Panelists Discuss Their Work to Advance Economic Justice and What Inspires Them
Coming from a variety of backgrounds and proposing a variety of solutions, the participants of SOCAP Virtual 20 each had unique ideas on how to create more just, equitable economic systems. While their work is varied, they are unified around the belief that market forces can create shared prosperity for all.
“I’m coming to you from Nairobi, Kenya … We have Brazil here, the United States, and the one thing I would say, other than of course COVID, that unites us this year is just what businesses are doing to reflect on what it means to be surviving and existing and thriving during this year and even looking forward,” said Victoria Gathogo, Head of Partnerships and Africa Expansion for B Lab East Africa.
In this SOCAP Virtual session, the panelists discuss how to correct our global economic system, which is built on extraction and exploitation.
- Marcel Fukayama, Executive Director of Sistema B International
- Victoria Gathogo, Head of Partnerships and Africa Expansion for B Lab East Africa
- Holly Gordon, Chief Impact Officer of Participant
- Morgan Simon, Founding Partner of Candide Group
Watch the full session or read the transcript below.
Watch The System Isn’t Broken: This Is How It Was Built. How Do We Rebuild?
Victoria Gathogo: Welcome everybody to SOCAP. So excited to be here with such amazing people. I hear we’re having over 10,000 participants and 600 speakers, so that makes for an exciting week. I want to thank SOCAP so much for being like the premier gathering for envisioning companies to build such an inclusive economy and a healthier planet for all of us. We’re definitely, as everybody knows, living in such uncertain times and even times of devastation for a lot of people, but also times of a lot of reflection, a lot of growth, a lot of family time, a lot of humanity. And I want to thank SOCAP for not letting this year go by and allowing us to have this moment. We have such a diverse panel in terms of the continent where everyone lives. I’m coming to you from Nairobi, Kenya, where there is a serious storm after a lot of sunshine. It’s just very typical of 2020.
We have Brazil here, the United States, and the one thing I would say, other than of course COVID, that unites us this year is just what businesses are doing to reflect on what it means to be surviving and existing and thriving during this year and even looking forward. I think we all know the year that it has been in terms of inequality, racial injustice, poverty, leadership that’s failing us, and today we just want to have a conversation about that. What is the purpose of the corporation? This year, we were celebrating 50 years of Milton Friedman’s statement that companies exist for the sole purpose of profit maximization, and we know that that is not working for us. Here we are today, we see all the environmental degradation. We see the continuous poverty, the continuous inequality, and we want to do things differently. So we are here with three very distinguished individuals to speak on the change that we all seek from a behavioral, from a cultural, and from a policy change standpoint. And I’m so excited for this conversation. And so I’m going to go ahead and let the panelists introduce themselves just for one minute. Who are you, and why do you do what you do? And I’m going to start.
So my name is Victoria Gathogo, and I’m the Head of Partnerships and Africa Expansion for B Lab East Africa, as we grow into the Africa region. And I’m here because, I don’t know if all of you have heard, but Africa is rising apparently. We are the hugest free trade area with over 1.2 billion people. And 60% of these people are under 25, myself included excitingly. And I want change. I want change. So I’m excited because I’m having these conversations everyday on my individual level with myself, on a family level, on a business level, I just had a conversation with one of our companies in Senegal that is through the process of B Corp certification and even just looking at his model post-COVID, he tells me that only 3% of the economy in Senegal is in formal employment. 97% of the community has never known employment, has never known what it means to be benefited as a community, their families are in poverty. And he’s like it’s 2020, I mean, there needs to be a decade of action and a decade of African leaders who are not thinking about corruption, who are not waiting for the government, who are taking the responsibility with the companies, with the few people they have, and the many people they have, small or large enterprises to do something.
And so that’s why I’m here. I’m excited about this conversation. I’m excited to learn, but I’m excited about what it means for us to seek this change that we all want to see. So, Holly, I’ll go to you.
Holly Gordon: Thank you, Victoria, and it’s so nice to see you. It’s so nice to see all of you this morning. I am Holly Gordon. I’m the Chief Impact Officer at Participant Media. And we are a film production company that was founded 16 years ago by Jeff Skoll to tell stories that can inspire social change. So I am here because that has been my life’s work. I was actually born in Kenya, in Nairobi, Victoria, and came here as a young girl with my family. And we spent a lot of my childhood traveling back and forth to Kenya. And so in those travels, my mother would try to arrange for us to go and see other places along the way. And from that I developed a real love of other cultures, and felt that if I could only tell stories about other places, more people in the United States would understand how extraordinary the world is and that stories could bring greater understanding.
