Decide How Much To Pay?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Andrei Cherny, CEO and co-founder of Aspiration, is creating a whole new model for financial services in America. The idea is to provide the sorts of investment strategies employed by the wealthy to ordinary, working Americans. The strategies include impact investing.

Cherny explains the companies philosophy, “We think of ourselves as a financial firm with a conscience. And there is no reason that needs to be a contradiction in terms.”

“At Aspiration, we are first and foremost in the opportunity business. We want our customers to be able to get economic opportunity for themselves and give it to others at the same time. And that’s what they want too,” Cherny adds.

“Every financial firm out there keeps yelling ‘Trust us!’ We’re the only one that actually trusts them [the customer],” he concludes.

Aspiration allows its clients to choose how much to pay Aspiration for its services, offering that as a sign of trust. Other interesting features of the new model include devoting a portion of profits to charity and giving their clients the opportunity to do the same.

On Thursday, August 13 at 1:00 Eastern, Cherny will join me for a live discussion about his plans for the novel financial services firm. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Aspiration:

Twitter: @aspirationtweet

One of the fastest growing online investment platforms, Aspiration offers everyone the type of investment strategies that were once limited to only the wealthiest Americans. Using cutting-edge technology, Aspiration is revolutionizing how financial services are delivered to Americans by successfully pioneering a democratized and purpose-driven investment firm with a conscience and building an unprecedented level of trust with its customers.  Aspiration:

  • Democratizes access to wealth creation by creating financial and investment products for the middle class, not millionaires. We bring these products directly to the consumer on Aspiration.com, bypassing traditional intermediaries. These products include:
  • The “Aspiration Flagship Fund” which guards against the roller coaster of the stock market,
  • The Aspiration Summit Account which is a 1% interest, no monthly or ATM fee, FDIC insured checking account, and
  • The upcoming Aspiration Redwood Fund which will be a best-in-class sustainable product investing in companies that see better financial returns because of their smart environmental, employee, and governance policies.
  • Features a radically pro-investor “Pay What Is Fair” fee structure that trusts customers to pay us what they think is fair — even if it is zero.
  • Brings the Toms/Warby Parker approach of getting/giving to financial services by donating 10% of revenue to charitable giving around microloans and mentoring for low-income Americans to start businesses — and serving as a platform for easy giving by customers as well.
Andre Cherny

Andre Cherny

Cherny’s bio:

Twitter: @AndreiCherny

Andrei Cherny is co-founder and CEO of Aspiration, a new trust-based investment community that launched in 2014. Aspiration is dedicated to democratizing the financial world by bringing elite investments to everyday investors in a way that marries profit with philanthropic purpose. Andrei brings to this role nearly twenty years of experience as an advisor to some of America’s top companies, the co-founder and president of a media start-up, a financial fraud prosecutor, a bestselling author, a senior White House aide, and a nationally-recognized economic policy expert.

For more than a decade, Andrei provided strategic advice for companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Qualcomm, Bank of America, and American Express both at his own firm and as a Managing Director at Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s largest communications firms.

Andrei is the co-founder and president of Democracy, a print and online public policy journal launched in 2006 to bring new thinking on the major issues facing America and the world. Today, Democracy has over 300,000 unique visitors a year. Under Andrei’s leadership, Democracy worked with then-law professor Elizabeth Warren to develop the idea of and strategy for launching the push for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau which now promotes fairness for mortgages, credit cards, and other consumer financial products and services.

As a former Assistant Arizona Attorney General, Andrei prosecuted complex financial fraud and corporate crime with a 100% conviction record.

Working in the Clinton White House, Andrei was the youngest White House speechwriter in American history. President Clinton has called him a “critical part of the team” which brought about the economic successes of the 1990s.

Andrei has served as a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and at the Center for American Progress. He has written frequently on economic, technology, and business issues for publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Investors’ Business Daily, and the Financial Times and has appeared on television programs including ABC’s Good Morning America and World News Tonight, CBS’s The Early Show, The O’Reilly Factor, and The Colbert Report.

