Why do the hundreds of impact investors who come to SOCAP invest more in social enterprise solutions focused on Africa and Africans than in African Americans? That’s the question that Konda Mason, co founder of Impact Hub Oakland asked me three years ago.

We had created the social capital markets conference, the market at the intersection of money and meaning and it seemed to be a pretty big success. SOCAP had become the largest conference in its sector, impact investing and social enterprise. We had more than 2,000 attend from more than 60 countries, connecting investors with for profit businesses built not to just be good businesses, but to make money doing good, addressing a particular problem.

Our method of convening, bridging silos and find unlikely allies, had been the secret for our success. But Konda pointed out a problem I had not noticed. She was right. At that year’s SOCAP, there were more than four times as many startups working in Africa than with or led by African Americans. I found with a quick look that African focused startups were also far more likely to get funding.

At first, we convened panels of black and white investors and entrepreneurs pointing out the discrepancy. People might have been slightly embarrassed, but nothing changed. So I started looking for something that could help impact investors SOCAP take action, something everyone could do that would be cheap, easy and safe.

 Jessica Norwood, of Emerge Change, both a Balle and Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow who runs a networks of savings circles around Mobile, pointed out the key Donella Meadows systemic intervention point; what Bucky Fuller would call a trim tab; the small lever to nudge that makes the big ocean liner change directions . It was the friends and family gap.At the earliest stage, entrepreneurs get their funding from their friends and family; uncles and cousins who have seen that this one is one to bet on. Friends and family funding is not institutional funding, it’s before angel investors, before seed stage . It’s the idea stage, take a chance on the person, character based lending. It needs a long payback at low interest rates; the kind of deal your uncle gives you to raise the $15-30,000 the census bureau says it takes, on average, for a successful launch.

 The problem, Jessica pointed out, is that African American families have on average $11,000 in assets while white families have $144,000. The result, is that the many promising African American entrepreneurs can’t get the money to launch. The Runway Project does not focus on why that is the case, though that’s important. Our goal it give the entrepreneurs and small business owners the runway through friends and family level of funding.

Jessica and I called our collaboration the Runway Project, because it’s not a pilot problem, it’s a runway problem.  All of our partners agree that gap exists, but most were working a level above, with businesses that could take out a business loan, from a mission focused CDFI.

What we came up with is pretty sweet: we have a solution for one piece of the legacy of structural racism that will give above market returns to investors.

Working with Selfhelp.org we have a new Runway Project CD designed to bridge the friends and family gap that is launching at Neighborhood Economics preday at SOCAP Sept 13.

 Investors will get above market returns on their $500 six month savings, while investing in a range of startups coming out of the a range of accelerators working with under represented entrepreneurs at the Impact Hub Oakland in the pilot, with Konda Mason the point person.

Investors can also give to the loan loss reserve if they chose, or do both; get above market returns at zero risk and give at the same time. We think that may be our most important innovation; helping people act their way into a new of thinking, becoming blended value investors. This is an epiphany engine wrapped in a that comes wrapped with more money and zero risk.

Konda and her Impact Hub co founders Lisa Chacon and Ashara Ekandayo and their team will lead community engagement. To reach white allies with a new story, we plan to replicate the ally engagement strategy we used back in the 90’s when my wife led Jackson Mississippi’s Habitat for Humanity Chapter to be the country’s largest, building more than 300 homes.

The tactic is simple; we went to every civic club, every Sunday school and synagogue and mosque accompanies by a homeowner who had put in 500 hours of sweat equity, to tell their story. Because they were sweating alongside people who were lifting themselves up, rather than being asked for a handout, those groups rushed to gather their members to build houses. We had insurance defense law firms competing with each other building houses alongside homeowners in Jackson’s poorest neighborhood. 

You tell a new story about self reliance and create a bridge of empathy that causes money and resources to flow in new ways. Because the entrepreneurs will be themselves buying CD’s to fund their business, the investors we reach will be co investing with the businesses; just like in Habitat, working alongside each other, this time watching a business build.

