By Julia Wuench, Inspiring Capital’s North Carolina Market Manager
Inspiring Capital was thrilled to attend Duke University Fuqua’s School of Business’s annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI) conference on February 7. It was an action-packed day filled with amazing keynote speakers and panelists! Overall, we’ve come away with a sense of awe at the challenges our colleagues are working to overcome, and a staunch desire to continue our mission of helping these companies achieve purposeful impact.
Meg Garlinghouse was the perfect opener for the day. As Head of Social Impact at LinkedIn for Good, Meg's job is to connect underserved communities to economic opportunity. LinkedIn has pioneered programs like Welcome Talent Refugee Program, Veteran Mentor Network Group, Volunteer Marketplace, as well as expansion of programming to serve women who are returning to work, individuals with disabilities, formerly incarcerated individuals and foster care children. Moreover, LinkedIn for Good is uniquely qualified to use the massive amounts of data it houses to help shed light on workforce trends.
Meg talked about known sources of capital -- human capital (people), working capital (money) and intellectual capital (ideas). She introduced a new form of capital, social capital, which consists of networks and relationships. Social capital is extremely useful for those who were born into robust social networks. (Up to 85% of people get jobs from people they already know!) However, social capital does not work for people who were not born into networks. How can those with networks help to combat this inequality? Meg talked about the importance of acting as a coach or mentor for individuals who are in need of more social capital, particularly individuals who come from underrepresented socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. We can all play a part in this effort!
Next, we headed over to the Diversity Panel, with speakers Jessica Barron, PhD (Frontline Solutions), Dwayne Marshall (SE Council of Foundations) and Sarah Glova (Reify Media) -- facilitated by Dan Baum (Redwoods Group). (There were also panels on The Future of Food and the Opioid Crisis -- alas, we could only go to one!) The group discussed how diversity, equity and inclusion is everyone's job. Organizations should challenge themselves to have a shared meaning of diversity, wherein this language is embraced by leadership. Try "amplifying" someone else's voice in a meeting -- repeat the ideas of underrepresented colleagues and give them credit for their ideas, then see how the room changes. The group also discussed how crucial DEI assessments can be to an organization's health.
Our second panel of the day was "Blockchain for Impact," with speakers Ari Eisenstat (Moeda), Rahul Pagidipati (Freedom Health), Brent Rowe (RTI International), Fennie Wang (IXO Foundation), facilitated by Karen Ottoni (Tata Consultancy). We are beyond excited to see how having a single ledger as a source of truth will help with social impact applications like microfinance, democratization of voting, and countless other areas.
After lunch, we heard from Neil Blumenthal (Warby Parker Co-CEO and Co-Founder) and Ella Gudwin (VisionSpring President). The two spoke about the strength of the Warby Parker-VisionSpring partnership and how disruptive innovation is not only helping consumers in the U.S. save time and money on glasses, but also helping people around the world to see.
Our third panel was titled "Pathways to Prosperity." Speakers included Odell Cleveland (Mount Zion Baptist Church), Mary Douglas (MOD Pizza), Sheila Jackson (Jobs for the Future) and Carla Javits (REDF), facilitated by Samantha Dina (Duke). The group spoke about how businesses can help provide jobs for underrepresented groups. Check out MOD Pizza's business model here: It certainly inspired us!
We wrapped up the day by listening to powerhouse-impacter Clara Miller of the Heron Foundation. Miller was a pioneer of the idea that foundation endowments should be invested into companies and causes that are compatible with a foundation's mission. Even though this may seem like common sense, it's controversial among foundation presidents even today. After Darren Walker's announcement last year that the Ford Foundation will be investing $1B of its endowment to impact investing, we're hoping others follow suit.
Miller's parting words as advice to millenials were, "stay curious and be flexible." We sure will after this inspiring day, and we hope you do too!