I actually really wanted to go into the foreign service, but I failed the foreign service exam. So I ended up at ABC News telling stories. So rather than diplomatic stories, I was telling news stories. And that’s how I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to tell stories that would raise awareness, deepen understanding, create connection. And so at Participant, I literally have my dream job.
Victoria Gathogo: Amazing, Holly. I hope you’re coming back to Kenya soon. Lots of new stories for you.
Holly Gordon: Thank you, I haven’t been back in 15 years, and I’ve just been dying to go back.
Victoria Gathogo: You must. You must. Marcel, do you want to go ahead?
Marcel Fukayama: Sure, thank you. I’m so glad to be here, Victoria, Holly, Morgan, and all of you that are watching us today. I’m Marcel. I’m based in San Paulo in Brazil. I’m an impact entrepreneur. I’m a cancer survivor, cathedral builder, bridge builder, system changer. All of these things really excite me, and I serve a movement of people using business as a force for good. And I truly want to be part of a broader movement that changes the rules of the game, so we all can build an economic system that is inclusive, equitable, and regenerative to all people in our planet. So this is our big core global collective vision. And that’s why I’m here, and why I do what I do.
Victoria Gathogo: Awesome, Marcel, we are looking so much forward to all the wisdom for all the things you’ve been doing. Morgan, you want to go ahead?
Morgan Simon: Sure. Good morning. Great to be on this wonderful panel. I’m here because so much of my life has been dedicated to recognizing and changing the culture of money. And I’ve had the privilege of serving as Founding Partner at Candide Group the last seven years, where we work with families, foundations, athletes, and other influencers who want their money working for justice.
Victoria Gathogo: Amazing, Morgan. Short, but sweet, but I think we already have a hundred questions for you. So I’m going ahead and starting with Holly. So you have brought the world some of the most moving films to not only reveal the issues our humanity and planet faces, but offer opportunities for us to take action. So what we’ve seen is that individual leadership and policy changes often run counter cultural and fail to take root. So we need a cultural change and we need to have a lasting system. So how can that happen? How can both the culture and the system change in a way that creates harmony?
Holly Gordon: Well, I actually do believe, as I’ve said, that storytelling is essential to drive long term change, because storytelling can help create a shared consciousness and shared beliefs. We often deal in facts and data, especially in global development and business, but it’s actually stories that can do what data can’t. Making the issues that we face, and the challenges we face, feel personal, feel proximate, and making big, far away, or complex issues feel really visible, and tacklable. And most of all, stories make you feel what’s unfair, what’s not right, and not just. And when you feel something, you are so much more likely to actually do something about it.
So at Participant, what we try to do is create that sense of emotion with the stories we tell — stories like “Roma,” or “American Factory,” or “Dark Waters” — but also to connect our audiences, empower our audiences with tools, pathways, and opportunities to get into the arena and actually fight for change — to help people participate. So when you combine storytelling with pathways to action, you actually create the on-ramp for the long-term change that we all need to be tackling together. More participation to tackle these big existential threats that we face as communities.
Victoria Gathogo: And Holly, as this year has gone, and we’ve seen heightened storytelling, because, for one, we’ve been stuck in our houses, but also AI and tech has allowed us to really be aware of stories globally, and what’s happening. What is the one thing that you see moving forward that’s just going to really change what storytelling means for us, what storytelling means for change?
Holly Gordon: Well, I really think that we have an opportunity to tell stories that lean into what we’re calling a reset. If Arundhati Roy’s essay about the portal to the future, that the pandemic created a moment, who would have believed that we’d stop flying airplanes, right? I live really close to LAX and for weeks and weeks and weeks there were no airplanes in the sky, there were no cars on the road. The pollution in LA got a ton better. And I thought who could ever believe that this was possible? No, of course we wouldn’t wish a global pandemic on the world, but in fact, we have a moment of pause and a moment where we can actually imagine the future.
So what I’m hoping, and what we’re hoping to deliver as a company in the coming years, are more stories that help us to imagine what’s possible because I believe with our interconnectedness — look at us on this call, we’re in Nairobi, we’re in Brazil, we’re in the US — I believe that the interconnectedness of our communities, 10,000 people at SOCAP, we actually have the potential to bring our global ideas into our community and drive change at the community level in coordinated ways. So although never before has more change been needed, I also believe that more change is more possible than ever. And that by sharing stories globally, we can inspire that sort of collective action at the grassroots level and drive, accelerate the kind of change that we need. So that’s my hope. My hope is that we’ll be telling stories of possibility that unleashes possibility for the next decade.