Andrei’s first book, The Next Deal: The Future of Public Life in the Information Age (2000) examined how business, government, and community life will change to meet the challenges of the 21st century New Economy. The Los Angeles Times called the book “visionary in scope” and the Financial Times reported that The Next Deal had “become required reading” in British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government. He is also the author of the bestselling The Candy Bombers: The Untold Story of the Berlin Airlift and America’s Finest Hour (2008) on the intersection between the end of World War II, the beginning of the Cold War, the 1948 presidential election, and the Berlin Airlift. It was called like “Stephen Ambrose at his best” by historian Douglas Brinkley and is one of the top 50 highest rated 20th century American histories on Amazon.

Andrei served eight years as an officer in the United States Navy reserve. He graduated with honors from Harvard College and from the University of California Berkeley Law School.

To Cure A Problem, ‘Harness Market Forces,’ Impact Investor Says

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

“For the vast majority of my career I have been both a capitalist and a philanthropist, and I’ve struggled at both. I struggled to make my change meaningful, and struggled at making meaningful change,” Bobby Turner told me in preparation for this piece. His response: create one of the largest firms in the impact investing space.

He founded Turner Impact Capital just 18 months ago to acquire and operate affordable residential housing projects and fund construction of charter schools in high-need communities.

“Our investment strategy is based on recognizing that making money making and making positive societal change need not be mutually exclusive,” He adds. “In fact, it’s the interdependency between profits and purpose that enable us to drive significant risk-adjusted returns with very little correlation to the broader market indices.”

“We have one mission: to create sustainable solutions for many of today’s societal problems by developing and investing in community-enriching real estate in densely-populated, underserved communities. We are trying to tackle some of society’s most daunting challenges— not through government or philanthropy, but by using market forces to create sustainable solutions,” he continues.

Turner has a genuine passion for using capitalism for good. He explains it this way, “If one wants to treat a problem in society, then government and philanthropy are fine. If one wants to cure, really cure a problem then one needs to harness market forces to create a sustainable solution. And that means making money for investors.”

On Thursday, July 30, 2015 at noon Eastern, Turner will join me here for a live discussion about the work he’s doing. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Turner Impact Capital:

Twitter: @turnerimpact

One of the nation’s largest social impact investment firms, Turner Impact Capital is on course to surpass $1.5 billion in investment potential to create sustainable solutions for many of today’s societal problems. Based in Los Angeles, the firm helps to address some of the country’s most pervasive social issues by developing and investing in community-enriching real estate in densely-populated, underserved communities, and seeks to generate superior risk-adjusted financial returns by investing in markets with large existing supply/demand mismatches of relevant community infrastructure (i.e. workforce housing, public schools and preventative care facilities) and a lack of institutional capital. The firm seeks “profits with a purpose,” recognizing the interdependence between the two and the central role that improving property and the lives of people can play in achieving strong returns. The Turner Impact Capital leadership team has over 100 years of relevant experience in facilitating more than $6 billion of socially impactful and environmentally responsible real estate investments over the past two decades.

Turner’s bio:

Bobby Turner is the CEO of Turner Impact Capital, a real estate investment management firm based in Los Angeles and focused on creating sustainable solutions for many of today’s societal problems through the development of impactful infrastructure. The firm is on course to surpass $1.5 billion in investment potential, making it one of the national’s largest social impact firms.

Over the past two decades, Mr. Turner has established himself as a pioneer in the area of social impact investing. As former Chairman, CEO and Co-Founding Partner of Canyon Capital Realty Advisors LLC, he oversaw a commercial real estate and mortgage asset portfolio totaling over $12 billion, and was responsible for launching several groundbreaking funds facilitating more than $6 billion in real estate investments that have helped define the “triple bottom line” investment movement.

Mr. Turner is a graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (B.S., Finance) where he serves on the University’s Undergraduate Executive Board of Advisors and where he has endowed a number of initiatives focused on social impact and triple bottom line investing. Today, these programs have grown to include student, faculty and institutional programs in such areas as social impact management and business ethics, financial scholarships for minority students and the creation of the Turner Social Impact Society and the Lauren and Bobby Turner Executive Speaker Series for Social Impact.

