Invisible inequities become apparent during times of crisis, but In.Visible Paradigms and Reinventure Capital are already on it.
If society were a human body, inequality would be its virus. Unequal access to healthcare lets a dormant virus take down a person’s immune system just as discrimination lets problems like poverty and violence rise to the surface and attack our social system.
During this time of crisis, those invisible inequalities are suddenly visible and at the forefront of everyone’s minds. News stories talk of how employer-based healthcare fails the newly unemployed and how racism mixes with isolationism to further oppress minorities. There is an endless amount of work to be done to fix the years of unequal distribution of resources and silent prejudice that has led to these outcomes.
If you want to do something about it, there are great organizations working out of Impact Hub Boston to address these challenges. Read on to hear from two hubbers working on addressing social inequality and financial inequality: Brenda Herrera Moreno, Founder of In.Visible Paradigms, and Julianne Zimmerman, Managing Director of Reinventure Capital.
Can you explain Reinventure Capital’s value proposition for businesses and for society in your own words?
Julianne: “Reinventure’s investment strategy is all about creating wealth and opportunity with and for people of color and womxn. We do this by investing in US-based expansion stage companies led and controlled by womxn and people of color, that are around breakeven and are poised to scale profitably, but have otherwise struggled to secure capital for growth.”
“The strategy has already been proven by Reinventure President Ed Dugger, in a previous fund where ⅔ of the portfolio companies contributed to the fund returns, and the fund delivered 32% IRR (Internal Rate of Return) to investors. At the time, Ed, the investment thesis, and the returns all received high-profile attention. However, it takes more than one success to make significant change. When Ed decided to launch Reinventure, it was my great privilege and honor that he asked me to join him in bringing it to life.”
“Because our objective is to grow up economic engines that generate more equitable wealth and opportunity, we work to get to know founders of potential future portfolio companies and find ways to support them well in advance of making a decision whether to invest. It is central to our investment approach to make sure that we and the founder teams are all aligned on building profitable businesses with corporate cultures and operating practices that intentionally expand inclusion and equity, and create value for all stakeholders, rather than extracting value and concentrating it in the hands of a few.”
Why did you want to start In.Visible Paradigms?
Brenda: “In.Visible Paradigms is really focused on the interpersonal growth of an individual to better sustain their anti-oppression efforts. I wanted to create this opportunity after experiencing the 2016 Women’s March in Denver and the whitewashing of critical social justice movements.”
“Looking at these situations, my personal motive was looking for what I could do in a way that was still engaging with difficult conversations and creating spaces for people to navigate them. Those conversations were centering around people engaging in activism for the first time or hearing words for the first time, and helping people connect to the external social, cultural and political environment.”
“We connect with people primarily through two programs. The first is through our cohorts which are groups of people that engage in open dialogue and self-reflection activities to determine how they can integrate anti-oppression actions, language, and more into their lives.”
“Our second program is organizational consulting, where we work with an organization to determine the best ways to create a culture that fosters diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices. We are currently working on a project with B Local Boston, for example, to help their board create a community that actively welcomes and sustains a diverse community of members. As an organization engaging directly with anti-oppression, we remain open to new opportunities, collaborations and programs to deepen this work.”
How is COVID-19 impacting your work?
Julianne: “We hear from many people that they are pulling back from private investments because the market is fibrillating. However, a significant body of evidence shows that womxn and people of color are positioned to be the economic force to lead the recovery from the pandemic and the rest of the actively-unfolding crises. We are encouraged by the leadership by a small subset of limited partners (LPs) who are looking at the present-day and historical evidence, and revising and reshaping their priorities to actively participate in that resurgence.”
“For their part, the founders we are investing in are doing their best to pivot and continue providing value. Many of them are delivering products and services that are even more compelling in this fraught moment. That said, as enthusiastic and encouraged as I am by working with founders who are finding ways to create unique value in the world, I know that there are many others who will be starved of capital to continue to operate and grow their businesses.”
Brenda: “We’ve had eight cohorts thus far in Denver and Boston and now, with cohorts moving virtually, we have seen people join from around the US. It’s building a wider sense of community and leading to even more dynamic conversations.”
Any calls to action? How can our readers make your work more impactful?
- For those looking to make small investments: There are products and ways to invest. If you want to invest a small amount ($100 for example) you can invest in equity crowdfunding campaigns and other products such as those offered by C Note, Republic, and Oweesta, among others. If you have a 401k, ask your plan administrator how inclusive their manager selection is, and what they are doing to improve the quality of their offerings by increasing equity and inclusion. You can also call your alma mater and ask them how their endowment is invested — does it reflect the composition of the student and alumni bodies, and does it serve their interests equitably?
- For those looking to make larger investments: For accredited, qualified, and institutional investors, there are hundreds of funds (our peers) pursuing a wide spectrum of impact+return strategies (different stages, sectors, etc.). For holders of Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), demand that your DAF platform disclose aggregate figures for where it disburses capital. If it does not actively support impact investments, move your account to a platform that does, such as Impact Assets, among others.
- For folks in the policy realm: Help take down the barriers holding diverse founders at a disadvantage to their homogenous white peers. There are many ways to do this at international, federal, state, and municipal jurisdictional scales. For example, standardize portfolio and manager disclosure requirements for public pensions. Request guidance from the SEC to clarify the provision for Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) to be used for impact investing, not just charitable disbursements.
- Join a cohort with In.Visible Paradigms and become an informed partner in the anti-oppression movement.
- Learn more about the “Share My Check” campaign that’s running nationally.
- For organizations, check out this article: The Business Case for Diversity is a Sinking Ship.
Which SDG 10 targets does your business directly work toward?
- 10.1: By 2030, progressively achieve and sustain income growth of the bottom 40% of the population at a rate higher than the national average
- 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
What is your second-favorite SDG and why?
Julianne: “Financial, social, and gender inequity is inextricably connected with all of the SDGs, and unsurprisingly the founders we work with are commercializing solutions correlating across multiple SDGs. With that in mind, we view all of the SDGs as vital.”
Brenda: “In honor of anti-oppression we are working with social human-level work, but within that something that gets missed is the earth and the ecosystem that we are a part of. Our second favorite goals are thus SDG 14: Life Below Water and SDG 15: Life on Land.”