Victoria Gathogo: Amazing. Maybe a decade over a lot of, for each one of us I think to take on that battle and to have storytelling for the reset, a decade of storytelling for the reset. Marcel, you have been actively involved in so much of the B Corp and SOCAP community across many borders. As you said, you’re a system changer, a bridge maker, and it seems that this year we’re seeing so much of that, of coalitions and people coming together. Share with us what is happening to drive this policy change, these kinds of companies and organizations coming together.
Marcel Fukayama: Sure, thanks Victoria. Well, as Holly said, I also believe in the power of storytelling to shape the culture, but we also need to build infrastructure for such culture shifts. And I believe in the power of policies to build an institutional environment, a framework, an institutional framework that is aligned with society’s interests and also our planet needs. So in the B Corp global movement, we believe in the power of market-driven solutions to solve social and environmental problems that are currently in our global community. There are over 3,500 certified B Corps from 70 countries, 150 different industries, with one unified goal to redefine success in business. But how can we power all of the 125 million companies, according to the World Bank, to behave like a B Corp with purpose, responsibility, and transparency?
Purpose to cause positive impact, responsibility with all stakeholders in short and long-term, and also the commitment with transparency to measure, manage, and report your triple impact. So that’s why we need to change the rules of the game, so we have policies for system change. What we’ve done at global level is to institutionalize and create a legal corporate framework, so all businesses, all corporations can behave like a B Corp. We started in the West 10 years ago with the Benefit Corporation legislation, 39 states have passed this legislation. Then Italy was the very first country outside the West. Now we have Ecuador and Columbia and then the British Columbia states in Canada. So it’s a global movement. There are 15 different countries now discussing this legislation to give this legal corporate framework and help administrators, and now investors, to align their incentives and their interests with these new economies.
Victoria Gathogo: Thanks so much, Marcel. And just to go on with that, Morgan, you’ve been building bridges as well. On more of the behavioral change between finance and social justice, a point that is clear globally now, and you’ve written a book titled “Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change.” After hearing what Marcel and Holly have spoken up about from the cultural and policy change perspective, what for you is really necessary for this behavioral change?
Morgan Simon: I feel like we have had an incredible reckoning over the last couple of months and really looking at the culture of money and the culture of finance and whether we’re recipients of that. Even children who never touch money, but that finance is impacting how they get access to housing or healthcare or any number of services, or those of us who, as investors or entrepreneurs, are actively part of shaping the finance system, we are all swimming in this culture, and we have the opportunity to change it. And I’d argue that currently we have the necessity to change it. We’re coming out of the situation of COVID and seeing how incredibly fragile the global economy has been. And while America’s systemic racism goes back to 1619 and before, over the last couple months names like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have really entered the public consciousness. We’re seeing what our role within the finance community in either upholding white supremacy or fighting back against it is.
And I think that there’s three main actions that we can take in this moment to really shift that culture of money. The first being that we have to know where our money spends the night. That too many of us, when we put our money in the bank, we sort of think it’s like a James Bond movie, that it’s sitting in some safe in the back there, and who knows what it’s actually doing. And often it’s off financing things like fossil fuels, like private prisons that are really against your values. And whether we have a hundred dollars in the bank or a hundred million, we have an opportunity to influence that conversation.
The second point being that we need to start not only moving into impact investing but being much more conscious consumers of impact investing. Over the course of my 20 year career, I’ve been thrilled to see it’s so much easier now to just check the social choice box and that every investment company has some type of ESG option, but in the same way, so many of us as consumers had to learn the difference in the grocery store of what’s the cage free egg versus the organic versus the pasture raised. But it matters at the end of the day. We need to really be interrogating deeply what is the systemic impact that these investments are or aren’t having? Is it simply wealthy people getting to decide the fate of others? Are we making it slightly less difficult to be poor? Or are we actually shifting structures? These are the sorts of questions that we need to be asking. And this also contributes to these conversations around equity and inclusion.
At Candide Group, we’ve invested in over 90 companies and funds, supported investments into these companies and funds over 120 million assets under management, over half of which is deployed into companies and funds that are led by women and people of color. And this goes to my third point, which is that we have to have a commitment to change. I think a lot of people have speculated, “Oh, it’d be interesting if we could support more diverse managers,” or “Is it possible to support more women?” And what we’ve learned, as a firm that is largely women, people of color, queer people that is investing in these communities, is that this is possible. There is absolutely no excuse. And that in today’s market, I feel like you practically have to go out of your way to not have a diverse portfolio. And that’s part of changing culture and changing the status quo if we really hold that commitment dear. It’s so easy to fall into the traditional patterns of finance, which as you said, have been around since Milton Friedman.
So if we don’t start actively interrogating every decision, for instance, rules around first time fund managers that you can’t invest in someone if they don’t have 200 million under management in five years as a team. Well, that’s probably going to exclude the majority of women and people of color, right? That some of these things that we think are not about equity criteria really are when they’re implemented. We have to think about implicit bias and how that gets integrated into finance. So the more that we know where our money is spending the night, the more that we’re making sure that impact is real. That’s why my book is called “Real Impact.” The idea that it can be real or fake depending on how we manage it. We absolutely have to interrogate every decision that we make, and make sure that we’re building new culture, not reinforcing old cultures.
Victoria Gathogo: Amazing Morgan, I think you have called us to so much action towards money that I haven’t thought about. Everyone needs to think about getting into SOCAP but also getting into a new year and a new decade. We’ve been doing good things. We’ve been doing the impact investing. We’ve been kind of thinking through that our money should be going somewhere, but we’ve not really been interrogating and asking the right questions, going over and above, “Is this real impact? Is this transparent? Is this really where my money goes?” So that is amazing. And I think that one of the things that is always going to be a question, no matter what age we are is money. And so we need to get it right. And you’re in the right field for that. So thanks for that.
Now we’re going to go into the panelists kind of asking each other questions, which I think is amazing, and I have never done that before, but I think there’s always time for new things in 2020. So we’re going to start with Holly. Holly, what questions do you have for Morgan? Probably about money, I would think.
Holly Gordon: Yes, I do. So, Morgan, as I hear about the work that you are doing, the question that emerges for me immediately is whether or not you can give some examples of bright spots. Either companies that you can point to who are already embracing these new principles of new economics and equity criteria in the products they’re making, or the investment decisions that they’re doing, or you’re sort of one, two, three first steps for someone like me to who do I call and who do I ask these questions of?
Morgan Simon: There are so many inspiring examples. It’s always hard to choose between my favorite children. Probably similar to your films, on candidegroup.com we have all of the investments that we’ve supported listed. So that’s a great place to look. One of them that I’m very proud of and also personally invested in is Macro, the production company that you may know, that people may have seen “Just Mercy.” There’s a film coming out very soon about Fred Hampton that I’m very excited about. And in general, this idea that as investors, we need to be investing in changing culture. There’s so many different ways to change the world. And a lot of them make money to be clear, right? So whatever sector you’re interested in making an impact, there’s something there. Another example, Bitwise, which is a Latinx founded company that started in Fresno, where they are building tech ecosystems that are radically inclusive, that are providing high quality jobs and training to many folks in the Central Valley who were former farm workers or children of farm workers and looking for new pathways for their families. These are the sorts of opportunities that not only get people into an industry, but have the ability to change how that industry functions and brings more values to the tech industry.
And what I would say for people getting started is just knowing that this is for everybody. I think sometimes there’s the feeling of, “If I don’t have a hundred million in the bank is this accessible to me?” And I think the main way is simply to just start asking more questions. And I think that that’s something particularly for women, when we talk about the culture of finance, it’s often really designed to prevent us from feeling like it’s okay to ask questions to understand. I started doing this work as a college student, actually in saying I was at a college with a billion dollar endowment. And I thought maybe this is going to be the only time in my life I’m going to be a billionaire. So I better start asking some questions about where that money is being managed, and we started making change at major corporations. I then started moving more into investing in companies and funds and getting to see that direct impact.
So I think often it’s about the idea that we’re all connected to money in one way or another. And whether it’s your personal wealth, or it could be that you have a parent who’s a teacher, who’s part of a retirement fund. But there’s so many different ways that we’re able to integrate this and just ask what is the ESG option, and then how has that actually encourages community accountability.
Holly Gordon: Great. Thank you.
Victoria Gathogo: Great. Thanks, Morgan. What do you have for Marcel, Morgan?
Morgan Simon: Marcel, one of the things that I find fascinating, I’m sitting in Oakland, California, in what I’m hoping is the last couple weeks of a Trump presidency. I know you have a couple more years of a Bolsonaro presidency, and the fact that we have the ability as private investors and entrepreneurs to influence policy, but also who’s sitting in those seats to make the policy. And one of the things that Candide Group has done explicitly, we have a budget for political donations. We actually love that being a for-profit we’re allowed to do that. And that we’ll do things like giving time off to volunteer for the election or whatnot. And these are tiny moves, but I think the idea for us is saying as investors, beyond just the finance tool in our tool kit, we also have these tools of politics and culture. And how do we interact in those different ways. That’s also why we’ve been working with cultural influencers.
So I’m curious how you encourage people within the SOCAP universe or within the investor social entrepreneur universe to get more politically engaged. Is it just about advocating for policy? Is it supporting candidates? What are the different ways that people can get more politically active?
Marcel Fukayama: Thanks, Morgan. That’s a great question. My first reaction is to combine the walk with the talk. So there is growth within the ESG and impact investing now during the pandemic. So we need instruments to combine the walk with the talk. And I think that investors can also do a political act by supporting initiatives that are really objective, concrete, and practical towards this new economy that is inclusive and also regenerative. So supporting, investing, driving money, capital to these initiatives is indeed a political act mainly during these times when we have institutions advocating somehow against important policies, against inequality and climate crisis. So I think this is one thing.
The second thing is about asking themselves about their power. How, as an investor, is my money nurturing these economies? So the top lobbying industries in the West are investors and business associations combined. The power of them is incredibly high. So if we somehow organize them ourselves to understand what is my money nurturing, we can truly drive resources to these new economies.
Victoria Gathogo: Thanks, Marcel.
Marcel Fukayama: Yeah, Holly, I have a great question. I mean, I am so inspired by Participant Media, and my question to you is, based on the learnings and achievements of Participant to tell such beautiful, impactful stories, how can we all inspire billions of people towards these inclusive and regenerative economic systems and avoid preaching to convert people? What can you tell us?
Holly Gordon: Well, what I’ve learned is not just from my work at Participant, but also my work at Girl Rising, which was a global campaign for girls’ education, that also used film and other kinds of art to inspire community led change. So one of the things we’ve really learned is that the way you can accelerate and exponentially grow change is that if you are a change leader yourself, and I’m assuming that those folks who come to SOCAP are interested in that kind of leadership, find film tools, art tools. Art leads to activism. Find poetry, short form content, short form videos, and bring those into your community and set time with groups of people to enjoy the arts and have a conversation about the activism.
So whether it’s “American Factory,” which is really a film that we made last year that asks the question, “How can we make our business setting work for everyone, not just the 1% on top?” That film, when watched in a group, can catalyze a conversation about how things can look different. I would also direct you to Imperative 21, which was a new consortium of 17,000 businesses. It’s a network of 17,000 businesses around the world who are committed to this idea of resetting capitalism.
And just last month, we launched a series of amplifier art. So poster art that starts to help imagine what a different future could look like. And so we need the converted to preach in their communities to those who haven’t stopped to think or those who don’t know what to do next. So a very immediate call to action would be go to imperative21.co, download that amplifier art, and hang it up in your place of work or in your community and see what conversations happen next. See how you could use that art to inspire conversations about what you can do in your community to create a more just and regenerative future.
Victoria Gathogo: Thank you so much, Holly. And finally, just for all you three panelists, what is inspiring you right now? What is the call to action to SOCAP participants? Marcel, take it away.
Marcel Fukayama: Well, my call to action, I’m so inspired by Holly, and I just wanted to emphasize the power of Imperative 21. Downloading three main imperatives for these new economic systems. So interdependence, justice, and stakeholders. Access imperatives21.co and access the full resources.
Victoria Gathogo: Morgan.
Morgan Simon: I really resonate with what Marcel was saying around from talk to walk, and that I think this is a time where many folks have made deep, personal commitments to the idea of doing better in creating a more just society. And just recognizing particularly the investors out there — if women make up the majority of the planet, if people of color make up the majority of places like the Bay Area, like New York — that if our portfolios do not reflect the world, then we need to see that as actually counterculture. That means we’re doing something wrong, and that we need to really take a good hard look at ourselves three months from now, six months from now, that these sorts of commitments are about long-term change and action, not just short-term outreach. So really from short-term outreach to long-term action, that’s the challenge that I think we all need to take for ourselves. I’m happy to support people in that process. I’m morgansimon1 on the different social handles and always happy to be in communication with the community.
Victoria Gathogo: Thanks, Morgan, and finally Holly.
Holly Gordon: Very quickly, I would say we believe the next 10 years is about a new paradigm for participation. That everyone has a role to play, and that the most important thing is to exercise your power and agency as an individual, to contribute to our interdependence. So my prompt is to decide where you want to make a difference, and sit down and make a three step plan. Step one, step two, step three. Start with your three first steps, and the rest will start to roll from there.
Victoria Gathogo: Thank you all so, so much. To all the SOCAP participants, we ask you to walk the talk and enjoy the conference, and really reflect and make commitments, at least three commitments, as Holly said.