Mr. Turner is involved in many civic ventures, having served on the advisory boards of the Virginia Avenue Project, the Pacific Charter School Development Corporation, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (“ICIC”) and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. He has also been an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA), and the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

Live Huddle: Hall Of Fame Quarterback Steve Young Talks Charity

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Private equity investor and Hall of Fame Quarterback Steve Young’s charity the Forever Young Foundation launched Sophie’s Place, an organization that provides music therapy.

In a promotional video, Young explains that in contrast to many of the charities supported by his foundation that are run by great partners, “This one’s kind of organic from our foundation. It’s really my wife’s vision for music therapy.”

Young’s foundation is using a new tool for crowdsourcing engagement, one little act at a time. The new tool, an iPhone app called Time Machine, encourages people to do and record acts of service. Users of the app earn points to qualify them for unique experiences, like a meet and greet with band at the Imagine Dragons concert in Salt Lake City on July 28.

Time Machine cofounder Lindsay Hadley explains, “Time is our most precious resource, but most of us just follow people instead of having our own meaningful experiences. We want people to do inspiring things and support causes, online and beyond the screen.”

“We built Time Machine to be a place where brands, organizations and people can come together to rally other around causes or movements they’re passionate about,” she adds.

The app supports a variety of charities in addition to Sophie’s Place, including The Tyler Robinson Foundation and The Progeria Research Foundation,

“We have $75,000 of prizes to give. There are hundreds of tickets for the sold out Imagine Dragons concert and thousands of other chances to win, including meals from Costa Vida. Users’ chances of winning are very good,” she concludes.

On Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 1:00 Eastern, Young and Hadley will join me for a live discussion about Sophie’s Place and Time Machine. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Sophie’s Place:

Twitter: @4sophiesplace

Sophie’s Place is a dedicated Music Therapy space built in children’s hospitals for the youth being treated. These special rooms provide therapists a wonderful place to offer children non-invasive, evidence based medical treatment to their young hospital patients suffering from pain, chronic illness, and serious injuries.

Sophie Barton was a dear friend of Barb and Steve Young’s who unexpectedly passed away at a very young age. Sophie often sang in hospitals because she understood music’s power to heal. The Young family branded these rooms they are building in her name in her honor. While most people know music has an extraordinary power to bring comfort and peace to the soul, clinical studies continue to prove that music therapy.

SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 10: Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young speaks during a public memorial for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh August 10, 2007 at Monster Park in San Francisco, California. NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO – AUGUST 10: Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young speaks during a public memorial for former 49ers coach Bill Walsh August 10, 2007 at Monster Park in San Francisco, California. NFL Hall of Famer Bill Walsh. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Young’s bio:

Mr. Young is a Managing Partner and Co-founder of HGGC. He is also a member of HGGC’s Policy and Investment Committee and Executive Committees.

Prior to his inception of HGGC, Mr. Young was a co-founder and Managing Director of Sorenson Capital, a private equity fund which focused on middle market leveraged buyouts in the Western United States. Previously, Mr. Young was a member in Northgate Capital, LLC, the general partner of Northgate Capital Partners, L.P., a fund of funds.

Mr. Young’s professional football career spanned more than fifteen years in the NFL, primarily with the San Francisco 49ers, where he received numerous accolades, including Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXIX, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News’ Player of the Year from 1992 – 1994, and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for 1992 and 1994. In 2005, Mr. Young was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first left-handed quarterback to be so honored. Mr. Young is also the highest-rated quarterback in NFL history and has the distinction of being the only signal caller in league annals to win four consecutive NFL passing titles.

He founded and chairs the Forever Young Foundation which is actively involved in children’s charities worldwide and is currently the broadcast host as well as the former International Spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network which has raised over one billion dollars world-wide to benefit children’s hospitals.

Mr. Young has also served as the corporate spokesperson for companies such as Nike, Visa, Sun Microsystems, Sprint, PowerBar and ICON Health & Fitness, and has recently been profiled in a variety of publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Worth Magazine, Sports Illustrated, People, Inside Sports and GQ.

Mr. Young is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he earned a J.D. from the College of Law as well as a B.S. in Finance and Political Science.

