Our Common Future conference was held in Detroit, Michigan at the end of October 2017. We have a Part One and a Part Two to give you the top ten. We will interview several guest speakers that help shape our community. They give us some insight into the work that they do to empower entrepreneurship and Impact Investing.
Welcome Back to the Bonfires of Social Enterprise. On this episode, we continue with part two of the Our Common Futures conference. On this episode, Jennifer and Natalie, catch up with conference attendees Melanie Audette with the Mission Investors Exchange, Brenda Hunt with the Battle Creek Community Foundation, Amy Peterson of Rebel Nell, David Contorer with Hebrew Free Loans, and Jason Paulateer with PNC Bank and Foundation.
To kick of Part Two, Jennifer sits down with Melanie Audette of the Mission Investors Exchange…..
Jennifer: What I'd like to start off today, during our talk is to have you tell me a little bit about yourself and your organization and then we'll go from there.
Melanie: Well, I'm the Senior Vice President at Mission Investor's Exchange. I am based in Seattle and Mission Investor's Exchange is a 12 year old organization with offices in New York and San Francisco and then we have some staff in Seattle, but we're a very small but mighty team that has a membership consisting of mainly foundations of all types and sizes across the US who are either building or expanding an impact investing program. And we started out as the PRI Makers Network 12 years ago, when foundations were really focused mainly on doing program-related investments, and about five years ago we merged with The More Formation Campaign, which was a campaign to encourage foundations to devote two percent of their endowments to invest for a mission.
Jennifer: I love that. So here at the conference so far, what are your impressions then of how it works and how it applies to your mission through Mission Investor's Exchange?
Melanie: Well the independent sector conference as well as the Council of Michigan Foundation's Conference, where we are today, represents two things for me specifically. First, the independent sector has a very much more broad attendance and participation than a lot of the conferences that we attend and that includes the foundations who are at the heart of our network, but also those who play a very important role in the ecosystem around impact investing. And that includes non-profit organizations who oftentimes have social entrepreneurial goals and projects and so, therefore can be investees of impact investment's five foundations as well as those who support them in the field, so investment advisors, philanthropic advisors, attorneys, and accountants. All of those participants really play an incredibly important part helping foundations to identify who investees can be and to be able to do the work efficiently and within the law and correctly and responsibly.
The second part is the Council of Michigan Foundations, Mission Investor's Exchange has had a five-year partnership with CMF, and we've worked together over the years to provide education first for those foundations who are interested in learning about impact investing. Through this partnership, Michigan has become the model, really for the whole country informing what's now an infrastructure within that association to help foundations not only to learn about impact investing, but to actually build and identify investment opportunities, create a pipeline for investments, support them in that work and now this year, they've hired an Executive in Residence at CMF to help on a local and regional level, their membership to do this.
Jennifer: So understanding that you're drawing from a large group with a lot of people here from a lot of different areas all across the globe, what do you feel has been the highlight of the conference so far for you?
Melanie: Well, one of the highlights for me, because I was a speaker was seeing a room that was absolutely packed full of people who are interested in mission investing or impact investing and we've found that recently, that there is an incredible amount of interest, but what's most gratifying is to see the participants in the audience really respond to the examples of this work taking place in real life and we had panelists in our break out session, who helped people to understand, that even as a small foundation you can be responsive to the community, through different types of financial tools like alone, that really is a more appropriate use of capital for a particular situation, or an investment in a four concept business that has a mission, in this case it was Green Infrastructure that really fits our philanthropic mission as well, but it's a four profit investment that is also a real possibility for foundations to aline more of their capital with their mission.
Second, and this was really personally gratifying as well, I got to see Mo Rocca, and Mo Rocca is one of my heroes. He was moderating a session yesterday, and he has a kids show on CBS on Saturday mornings that my husband and I watch and it's called Innovation Nation.
Melanie: And he did an incredible job talking to Gary Wozniak, Amy Peterson, and Davita Davison yesterday on plenary stage. These three social entrepreneurs were so inspiring. Davita Davison actually brought tears to my eyes, talking about her work in the food space and one of the quotes I loved from Davina yesterday was, she was talking about the people that she's in a sense mentoring and she said "I encourage them to run for the United States of America, for the President of the United States of America". And to me, a statement like that means that with leadership like this in communities, she is helping people to understand that anything is possible and our session, you know Impact Investing, The Art of the Possible, was really personified on that plenary stage yesterday by those speakers.