I think that ally engagement strategy; offering a product that makes more money back than Wells Fargo or Citi and helps people in their community help themselves can be really attractive. The money could go to be a fancy cake baker who expanded to have a storefront, a commercial oven and a half time employee. Affluent investors will be investing at above market rate return into people they have perhaps thought of as dependent. That will change the narrative in every city where it is done.

 The CD can be replicated anywhere, but we think it works best when its deployed by a team like Impact Hub Oakland with deep community credibility and engagement, what David Erickson of the Fed calls a community quarterback several accelerators working with micro businesses and startups, and other capacity providers. We have also secured relationships with follow on funding providers that are promising.

 

 

 

Why I am not going to Burning Man.

I will be in Oakland working with Konda Mason and her team to get our first Runway Project tool ready to showcase.

Hope you can make it to Neighborhood Economics, Sept. 13, the day before SOCAP. We will be unveiling the first Runway Project tool  we are working on there.

We are working on the problem of the friends and family gap between African Americans and whites. The average black family has $11,000 in assets. The average white family $144,000. For Hispanics its $13,000.  We have a solution to bridge that gap; a CD with above market returns that will invest in black startups or micro business expansion. It has zero risk to the investor. So you make more money on your $500 six month savings, at zero risk while investing in people in your community helping themselves, ending a cycle of dependency and getting the smartest founders from under served communities into the game. 

For the entrepreneur, the CD is designed by Napoleon Wallace  when he was at Selfhelp.org to act like true friends and family capital; long payback, low return. Loans made based on your character. We hope to draw from Uptima Business Bootcamp, operating out of Impact Hub Oakland, and the startups from Youth Hub Oakland. The repayment terms of the CD are, as friends and family loans are, long payback at low interest. These loans are for idea stage, pre revenue startups and microbusiness expansions. They are classed as  signature loans for a business purpose; the stage before a business loan.

The Runway CD’s have a loan loss reserve, in this first instance, of dollar for dollar; we can lend out as much as we have banked against its loss. We think we will probably head toward a 50% loan loss reserve, once we see what they call the loss curve; the percent who fail. The loan loss reserve can be built by investments acting as donations from average people. If they go through a donor advised fund the donor can get a tax deduction.

For the donor, they could potentially look at getting half of their donation back from loan repayments, in order to give again. It’s a catalytic donation that pays you back 50 cents on the dollar to give with again, with the other 50 cents that does not come back having been invested in the learning experience for the entrepreneur in your community. The part that acts like a typical non profit gift; the part of the donation that does not come back to you, has been spent helping founders from under represented communities learn from their failure, and maybe try again, just like friends and family loans are in the extended families of affluent people.

The Runway CD gives you two choices, which is its real secret. You can invest at above market rate into marginalized communities. And, or you can give to them; donate to the loan loss reserve. That is the limitation on  growth; getting the loan loss reserve. People have to care for that to work, so a replicable strategy for creating empathy bridges to marginalized communities from affluent communities is needed. That’s why it’s important for the CD itself to be giving you a higher rate of return than Wells Fargo of Citi or any other huge normal bank. 

The assurance that you will make above market returns, guaranteed, is, I  suspect, what might perhaps reduce some of the fear that keeps white people from engaging with black people. Fear of many things, including engaging wrong, saying the wrong thing, not getting it. But this is a way to engage where you make more money than you’d get from leaving your short term savings at Wells Fargo. When you do it, you will have acted your way into a new way of thinking, to quote Richard Rohr. You will be on your way to becoming a blended value investor, donor, etc. You will have invested in all of us, while also investing in yourself, rather than the old two pocket thinking of investing purely for return and then giving some of your excess to good. Your relationship to the commons and your community will change. You will have tamed the market, in one part of your community, and made above market return helping to make sure your city doesn’t end up like Ferguson or Baltimore.

You will become a person who can decide which financial tool to use for which part of the problem, taming the market to your goals to help your local community thrive. You will be more in control of your life, less complicit with an economy that you know is wrong, part of building an economy that can create wealth in every neighborhood in your community, which makes your city more resilient and safe. You can invest at above market rate targeting one of the key leverage points of  structural racism. It’s the stealth epiphany tool aspect of this I am most excited about. This will stimulate the demand for financial products that give this feeling of abundance.