More about Time Machine:

Twitter: @dotimemachine

Time Machine is an app that helps people discover what their favorite brands, causes and people are up to, learn how they can get involved and share their experiences on social media. By completing actions, users support causes and qualify to earn rewards, VIP experiences and products. Businesses and charities can use Time Machine to engage their audiences in projects and movements online and beyond the screen. Time Machine is available on iOS and coming soon to Android. For more information, visit timemachine.do.

Lindsay Hadley, Time Machine

Lindsay Hadley, Time Machine

Hadley’s bio:

Lindsay Hadley is a social entrepreneur and professional do-gooder. Early in her career, she facilitated dozens of international humanitarian projects in Kenya, Peru, Mexico, and Thailand. Since then, she has raised more than $24M for social causes. 

Lindsay executive produced The End of Polio Concert in Perth, Australia, and the Global Citizen Festival in 2012 and 2013 in Central Park, which – with a live audience of 60,000 and a worldwide media reach of more than 3 billion — is the largest charity event syndication to date. The mother of two small boys and the wife of a loving and supportive husband, Lindsay knows that relationships are most important in this life.

FB Heron Foundation Leads Foundations Toward 100 Percent Impact Investment

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

When people hear about impact investing, a light goes on. People immediately begin to see the potential. Once they do, they often assume that foundations must be doing the bulk of impact investing. In fact, relatively few are actively doing it.

The FB Heron Foundation has made a bold, public commitment to move 100 percent of its assets to impact investments by the end of 2017.

In her President’s letter issued last month, Clara Miller wrote, “In 2014, we continued to push forward on our core operating principle that “all investing is impact investing,” meaning that we believe that all investments (spanning the range of debt, equity, cooperative shares, warrants, and hybrid instruments) have social as well as financial repercussions. These social and financial repercussions can be positive or negative and vary over time. Bidden or not, intentional or unintentional, all of the enterprises that we invest in have impact that goes well beyond a financial return to an individual investor.”

On Thursday, July 2, 2015 at 2:00 Eastern, Miller will join me for a live discussion about the Foundation’s remarkable commitment to deploy its investment capital 100 percent toward its mission. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about the FB Heron Foundation:

Twitter: @HeronFdn

The mission of the FB Heron Foundation is to help people & communities help themselves prosper, especially those that are economically disadvantaged. Heron is looking for ways to help rebalance the economy so that it ensures opportunity for all, which is a critical responsibility not only of philanthropy and government, but of business and investors. Heron invests in enterprises as if people matter.

Heron is uniquely investing all its assets for mission. Its funding is tax-status agnostic (for-profits and nonprofits) and utilizes all forms of capital.

clara_miller-1940x1940

Clara Miller, President, FB Heron Foundation

Miller’s bio:

Twitter: @ClaraGMiller

Prior to assuming the FB Heron Foundation’s presidency in 2011, Miller was President and CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund which she founded and ran from 1984 to 2011. NFF serves as a “philanthropic bank” for both social sector organizations and their funders, and has invested and managed more than $1.5 billion in financing for social sector organizations.

In addition to serving on The F. B. Heron Foundation’s board, Miller is on the boards of Family Independence Initiative, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, StoneCastle Financial Corp., and The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. She is a member of the Social Investment Committee of the Kresge Foundation and the U.S. National Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force. In 2010 Miller became a member of the first Nonprofit Advisory Committee of the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

Miller was the inaugural laureate of the Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy awarded in 2014 by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and the Tocqueville Foundation-Institute of France. She was named to The NonProfit Times “Power and Influence Top 50” for the five years from 2006 through 2010 and received a Bellagio Residency in 2010 by The Rockefeller Foundation.

In 1996, Miller was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Treasury’s first Community Development Advisory Board for the then-newly-created Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. She later served as its Chair. She was a member of the Community Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for eight years, and she received the “Shining Star Award” in 2014 from New York City performance space PS122.

Impact Investing Goes Mainstream; Is It Time You Thought About It?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on impact investing going mainstream at the Los Angeles Sustainatopia conference. The panelists were all new to me; their insights really got me thinking. I’ve followed up with them in an effort to organize their collective thoughts.

Jonathan Storper, a partner at Hanson Bridgett who founded the firm’s sustainable law practice, effectively highlights the changing perception of impact investing, “Traditionally, impact investing was thought of as low profit or even nonprofit work. Increasingly, there has been the realization that there does not need to be any tradeoff between profit and purpose if the business has the right idea and is run in a disciplined manner.”

Paul Herman, inventor of the “HIP = Human Impact + Profit” ratings system and author of The HIP Investor: Make Bigger Profits by Building a Better World, agree, “ Investing to build a better world can be financially attractive. Sustainable products are growing revenue at higher-than-average growth rates.”

Garvin Jabush, cofounder and chief investment officer of Green Alpha Advisors, notes that the latest generation is helping to drive this shift, “There’s a general idea that I think people, particularly millennials, are now getting: the economy of the 19th and 20th centuries got us a long way, but from here, looking forward, it’s clear that this legacy economy is fraught with systemic risks, not the least of which are the worst effects of climate change and global resource scarcity.”

Seth Streeter, cofounder and CEO of Mission Wealth, explains the shift to impact investing, “ I believe the rapid rise of impact investing is a reflection of today’s society having an appetite to do ‘good’ per one’s own values.”

Storper points out that recent transactions are proving the validity of investing in social enterprises. He highlights the recent ETSY initial public offering, the sale of Method to Ecover and Plum’s sale to Campbell Soup.

Jonathan Storper

Jonathan Storper

One of the consistent themes developed as we discussed the latest thinking in impact investing is that divesting fossil fuels, for instance, is a prudent financial decision, regardless of your views on the environment or climate change.

“By choosing fund managers who select holdings for their funds (whether branded socially responsible or not), investors can benefit with potentially higher returns, lower risk, or both. Going fossil-free in your portfolio can accomplish this – including for university endowments and pensions — as oil, gas and coal have all dramatically lagged the general market over nearly 3 years,” Herman said.

Jabush notes that some have argued that advisors have a fiduciary responsibility to keep fossil fuels in client portfolios for the sake of diversification. “Nowhere in any fiduciary standard does a phrase like ‘must hold securities of fossil fuels’ come into play.”

“Obviously a part of being a prudent fiduciary is also about managing risk. Fossil fuels have significant embedded risk –beyond denuding our planet of scarce resources. Companies in the sector are debt laden and beholden to government subsidies and to supra national and national oligopolies to set prices and manage supply,” Jabush continued.

“The traditional assumption that divesting from fossil fuels will involve less than competitive returns has now been completely discredited,” he concluded.

Herman points out that risk reduction doesn’t relate only to fossil fuel divestitures, “Wind energy requires no fuel, and avoids volatility of oil and gas prices. Engaging employees encourages high retention, low turnover and thus higher productivity. And being innovative rather than extractive avoids legal lawsuits and penalties. All of these contribute to positive cash flow, profit and shareholder value at lower risk.”

Paul Herman

Paul Herman

Jabush agrees, “Now that there are 7.3 billion of us, our economic activities, for the first time in human history, are having existentially threatening effects. So, to prevent our own self-caused biggest threats coming home to roost, it’s time, or even past time, to change the way the economy works. So, folks are understanding that a way to do that is to change where capital is deployed. As long as we remain invested in the fossil-fuels based legacy economy, we’re going to get increasingly strong storms, acidic, rising seas, diminishing biodiversity, and all manner of risks from an increasingly warm planet. Impact can provide an alternative to investing in that future.”

The regulatory environment is shifting to allow for and even encourage social enterprise, Storper notes. “30 states and the district of Columbia have enacted for profit benefit corporation statutes allowing companies to combine profit plus purpose into the DNA of the corporate structure in a more meaningful and enforceable manner. Benefit corporations require purpose, accountability and transparency in addition to creating shareholder value.”

Furthermore, as the impact community becomes more sophisticated, impact measurement tools are beginning to allow social enterprises and investors to gauge their impact objectively. Storper said, “The “b corp” rating system helps measure what matters. In addition, groups like SASB (the sustainable accounting standards board) are developing industry by industry methods to take into account nonfinancial metrics.”

