On Thursday, March 27th, members of the Impact Investing NYC Meetup group gathered to learn from social innovators using travel as a means to create change. Joining us at Epic Road were host Mark Lakin and speakers Brian Jones of Kin: High-Impact Travel, Jerryanne Heath Chiume of goods for good, and Shveta Sarin of MPOWERD. Mark opened the evening by describing Epic Road’s concept of transformative travel. As a travel photographer, Mark has always seen his photos as an opportunity to tell a story: of a people, a place, a culture. He noticed, however, that other travelers were only seeing a slice of what there is to see. He started Epic Road to offer travel experiences aimed at elevating travelers’ understanding of the people and animals surrounding them. He shared a video of a woman of the Himba Tribe, in the Namib Desert, Namibia, receiving light for the first time: a Luci solar light, designed by MPOWERD, and distributed by Epic Road. That’s impact, he explained.
Brian has spent the last six years in humanitarian work, managing an orphanage in Kenya and a hospital in Nepal. He has experienced firsthand the scarcity of resources that comes hand-in-hand with such efforts—and the frustration of not being able to create the outcomes we want to see. But this gave Brian an idea: he loves travel and recognizes the ability travel has to provide resources—financial alongside human creativity and knowledge. He decided to leverage the travel industry by creating a hotel to serve as a resource for impactful organizations. Kin’s hotels will enable the work of experts, with hotel guests as investors in outcomes.
Jerryanne spoke on behalf of goods for good, a nonprofit organization that is economically empowering communities in Malawi to transform orphan care. Malawi, a country known as the warm heart of Africa, is facing a hard reality as one of the poorest countries in the world. GFG’s community enterprise program empowers communities in Malawi to care for orphans—an overwhelming 1 million children in the country have lost a parent to AIDs—in a sustainable way. Travel has been a powerful way for goods for good to connect people with their cause. GFG will take a select group of partners on their annual trip to Malawi from July 27th to August 3rd. This will be an incredible opportunity to experience Malawi (which Lonely Planet has listed as a top 10 travel destination for 2014) and to witness firsthand GFG's sustainable approach to providing for children in need. (For more information, email email@example.com.)
Shveta manages social impact and international sales for MPOWERD, a certified B-Corp making high quality solar-powered products to advance three pillars of impact: environmental, emergency preparedness, and energy equality / solar justice. The Luci light is an inflatable, rechargeable, waterproof solar lantern that provides light for 8-12 hours. Partnering with travel companies, such as Epic Road, will enable MPOWERD to distribute Luci to the 1.4 billion people globally who have no access to light and the additional 1.5 billion with unreliable access.
We plan to continue the discussion of ways that travel can inform, inspire, and invest in social change, as well as opportunities to bring travel ventures into the impact investing dialogue. Happy traveling!
[To see more photos from the event, please visit our Facebook page.]