As a country, we need that missing talent that can’t raise the $10-$30k to launch from their friends and family.  It’s not a pilot problem; it’s a runway problem, as Jessica Norwood says. They don’t have the money to launch because their friends and family do not have it. She had the insight that this was the critical but hidden leverage point to focus on. I saw that she was right. I was looking for a leverage point but had not found one. A couple of attempts had not produced results yet, but they were exploratory attempts that made me ready to see Jessica had nailed the crucial Donella Meadows systemic intervention point. So I joined her to work on this problem. With the loan loss guarantee, the CD can act like real friends and family capital; long repayment times at low interest. 

BTW, though this is early, my gut tells me this is probably a Red Hat play. Jessica wants to start a for profit business and she has asked me to be part of it. I want to be part of it but it would be with Good Capital holding the position; I work for and co own Good Capital. Good Capital owns Mission Hub, which operates our Impact Hubs and SOCAP. The CD will be led by Impact Hub Oakland with Self Help deeply engaged in this proof of concept pilot. I will at least be involved with whatever finally launches, since this product will help Impact Hubs become cauldrons of financial innovation for justice across the network.

I’m the only white guy on the team, btw.

Now to the nuts and bolts:

We got the yes from Self Help.org for the Runway Project CD to be rolled out out of Impact  Hub Oakland. The reason it might work is that Impact Hub Oakland, working with Youth HUB Oakland and Uptima Business Bootcamp have community engagement around a group of startups from under represented communities already. AEO, the national assn of microbusinesses in marginalized communities is a partner with follow on funding, and several other capacity and funding sources are ready to do their part. At the same time we will be helping a bank and a Community Development Venture Capital firm do market entry in the East Bay with money to deploy, etc.

The reason it might work, take two.

There is an ecosystem in place, two big players want to do market entry in the lending to businesses in marginalized communities in the East Bay, so there will be several new players and products each one reducing the risk of the new intermediaries in the system. 

But the key reason it might work is not the new money in the room. It’s that Impact Hub Oakland, working with Youth HUB Oakland and Uptima Business Bootcamphave community engagement around a group of startups from under represented communities already. AEO, the national assn of microbusinesses in marginalized communities is a partner with follow on funding, and several other capacity and funding sources are ready to do their part; helping a bank and a cdvca do market entry with money to deploy, etc.

The reason it might work is that the ecosystem has been prepared. The key ingredient is provided by Impact Hub Oakland. They have created a trusted safe space where the people who want to make change feel comfortable working together. That soft social capital, the deep, extensive community engagement with someone knitting the ecosystem together is more important than any new funding tool. Great tools that are the product of genius are misused every day. 

The community quarterback, the team lead by Impact Hub Oakland founders Konda Mason, Lisa Chacon and Ashara Ekandayo provide the connective tissue that could allow something new to be brought in a culturally literate way. That is key to getting broad adoption as fast as possible. You start there, with the people who connect people and who people trust to bring in new things, who’ve done it before and it worked. They have a track record on community engagement that the entire Impact Hub 80 plus site global network looks to for guidance.

Then there is our new tool. Then there is the rest of the ecosystem, that seems at this moment before we start, to be poised to have a mutually beneficial ,symbiotic relationship with each other. 

The players in the ecosystem at the start of the initial community rollout of the  Runway Project CD built by Self Help being piloted out of Impact Hub Oakland are:

The bank. Beneficial State Bank with software to lower the risk of investing in businesses from marginalized communities. PCV, the community development venture capital group that was given $350,000 by Wells to invest broadly in inclusion in the East Bay. Both want market entry partners and guides in the East Bay, which Impact Hub Oakland is perfectly suited to provide.

The online mentor platform; Micromentor has one, and Beneficial State Bank wants its own. 

The accelerators. Uptima and Youth Hub Oakland.

Follow on funding 

is a another reason this can work. Besides Beneficial and PCV there are other local sources of aligned capital for the friends and family stage startups to aim for. A close partner is the Association for Enterprise Opportunity AEO, the national association for microfinance and microbusiness in underserved communities AEO’s Cue platform and Dream Fund are potential funders for Runway Project graduates when they are ready for  business loans.