In addition to impact measurement, Streeter believes that we need to take a more holistic approach to defining wealth:

I have identified eight categories for wealth outside the financial definition. They include: physical health, emotional well-being, career satisfaction, thriving relationships, ample fun, social or environmental impact, spiritual connection and intellectual stimulation. Everyone has their own weighting scale as to which of these categories matters the most, because in the end, abundance is in the eye of the beholder. But by the traditional definition of wealth, a man who can’t climb two flights of stairs without being winded and who goes home emotionally distant from his wife and kids, yet has a huge balance sheet, would be considered wealthy.

Streeter also encourages other wealth advisors to focus on impact in their practices for practical and professional reasons beyond sustainability. “With mainstream investment management becoming more commoditized by the growth of higher tech, lower cost ‘robo-advisor’ platforms, conscious planning and investing is a differentiator in the marketplace, especially for the huge Millennial demographic who gravitate to more purpose-led initiatives.”

“Advisors will find more purpose and meaning in their own career and thus enjoy a ‘reboot’ to loving what they do on a daily basis even more than they did before,” he concludes.

The panel discussion was surprisingly upbeat, reflecting the optimism of the panelists that impact investing presents a key part of the solution to major world problems, including climate change. Jabush’s comments are representative of the mood of the panel:

In the next few years, trillions of dollars will be invested in efficient, innovation-driven tech, in solutions to the systemic risks with the power to disrupt the global economy, and in other mitigations and adaptations to the worst outcomes of climate change. This ‘great transition’ towards a global economy that can thrive side-by-side with its ecological underpinnings is now clearly underway. I believe that investing in solutions to our most dangerous risks is the clearest path to a sustainable economy, and also to competitive returns.”

Ben Hecht: ‘Inequality Of Income Presents A Threat To Our Society, Our Economy And Our Democracy’

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ben Hecht, CEO of Living Cities, is an impact investor whose passion makes him more of a crusader than a financier. (Disclosure: a former client has an application for a loan pending with Living Cities.)

Consider his statement to me, “Unless we ferociously change course, the majority of our citizens in 2040 will be less educated, less prosperous, and less free than our current majority, due to decades of dysfunctional systems, disinvestment, mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement of people and communities of color.”

Advocating a wholistic, collective approach to addressing urban problems, Hecht says, “A new type of urban practice aimed at dramatically improving the economic well-being of low-income people faster will require all players – individuals, business, philanthropy, government, nonprofits, and academia – to focus on their part of the solution and build permanent capacity that can insure we get increasingly better results over time.”

Hecht is calling for an radical acceleration to problem solving, “For too long we have been satisfied with incremental change for society’s most pressing issues, but it is time to look at the denominator and face how much progress still has to be made for these problems to be eradicated.”

“There is increasingly a growing awareness that inequality of income, wealth and access to opportunity, accentuated along racial lines, is one of the key social issues of our time.If left unresolved it presents a serious threat to our society, our economy and our democracy,” Hecht notes.

Living Cities is striving to play a central role in accelerating change. Hecht said, “Living Cities is on a course to do more than just imagining what’s possible. We want to work with a coalition of the willing to make the possibilities reality. In May, we took the conversation offline, convening over 100 folks in our networks—from our member institutions, to grantees, to our staff, to our social media followers, to a diversity of other thought leaders, dreamers and doers in such diverse fields as civic tech, impact investing, philanthropy, business, the financial sector, social entrepreneurship, government, and philanthropy—to participate in an active process of co-design.”

Two key opportunities were identified at the summit.

“One challenge we discussed at the summit was the need to create urgency without catastrophes, such as the bankruptcy in Detroit or Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, to achieve systemic instead of episodic change,” Hecht said.

“Another was that public sector leadership, resources, and talent can and must be fostered, unlocked, and optimized in order to achieve dramatically better results for low income people. Along similar lines, it was clear that there is a need for an investment in talent across the social sector generally,” Hecht concluded.