What are you gonna take back to Mission Investor's Exchange from this conference? And then, in turn, share with the world? What are your plans?
Melanie: You know, it sounds funny but, at these conferences, there are oftentimes a lot of ... the sponsors are the ...
Jennifer: The exhibitions?
Melanie: The exhibitions.
Melanie: So, a lot of times people just walk through the exhibitions, and you know that can be frustrating sometimes for the exhibitors, but I find that in talking with the exhibitors, I really learn a lot, but also find things to bring back and for this conference and this set of exhibitors, which is really excellent, I've found several things. One is the Fetzer Institute. The Fetzer Institute is an organization that is focused on, now in this environment, which is a little bit polarized, you know talking about spiritual healing.
Melanie: And this reconnected me with some work of Parker Palmer who is also another hero of mine and it reminded me that for our conference in May in Chicago next year, that some things to focus on include some of that racial and spiritual healing. Also, there was a group out of the booth in Chicago. There was an NBA program, a weekend program with full scholarships and for those in the non-profit sector who were thinking about learning more and engaging more in the impact investing space, that's an enormous opportunity to go from maybe having a social work background or a liberal arts background, which a lot of non-profit executives have, to having that opportunity that's funded by a foundation to have a full scholarship for a Saturday weekend program in Chicago. I thought that was amazing.
And finally, the artwork. There's an artist that's collating the ideas, the inspiration from the community in order to create a community artwork here at the conference and I'm excited to see that come to fruition and also look at the opportunities for engaging with the arts community next year. So these are really practical things that I've brought back from the conference, but they're really valuable. It's a part of the value that I get from attending a conference here.
Jennifer: And I'm in 100 percent agreement with you when you talk about art and what art can do and talking about being polarized in multiple different areas right now. Art can heal. Art can build bridges, and by being able to incorporate that into your conference next year, I know it's an amazing takeaway. I think that it's gonna be very impactful for the attendees and it will help heal and build those bridges. That's great.
Thanks, Jennifer and Melanie, for your parting thoughts on how very important community art can be along with Melanie’s note on the great exhibitors. Next up, Natalie catches up with Brenda Hunt, CEO of the Battle Creek Community Foundation. We jump into the conversation just as Brenda begins to discuss how much all of the different sectors of funders intersect, especially at this conference.
Yeah, I think the deeper we get in, the more we all crisscross and the more we're all alike. We're more alike than different, even in the sectors. We should borrow, and pick and choose from each other. And we should use for profits when it makes most sense, and create for profits when it makes most sense for the situation and use nonprofits more sparingly would be more thought pattern.
Natalie: You make a really good point about identifying the landscape with everybody working together in this space. Can you talk a little bit about how identifying the landscape is really important when it comes to impact investing?
Brenda Hunt: Absolutely. We kind of rushed in and wanted to do something. I think a lot of people are rushing in trying to figure out what it is they should do after they decide they wanna do something. And we've done a few things now and more to come. But before I can say to the board, this is where we need to be in what we all call this space, this space of impact investing or however anybody chooses to frame it up, I think you need to learn about what else is taking place in our community in what I call a community capital stack. I believe those are your terms.
Natalie: Everyone's got their own terms, don't you think? They all mean the same. Essentially identify who the players are, who's got the money, and who needs to deploy it and get off the couch, right?
Brenda Hunt: Yeah. Exactly. One of the pieces as we get into looking at what type of funding, what type of investment, what type of loans, what type of investors you have in a community, that are investing in your community, then perhaps it becomes more clear of what our role could or should be. And in that time and in that span as you're probably doing some things, you're also a catalyst. So when we look at our staff, we can identify what we thought we're probably already missing, and when we have local people of investor quality, they're not investing locally in our community from a business sense of the word.
Natalie: Right. It's that basis start of a philanthropic heart, but you have that investor mentality where this space of impact investing lives in that you are talking about. For our listeners out there, Brenda and her whole entire taskforce in my opinion, in our whole company's opinion, are just courageous thought leaders on all of this. They are out there, not only discussing about what things are going on, but really they're the ones that are actually taking action and really making things happen. So I am excited for you, Brenda, and your task force. You're the doers. You're the doers.
Brenda Hunt: Thanks. I checked in with the executive committee, and they agree also. I think one of the most exciting pieces that we are waiting to see how it turns out right now is a new manufacturing startup, a food business, on the north end of our community. It's in a place that was my grocery store when I first moved to town. It's been gone for a long time. We took a look at what area we might wanna do impact investing there, and then had you folks do the research on that, and then we said, "Not now," and delivered some very constructive messages in a whole bunch of ways.
Then came the calls from out of town from some other folks that had looked at investing, and there's some funds, and looked at putting some money in there. I look very forward to our future discussions of how those funds, our local investment, and some private investors might take this to the next phase. What's most important is that the leverage in this situation has brought some people in the food industry business to the table, which we're not in the food industry business. But we are the eyes and ears of the community. So there's some potential collaborations here. So, we'll just see how that turns out.
Natalie: Right. I think it's very, very exciting. Like I said, you have taken the forefront lead, the pioneering piece of it. I think that's just incredible. So let's get back to the conference. What has been a highlight for you attending this? Has anything really spoken to you that you're really excited to share?
Brenda Hunt: The change that's taking place you know? We have folks at this conference who are also what we would used to call them, grant seekers. Now, they're investees. They're entities, nonprofit and for-profit that we would invest in. That opens up the whole toolkit to not just grants and loans, but other types of investments that you can do through an intermediary or directly. So you can see that and feel that across here. These conferences used to be called Grant Makers and Grant Seekers, and that was never a term that necessarily resonated with me previously. But you can feel the turn. I think the fact that the impact investing sessions are packed, and there's lines out the doors, that and the whole area around healing of racism are the two pieces that I have seen from this conference that really resonate where the interests are a bit overwhelming with people wanting to do something right and good.
Brenda Hunt: One is when those two items about this conference come together, then I think it's very important that we make sure that our intentions of reaching the populations that need to be reached, that need to be brought along, that need to have jobs and equality of life, and the creation of wealth, not wealthy, wealth, for equality of life that we all think that each citizen has the opportunity for and should have, that we make sure we're doing that and that we don't miss that in our work as we go forward.
So, I'm still employed. I'm on my way back there so stay tuned. Battle Creek Community Foundation, best way probably is Brenda@bccfoundation.org. I will always pick up the phone, 269-962-2181. And I'm always willing to talk, because this is such an emerging area, and I don't have the answers. I've had a lot of things that we've tried. I'm always glad to share what we've tried and what we're doing.
Natalie: Well, that's wonderful. And as you know, pioneering is not comfortable.
Brenda Hunt: No, but it sure is fun.
Brenda Hunt: If we didn't have pioneering, we'd have nothing.
Brenda Hunt: In our country, and in our history, and in our world, and that's I feel the field is right now, too.
Natalie: Right. Well, listeners, it's just be an absolute privilege to be here with Brenda, and I'm so excited that Brenda you've taken the time to share this with us. So thank you so much.
Brenda Hunt: And thank you for how you shape this work and support us. We appreciate it.
Natalie: All right. Thank you.
There is that ‘pioneering’ discussion. It seems to me that the pioneering work of many in the field is rising the tide for all of us. Really great. Natalie and I had a good laugh one day when one of us blurted out ‘pioneering is not comfortable,’ and it stuck, we laughed both at the simplicity and revelation of those few words all at once. But, I digress. Let’s jump back to Natalie as she sits down with Amy Peterson from Rebel Nell.
Natalie: I am delighted to be here with our podcast regular, Amy Peterson, from Rebel Nell. She's been doing some speaking here. Hi to you, Amy.
Amy Peterson: Hi, Natalie. I'm so excited to be here and always love the podcast that you guys are doing.
Natalie: Super fun. Well, how has the conference been going for you this week? I know you've spoken quite a few times and today's the last day. How's it been going for you?
Amy Peterson: This is actually a fascinating conference to be a part of, and I'm really honored to be here and to have the opportunity to speak and share our story and to be in a room full of foundations, to pick their brains and navigate these waters and understand what they're thinking about when they make investments I think has helped me understand how to maybe pitch my business better or to figure out who best to target when asking instead of spinning your wheels and wasting all this time. Really narrowing your focus and figuring out who is the best fit for you, and I think you'll have yourself a lot of time and energy when you do that.
Natalie: That is true. That is one thing that's very unique about this conference where they've pooled together pretty much all the players, in a way, at this conference. It is neat to be in front of everyone and talking and learning about everything in terms of impact investing.
Amy Peterson: Absolutely. The dialogue around impact investing is fascinating, too. What I was incredibly optimistic about is it seems like there's more and more foundations who want to do it and they just can't quite figure out how. But there's enough that are the pioneers in this space that are saying, "Hey, we'll teach you, or we'll find a way to do it." That was, as a social entrepreneur, really encouraging to hear.
Natalie: Right. You're right, you've had experience with impact investing. How has that experience helped and shaped you so far?
Amy Peterson: Yeah. I think we also at Rebel Nell are also early in this space of understanding what it is like to receive impact investing and what it takes to court investors. On more one of those points where you're in the midst of it, you think it's so challenging to do the due diligence and get your ducks in a row. You're like, "God, how many more numbers do they want from me?" In hindsight, that's so valuable as a business owner to understand why that's important. To have companies like Gingras Global who are there to really provide those supportive services and wraparound services to make sure that we are a tight, neat package when we are put in front of investors and knowing and hearing that here at the conference of how they so appreciate that just goes to show, again, how incredible you guys are in what you do.
Natalie: Thank you.
Amy Peterson: Yes, it's been an interesting ride to receive some impact investing, but all the grunt work behind it's been really valuable.
Natalie: Well, yeah, I think that's true. There's a lot of grunt work.
Amy Peterson: A lot of grunt work. A lot.
Natalie: We're not gonna deny the grunt work in this space, but it is, once you get it and not make it so difficult, actually pretty simple in terms of what you need to do. Once you get it, then you can just keep going and soaring.
Amy Peterson: Yeah, absolutely. It just takes an initial phase, if you will, of getting everything properly aligned. It's a communication. It's a language that for so long if you don't know it, that's a barrier to get to foundations. If you can learn to use the Rosetta Stone to communicate effectively with foundations, things move a lot faster and keeping up. We're finding now that because we did that with one impact investor that now more are coming along our way. The upkeep to your point is far easier than the initial deep dive.
Natalie: Right. To your courage, you're going forward and being a pioneer in this space. That's what I like to think of you in. I believe that you've shown that it's a test of time. You've done it, and it's worked. Now you're seeing the benefits of people getting off of the couch and deploying the capital.
Amy Peterson: Yeah. It's fun to see some buns moving.
Natalie: Well, in terms of this conference, what has actually been a super highlight for you?
Amy Peterson: To be on a stage with Mo Rocca, total nerd moment, but that was so cool. I think he's hilarious and to be up there with the passionate Davida Davidson and the incredible Gary Wozniak was awesome. I know them, but we've never had the opportunity to sit on a panel together. I think we fed off each other very well and have brought different perspectives, but all unified in the same breadth. That, without question, was a huge highlight for me. I think people responded to it. I know it was a little different from the typical opening plenary session that they typically do at this conference. I think people liked it.
Natalie: Oh, I'm sure they did. Nerd moments are great.
Amy Peterson: Nerd moments are awesome.
Natalie: Well, how do our listeners get in touch with you and Rebel Nell? What great things do you have coming up for the holiday season?
Amy Peterson: Ah, that's a good time to plug. Yes, I'm firstname.lastname@example.org. Our website is RebelNell.com, and we have launched in September a whole new collection. It's called the Everyday Collection, which is perfect for the holiday gifts, great stocking stuffers. We have everything from a $20 price range to $80 in our new collection. It's the perfect holiday gift.
Natalie: Absolutely excited about checking that out. All our listeners out there, give a shout out to Amy over at Rebel Nell. Check out her new line and keep doing the amazing stuff you're doing. I love it.
Amy Peterson: Thank you, I will with support from great people like you.
Natalie: Alright, listeners, we're out!
Thanks, Amy and Natalie! I hope you guys all caught that you can support Amy at www.rebelnell.com and buy that great jewelry. We have really learned a bunch working with investors who wanted to fund Amy’s business. It is a very good thing that she is such an excellent leader and forerunner in social enterprise. Before I get carried away with love for Amy, I had better stay on track.
Next, we hear from David Contorer with Hebrew Free Loans. Jennifer is able to gain some valuable insight to their program starting with a great and meaningful history.
Dave: So Hebrew Free Loan has been around since 1895 [crosstalk 00:00:31]
Jennifer: [crosstalk 00:00:31] Wow.
Dave: Here in metro Detroit. It was established by Jewish immigrants who came over and were used to being from places in Europe where they couldn't get capital. And so they all chipped in a small amount of money in 1895 that became the first pool of dollars. And we provide interest-free loans today, much like they did 121 years ago. Interest-free loans to Jewish people in Michigan to help with personal, educational, and small business needs.
Jennifer: Wow. So that is just remarkable. Especially too that again very used to not being able to get them and then you make that possible. So tell me a little bit about, for our listeners, since we are here at the conference, how does that work for your organization? How do you get funding? What does that structure look like?
Dave: Sure. So we are a 501(c)(3) charitable impact organization, so we get funding by donations. We're a partner of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, a very solid, awesome partner of ours. So about a quarter of our operating budget comes from them. But we get the rest of our operating budget from donations, foundation grants, and investment returns. And then separately, we raise money for loan capital. The beauty of the loan capital pool is we're playing with money today that has been around since 1895, 'cause it gets paid back at 99% of the time.
Dave: And borrowers, either the borrowers who borrows the 0% loan, or the co-signers, that's how we mitigate our risk, the co-signers were to borrow or repay it, and it recycles back out so.
Jennifer: Wonderful. I'd love for you to tell our listeners a little bit more about your recent victory partnering with the Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation, and how working with them you're able to get cash out into the community and what that looked like not only for the community but then back in return to the Fisher Foundation.
Dave: It's a wonderful relationship. The Max and Marjorie Fisher Foundation and Hebrew Free Loans started in December of 2012, with a Program Related Investment. That's one of the social investment vehicles that Our Common Future, this conference, is featuring, and the premise was this Jennifer: that $200,000 was invested in December of 2012 for Hebrew Free Loan to use over a seven-year period. So that, that $200,000 went out to people to help them with cars, used car purchases and fixing their homes and for medical/dental procedures like in vitro fertilization, and for helping with life's instances where cash is shy, and people need to improve their lives. We got that $200,000 repaid to us, and it went out again, and it's being repaid now, so that our hope and goal is that by December of 2019, we will have almost that full $200,000 that we will then return back to the Fisher Foundation after it has generated $400,000 worth of social good.
Jennifer: Wow. That is so great. And I know I get the benefit here being able to look at the numbers right now. And just one thing I want to point out for our listeners is that they were able to help 14 individuals get cars that they wouldn't have been able to go out and get a car and what that ripple effect does on jobs and education and everything that those families were able to do because they were able to get funding that they wouldn't have been able to get before. So I want to get a little of your feedback today on the conference so far. This is kind of a new format for the conference right, joining multiple forces together. What's been some highlights for you?
Dave: So I have only attended the one session, but I can tell you from being in a room that was jam-packed with about 100 people from all over the place, I had people at my table from San Francisco, from Oregon, from different parts of Michigan, some on the funders side, some who are attorneys who are facilitating, people are very engaged at this concept of social investment. What can my role be as an attorney, as a for-profit investor that just wants to make some dollars, as somebody who cares about the social impact results of my investment? What can I do as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization who's at the table and I don't even know what a PRI is, and all this stuff sounds like foreign language to me?
Dave: And the learning and the cross-pollination of people is awesome. I don't know what was done in the past at this conference, this is my first time here, but I just, I feel like I walked into a room where there was a rich environment, an ecosystem of smart people, caring people, who want to make these vehicles work no matter where you are on the spectrum. And if you don't know, we're going to teach you how to do it. So, it seemed really awesome to me.
Jennifer: Yeah, and I was in that same room with you, and that is exactly what I took away as well. There is a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement where even though the idea of impact investing, PRIs have been around for years, people are now taking action. They're ready. They're asking, how do I be a part of this movement? How do I get capital out to people who need it? And how do I make a difference and make that impact? And how do I track it, like you guys do already with your program? So in addition to that, let me ask you one more question before I let you off the hook for the day is this: is that understanding that you were in that room, and you were talking, and there was all that energy, what do you think is going to be one of the key factors from that session today that you take back with you to share with your team?
Dave: I'm going to take back the excitement that's in the room, and the fact that someone was at my table representing autism, someone was at my table representing how do you help individuals who are doing estate plans and want to be charitable and with the organizations, there are different vehicles. I'm going to basically take back with whatever hat was worn by the people who come to conferences like this, they're going to try and find a way in their communities too, I think take this new, and I'm putting "new" in quotes 'cause it might be new to them [crosstalk 00:05:46]
Jennifer: [crosstalk 00:05:46] Absolutely.