Capital Impact that can invest in businesses in Oakland in food, health and coops.

There is a place to make sense of the whole ecosystem online in Sphaera.

As audacious at it is to try to build a tool to solve the friends and family gap in the African American community, I think we have a good start here.

I cut and pasted Michel Bauwens facebook posts below.

 

First, their section on labor first, ,https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Labor and that on cooperativeshttps://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Cooperatives , including one on Platform Cooperatives, https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Platform…

 

this would typically contain important reports such as this last one here, from Pat Conaty and colleagues,https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Trade_Union_and… ; which is also covered in a section focusing on the new networked solidarity mechanisms, herehttps://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:P2P_Solidarity, which we call ‘commonfare’

 

more directly connected to digtal coops, we favour ‘open cooperatives’ which are structurally allied to creating and maintaining commons, and use multistakeholder governance models,https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Open_Cooperatives ; I find the Fair Shares model of great interest as well,https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/New_Cooperativism_and_the…

 

we also maintain, too inadequately for sure, directories of free software coops,https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Free_Software_Cooperatives, worker-owned tech coops, etc ..https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Worker-Owned_Tech_Collectives

Birmingham, UK 

Birmingham Town Hall  2013 – 2016 Mission Roadmap [this covers the prototyping work we have been doing..in the last 2 years] and the systems focused accelerator we are doing in Birmingham, 

http://issuu.com/impacthubbirmingham/docs/impact_hub_birmingham_mission_roadm/1

Also the following is link to the Radical ChildCare Accelerator we are running too – systems focused – as opposed to just enterprise orientated – https://birmingham.impacthub.net/mission/radicalchildcare/

Thought Pieces from our Impact Hub Birmingham/Townhalls work.

Some writing on our mission / thought from the last year that may be of specific interest.

1 Mission Learnings: https://birmingham.impacthub.net/2015/05/17/1-mission-3-stories-5-lessons-5-plans/

2 Relational Openness / Open Companies: https://birmingham.impacthub.net/2015/05/17/impact-hub-birmingham-an-ropen-company/

3 Building Communities of the Future: https://birmingham.impacthub.net/2015/06/22/build-communities-future/

4 Open Making: https://birmingham.impacthub.net/2015/09/09/making-things-in-the-open/

5 Power of Us: https://birmingham.impacthub.net/2015/10/08/power-of-us/

6. TownHalls for Social Change: https://medium.com/hub-engine/town-halls-for-social-change-d430d42b9243?source=linkShare-fc285852de98-1465243123

7. The Challenge of Massive Change: https://medium.com/hub-engine/the-challenge-of-massive-change-ed97b591aaa2?source=linkShare-fc285852de98-1465243311

Indy Johar 

about.me/indy.johar

Co-Founder & Executive Director of Project00DarkMatterLabsImpact Hub Birmingham; Visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield & Senior Innovation Associate Young Foundation 

Project00 is the Research, Design & Start-Up Studio behind  Architecture00Dark Matter Laboratories Impact Hub BirminghamImpact Hub Brixton  Impact Hub IslingtonImpact hub Westminster.  Opendesk.ccWikiHouse.cc; +++ amongst other organisations. 

Skype   inderpaul

Twitter  @indy_johar 

Medium  DarkMatterLabs

I know where I would put the $100 million from MacArthur in and around our projects. I’ve thought about it. Instantly build out Rodney Foxworth’s $30 million philanthropic evergreen fund that operates out of the Impact Hub Baltimore that he leads. We want hubs to be the center of a community wealth building movement in their cities, with funds to invest. That’s enough to make a difference, if you leverage it wisely. Rodney  has shown he knows how to bring in multiple layers and sectors of support, so he’s the perfect person to try that fund at fast. Maybe in conversation with MacArthur’s other $100m bet, in Chicago that also has this same kind of fund in the middle of it. That money would make micro-businesses, sole proprietorships and small businesses and startups able to launch. We expect he will do this in combination and sometimes coordination withThe Runway Project , which is a tools and co creation network of a few pilots to solve the friends and  family gap for African Americans. 

Then I would put up half of the $3m that Derrick Braziel needs to build out his identically profiled fund in Cincinnati to support Mortar’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. I would build a sales team to sell the above market certificate of deposit being created by Napoleon Wallace to invest in entrepreneurs in your communities helping themselves, and bootstrapping themselves upward.

I’d do that in communities with Impact Hubs in our network, seeding a new kind of investing happening at hubs, and helping them become centers of community wealth building, with inclusive wealth seen as the foundation for the whole community to be wealthy and healthy. Indy Johar has best codified this approach through is work on Impact Hub Birmingham, UK with Imandeep Kaur.

We could use $12 million or so on that, the engagement needs to be deep and built off a holistic analysis of the wicked problem we are tackling in trying to work with the poorest part of the population, and using the sales as a bridge building thing for black and white people in town; they would both invest in the neighborhoods. We’d probably sell it with networks of students like door to door Bible salesmen; those networks of motivated students making money for college work well. They they could follow with a SOCAPLocal event, where they want to commit to making some measureable collective impact  within 18 months after the event. So the event has to be timed within the growth of the community putting it on, for when they think are 18 months away from showing something worth measuring. And they would join the learning network when they engage, not when they put on their SOCAPLocal event.

That seeds the ground for us to build the philanthropic evergreen funds, in  each place, on top of that installed based of cd owners who’ve acted their way into a new way of thinking. And Runway Projects and Impact Hubs that have evolved into town halls for community  wealth building would be perfect partners helping guide the funds to under represented entrepreneurs and provide the support to do it well. The multicultural merchant bank led by Sidney Hargro would be able to deal with the institutional players we will be partnering with as this starts to work, if it does.

The Runway Project needs attention and capital. We could replicate the runway project all across the country, and that’s another $25 million, to really build the network in the way that would create an easily replicated (though not easily implemented, of course) models of creating community wealth, using our analysis and strategy and action tools coupled with friends and family gap crossing tools. The Runway Project would ride on top of the CD buyers network in Impact Hub communities  where people had seen, lots of the city had seen, that you really can invest in justice and make money. We could build the SOCAPLocal or Neighborhood Economics Network event off of that movement and rippling epiphany. And the evergreen philanthropic fund fits in; in Cincinnati, it came before the wealth building hub, in Baltimore, the Impact Hub came first. Either way the hubs need to be platforms for community wealth building and town halls for social change as Indy calls them.

Using the financial tool that changes the way people think, we end up, through the events, creating a low cost, low friction network of resilient communities, sharing what works and what doesn’t. As we get to 20 of these SOCAPLocal sites some might evolve into the same kind of thing as our deep tight pilot network of three  sites and three people helping the entrepreneur working with black businesses with Rodney, Derrick and Jason as our focus.  I’m ready to work on it and use it as at least a way to build the story.

I am focusing on how to tell the story to white allies, if that wasn’t clear before. That’s where I am focusing. And applying for that grant and getting into the white philanthropic places, global philanthropy forum, which is important but I never really paid attention to. I could go out and kind of campaign in the philanthropic world for this. I don’t know how to do it but people do that all the time.  That may not be the right approach. Sidney, I need help thinking about this from your foundation world view. Or maybe Jessica leads the philanthropic ask, since she’s done it well. I just know I am ready to go out and sell

I’d keep the rest for follow on investments or infrastructure building in a more long term play. 

Applying for that $100 million might be a great way to crystalize our story. Jessica and Sidney, you know my Neighborhood Economics partner Tim. Mathew is working with me on some tools to codify our story; something I need. He suggested we apply for the $100 million.

I’d love to develop a set of cards around the SOCAPLocal three part model. A network of places using the model. This is an idea still in formation. 

Imagine a network of communities putting on their own SOCAPLocal events. They commit to the Community Wealth discovery and analysis tasks; asking four question. What’s working, what’s broken, what’s missing and what’s ready to take off. Having found number four, that group gathers it’s own multidisciplinary stakeholders and becomes the connective tissue in that area that’s ready to take off locally. In Washington,DC that is food systems with access. At the Impact Hub in Belgrade, Serbia, it’s connecting the ecosystem in the region and within the country. In Cincinnatti it was investing in marginalized entrepreneur support, through Mortar and Derrick Braziel and his team.