On Friday, June 5, 2015 at noon Eastern, Hecht will join me for a live discussion about the programs that Living Cities is undertaking to make a difference in America’s inner cities. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Living Cities:

Living Cities harnesses the collective power of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions to develop and scale new approaches for creating opportunities for low-income people and improving the cities where they live. Its investments, research, networks, and convenings catalyze fresh thinking and combine support for innovative, local approaches with real-time sharing of learning to accelerate adoption in more places.

Hecht’s bio:

Mr. Hecht was appointed President & CEO of Living Cities in July, 2007. Since that time, the organization has adopted a broad, integrative agenda that harnesses the collective knowledge of its 22 member foundations and financial institutions to benefit low income people and the cities where they live. Living Cities deploys a unique blend of more than $140 million in grants, loans and influence to re-engineer obsolete public systems and connect low-income people and underinvested places to opportunity.

Prior to joining Living Cities, Mr. Hecht co-founded One Economy Corporation, a non-profit organization focused on connecting low-income people to the economic mainstream through innovative, online content and increased broadband access. Immediately before One Economy, Mr. Hecht was Senior Vice President at the Enterprise Foundation.

Mr. Hecht received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and his CPA from the State of Maryland. For 10 years, he taught at Georgetown University Law Center and built the premier housing and community development clinical program in the country. Ben is currently Chairman of EveryoneOn, a national initiative founded by the Federal Communications Commission to connect low-income Americans to digital opportunity. He also sits on the National Advisory Board for StriveTogether and Duke University’s Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Advisory Council.

Billionaire Offers Tips; Some Will Surprise You

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Ranked #369 on the Forbes list of billionaires, Shari Arison is passionate about doing good business–and she means good.

Her bestselling book Activate Your Goodness shared her take on the impact of doing good on people. Her new book, The Doing Good Model, provides a thoughtful look at 13 values that are intended to help business leaders rethink their impact on individuals, their communities and the globe.

One of the most intriguing values that Arison puts forward in her book is “purity.” She explains it in the book, “Think of the many types of behavior that can affect you as a human being as well. For example, you might ask yourself, what am I putting in my body–is this good for me or not? What am I listening to? Is it something that is uplifting like music, or is it gossip that is unkind?”

Her thoughts on volunteering sound conventional to nonprofit leaders, I suspect, but may strike business leaders as a flash of insight. She says in the book, “The most motivated volunteers are the ones with passion for the cause.”

She goes on to share an anecdote to make an important point.

A funny thing happened to me right after I was talking to my editor on the phone going through this chapter on volunteering. I was called away and needed to rush out to a meeting outside my office. I went to another office building, and when I came out of my meeting, in the elevator on the way down, there was a husband and wife talking. The woman said to her husband, “Isn’t it amazing tha the doctor goes to Africa every six months and volunteers his time to perform surgery?” She went on to say, “Do you know he’s an eye doctor?” I smiled to myself as I was walking out of the elvator, thinking abou what a coincidence it was that I was just writing about volunteering. So you see, as I said, one can volunteer basically anywhere in the world, according to one’s talents, passions and time.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015 at noon Eastern, Arison will join me for a live discussion about The Doing Good Model. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.

More about Arison Group:

Arison Investments, the Arison Group’s business arm, houses companies that provide responses for the basic human needs of large populations, while yielding high financial returns. Shari Arison directs her businesses to maintain a diversified portfolio of ventures that have moral responsibility at their core. Arison Investments business companies include Bank Hapoalim, Shikun & Bunui, Miya and Salt of the Earth.

Shari Arison

Arison’s bio:

Shari Arison is an American-Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist, owner of the Arison Group that operates in more than 40 countries across five continents to realize the vision of Doing Good. Its business arm, Arison Investments, operates in the fields of finance (Bank Hapoalim), infrastructure, real estate, and renewable energy (Shikun & Binui), salt (Salt of the Earth), and water (Miya). Its philanthropic arm, The Ted Arison Family Foundation, houses the organizations Essence of Life, Goodnet, All One, and Ruach Tova that operates Shari’s global initiative Good Deeds Day. She is repeatedly ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world, and as one of the world’s greenest billionaires. In 2013, Shari was named Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by George Mason University.

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