Facilitated by: Michelle Yue, The Beam Co-Founder
On a beautiful evening at the House of St Barnabas, a charitable organisation dedicated to supporting London's homeless population to regain employment, The Beam Network and The Philanthropy Workshop came together to host a thought-provoking and intimate fireside chat with Acumen CEO and global leader, Jacqueline Novogratz.
A special thanks to Jacqueline for sharing her profound insights with us. Her words on the obligation to endure and commit to something bigger than oneself were truly inspiring. Her work in pro-poor impact investing through Acumen has challenged us to rethink our approach to philanthropy and traditional capital, reminding us that the opposite of poverty is dignity and that we need leaders who balance purpose and profit. Her call to action and moral leadership will continue to resonate as we strive towards creating a more equitable world. Thanks to TPW for their valued partnership.
In a world where governments are slow to act, philanthropists have an outsized role to play in solving global issues. The need for social and patient capital to create new markets, build human capital in post-conflict areas and provide early-stage investments where no one else will come in is critical.
“Government is not corrupt, individuals engage in corrupt behaviour.”
As Jacqueline notes, “the obligation to endure, to persist, it changes you." Committing to something bigger than yourself is powerful and sets you free. It's about enabling overlooked and underestimated people to gain their dignity, but it's also about mutual dignity. We need to plant seeds that allow that mutual dignity to grow.
“Making a commitment and really sticking to it, it changes you. The obligation to endure, to persist, it changes you.”
Using the power of markets is essential, but we shouldn't be seduced by them. Instead, we should focus on the problem we're trying to solve. Markets are the best listening devices we have, and what people are willing to pay tells us a lot. Philanthropy can be used to crowd in traditional capital as “first loss," but this can still be hard from an ego perspective. We need to focus on the problem first and reframe our thinking.
“Use the power of markets, don’t be seduced by them.”
Moral leadership is also essential. We need leaders, both philanthropists and entrepreneurs, with a skill set that allows for success. It's about character, honesty, humility, and training people to feel comfortable with upholding different and often opposing values. Deep listening, identity as a tool of connection, and teaching storytelling in a real, grounded, yet hopeful way are all necessary skills. We need moral leaders to break the status quo, and it requires a different toolbox.
“Accompany them in a way that is honest as well, and with humility."
The best way to get started is through unrestricted grants to learn. At Acumen, there are also more places to get involved in the community to co-invest. Acumen is raising five different impact funds with different risks, regions, and themes. They recommend taking risks on young entrepreneurs, giving them a grant and watching them run, especially if they don't have friends and family to put up the initial capital. Then move to patient capital and then to more sophisticated structures.
“Take risks on young entrepreneurs. Give them a grant and watch them run, especially if they don’t have friends and family. Then it goes to the patient capital. Then to the more sophisticated structures.”
In conclusion, philanthropy has a significant role to play in solving global issues, and social and patient capital are essential to creating new markets, building human capital, and providing early-stage investments. We need to focus on the problem we're trying to solve, and moral leadership is crucial to break the status quo. We must plant seeds that allow mutual dignity to grow, commit to something bigger than ourselves, and endure and persist, which will ultimately change us.
See the highlights video below: