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Investing with Indigenous People

Translating indigenous values into finance and enterprise

Venture philanthropy and impact investing are rapidly growing fields blurring traditional lines between philanthropy and for profit investing. Instead of turning a blind eye to applying values to investing, people are increasingly working from a perspective of interconnectedness where the same values that would be applied to grantmaking are applied to investing. While this is a new paradigm for finance, many indigenous societies have never separated commerce from honoring the earth and valuing the well-being of community. This lively panel was convened in October 2014 at the World Summit on Indigenous Philanthropy to share perspectives of indigenous values-driven business, grant makers and impact investors working to foster practical solutions to complex social and environmental challenges including job creation, cultural revitalization and environmental stewardship.

Moderator: Shaun Paul, Reinventure Capital
Panelists
Amy Fredeen, Cook Inlet Tribal Council
Sonja Swift, Swift Foundation
Donna Morton, Principum
Kevin Jones, Social Capital Markets (SoCap)

 

 

Video

Infographic shows why Branson’s Virgin formula for branding #biodiversity is so right on

This video by a Vancouver art student group is a good overview of the value of #biodiversity, but seeing it makes me realize how much I like Richard Branson’s method of branding biodiversity.

Richard Branson’s Biodiversity Branding Formula has five elements. Start with A. an at risk animal that’s cute or magnificent (for biodiversity, cute and exotic may trump charismatic megafauna (lions, hippos, etc.) The big animals are usually seen alone; the small animals are believably dependent on context; local habitat, and ecosystem. Then it says B. We are starting to make a difference; we are protecting its habitat, it’s coming back in some places. Next he says C. That it’s safe to give to this country or region; there are fair elections on the way, or some other validator so that people won’t be afraid to give or get involved there. The rule of law is essential for biocultural diversity. That’s why the confluence this September of the UN and International Funders for Indigenous People annual conference and the first ever real time meeting of representatives of indigenous nations and the nation states of the UN is so important and why I plan to be  deeply involved in those September gatherings.

Then there is D. a brief mention of the fact that biodiversity is good for people, too. But you don’t sell that too hard; you don’t lead with it. I’ve learned in seven years of involvement with Fair Trade companies, that the message of linking poverty alleviation is not one you lead with if you want to talk to a broad audience. It doesn’t resonate well with people beyond a core group of justice seekers.

There could be a greater link with faith based people in the U.S. on this, as there is in the UK. The tragic failure of Fair Trade USA to make this a key component of their message has to be overcome. In the UK, 83 % of grocery store buying decisions are positively impacted by fair trade as a factor. In the U.S.  it’s under 10 % largely, I think, in the UK the governing fair trade organization linked faith based people with activists, while in the U.S. the leadership was only about motivating activists. Until the church and the secular justice activists effectively link up, selling justice as a key reason to get important things done will lag behind using environmental motivations.

Finally, when you look the pictures on Branson’s project on Pinterest, E. the money line appears; not in the story. There is no intrusion into the story experience of Branson’s business reasons for being involved in biodiversity (whatever his personal reasons are). That’s the way to sell. Let the cute animals lead the way. Follow with the reassurance that it’s safe to give and that there is reason to hope, mention the people in passing, and leave the money pitch until the story is finished and has gotten its proper reaction.