Other local teams working on the event could connect with the  Runway Project, started by Jessica Norwood of Emerge Change, powered by Neighborhood Economics to work on what’s broken and find a way to help the smartest poor entrepreneurs get into the game.

 Then imagine we create a card deck to walk the SOCAPLocal group working through the process and model of discovery, analysis and action plan  in the run up to their event. It also includes how to do stranger discovery leading to the formation of unlikely allies. That is one thing that SOCAP does as a unique and core methodology; helping you find the local valuable stranger. Your local Samaritans. Help them start businesses and create wealth.

 There is lots of potential for a card deck around the three part analysis, strategy and action plan to create community wealth in your community.  We are likely selling SOCAPLocal as a $5k license to each city that wants to bring the feeling of SOCAP to a wealth creating focused event, that would help local people engage their community to create community wealth, after the event, and be on a peer learning network with the other people using the same analysis, strategy and operations guide we will create. 

We made a set of cards with Dave Gray of Xplane that were really useful for explaining Good Capital back a decade ago. Joy Anderson of Criterion was part of that, as was Tim Freundlich. I didn’t have to use them after I had a couple of portfolio companies to show them, but they would have long term value across the network; people would make up their own cards, and use the cards created by another node on the network of SOCAPLocal cities. 

Network node adaptable playing and tarot type (iconic characters or paths) cards for local community wealth creators to trade and mashup to use in new ways for local needs  could be really cool.

And then people could post new assemblages (winning hands) online on sphaera.world etc. Sphaera needs to enable card kits and card creation. It is magic the gathering deployed across local resilience nodes, used at SocapLocal and networked Neighborhood Economics (the analysis, strategy and action plan is the same).   They could be shared by other network participants at events and shared online through the peer learning network created by the $5k annual SocapLocal (name not yet decided on.) license, which allows you to do an event with the SOCAP brand and be in the network.

We could hold competitions for the best local resilience game created by the cards that each SOCAPLocal creates, with lots of winning categories that are a good taxonomy, and give extra points for Impact Hubs in the network that  actively cooperate with each other on content development and collective impact across the network.

We could hold competitions for the best local resilience game. Your local game is a process picture of your local engagement in the SOCAPLocal three step model, which would be expressed in the cards so each SOCAPLocal event becomes a place to play. And the competition has lots of winning categories that create a good taxonomy. 

We give extra points for Impact Hubs that are Neighborhood Economics nodes riding on the Impact Hub network that actively cooperate with each other on content development and collective impact across the network. This would edge the SOCAPLocal event more toward providing our local host to create a festival around our event and card tournament and competition. Arts and crafts, etc. would abound; it would be a cultural kind of thing. I have no idea how to do that, but setting a magic the gathering card game for local resilience inside the event and as a piece of ongoing community created content I have a hunch thats where it would go. 

It would let us access several potential partners that are not in our network now. For example, Foxfire folks, nature DIY’ers etc. would like it, deep ecology folks might get integrated as valuable strangers with the folks transforming the economy. Building it to enable overlapping networks of valuable strangers that become unlikely allies, using the SOCAP convening methodologies that give our event such an abundant and overflowing feeling, would make this really interesting. This is a network that would make the local polycentric practitioners smarter, faster, and make their work easier. It could have significant influence and even political power. We would be creating smart resilience voters who know how to work together. 

I’m going to help Ben Powell of Agora Partnerships and Jim Epstein of EFO Capital and Blue Ridge Produce create a council on civic innovation that operates out of the  Impact Hub DC. I’m going to map it like Zoe Schlag and her team at Unlimited US mapped the Austin social enterprise ecosystem on kumu.io and also use localwiki.org here to map another views of the ecosystem. Nobody has linked those two tools that I am aware of.

I think people will love being part of the project. We’ll map power and money relationships; funder, fundee, parent org, project, percentage of earned income, impact metrics used, geographic impact, sector, funding sources, revenue model, imagined-growth-path/ projections. We will offer access to Acumen’s  lean data tools and seminars, etc as well as the Social Progress Index.

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