Dave: Jennifer, you're absolutely right, the social impact investing has been around a while. I think in Michigan it hasn't been as prevalent per se. And Detroit's entrepreneurial spirit, the way the city is coming back fits perfectly with the notion of finding a way for investors, whether it's a foundation or an individual or a corporation or a government, all those pools of dollars to find a way to invest in something that may have a percentage return profit, and will also be doing social good, to help at-risk population, or clean up the environment. Detroit is perfectly twinned with that type of investment vehicle, and I'm taking back that excitement to my team at Hebrew Free Loan and one other hat that I wear, I work with Jewish Free Loans around the globe. And social impact investing is huge in Israel, and our largest free loan in the world is in Israel. Interest-free loans for millions of people in Israel. And they are growing a fund there. My colleagues in San Francisco, New York, and other places, they are as well. I will definitely be sending this podcast to them-
Jennifer: [crosstalk 00:06:40] Woo-hoo, wonderful!
Dave: [crosstalk 00:06:40] -make sure they listen to it. Share it with their boards and their major donors because we do not have this in just a Petri dish here in metro Detroit or at our Hebrew Free Loan, this can be copied and replicated in 501(c)(3)s with foundations, with investors all around the globe, you just have to think creatively. How can I make this model fit the impact I'm having on the service delivery side and on the investment side, how can I make this financial vehicle work?
Jennifer: I love it. I think that is just so amazing. So I want you to do one pitch to our listeners, if they are in need of a loan, if they'd like to make a donation, what is the best way to get ahold of you, your website, how does that work?
Dave: That's great. Well, first of all, you got to be Jewish. You got to be a resident of Michigan, so if you're not Jewish, I can put you in touch with people who can help you convert.
Dave: Um, but all kidding aside, all kidding aside, really if you're Jewish, and you're a resident of Michigan, we're at 248-723-8184, Monday through Thursdays or www.hfldetroit.org and if you're not from Michigan, there's maybe a free loan in your community, and if you're not Jewish, well please call and, not us, but call someone else (laughs) and hopefully we'll find some resources of interest free loans to help you.
Jennifer: Absolutely. Well then thank you so much for your time today. I truly appreciate it. I am going to release you back out to the conference so you can get even more energized and great information about what's going on out there.
Dave: Thank you very, very much, Jennifer. Keep up your great work.
Thanks, David! I laughed out loud when you mentioned that someone might be there to help with a Jewish conversion. I tell you, you might have a few folks take you up on that! Ha ha. Fun, love it.
Well, time for our last guest attendee, Jason Paulateer with PNC. He shares some of his revelation on the discussions around the current cultural divides and has some great insight on some actionable items he plans to initiate when he leaves the conference. Here is Natalie and Jason.
Natalie: I am pleased to have with me Jason Paulateer, who is the chair for the Michigan Forum for African Americans in Philanthropy and also the Vice President Marketing Manager for Community Development Banking at PNC, or as Jason would like say it is, your title.
Jason Paulateer: The Community Development Banking Manager at PNC.
Natalie: So, what have been your thoughts on this amazing conference of everybody compiling together?
Jason Paulateer: It has been a, a roller coaster, is what I call it. We have cried together. We have laughed together. We have clapped and cheered together, all for our common future. For the time that we're in right now, I think this was probably one of the most relevant things that I've done lately-
Natalie: Oh, that's good.
Jason Paulateer: In terms of convening.
Natalie: Yeah. Well, it's good that this has been a good collaboration of getting everybody together and moving the needle and getting everybody action items, I guess.
Jason Paulateer: Yeah. I think people will come out of here energized and ready to work and ready to tackle some really hard stuff because we talked about some really hard stuff at this conference and we talked about ... Now, here's the thing. We didn't talk about it in silos, which is the cool thing about this conference. Right.
Jason Paulateer: We talked about it together, and we talked about how do we solve some of our ... some of the most troubling ills of our society together.
Natalie: Yeah. That's important. It's going to take a unified front.
Jason Paulateer: Absolutely.
Natalie: Is that your main highlight that you take away, or is there another highlight or inspiration that you gain from this?
Jason Paulateer: Yeah. I would say that's my main highlight is that you had all shapes, sizes, colors, economic levels, and ... industry sectors that really came together at this conference.
Natalie: Right. Exactly. Well, what are your thoughts on the future of impact investing, and how do you see it best working right now?
Jason Paulateer: I think it's a hot topic right now. I think it's on fire, and at PNC we've been in the impact investing space for, like forever, right, but we didn't call it that. We just call it lending money and providing equity, investing in projects, but we've always been ... Particularly in my space in community development banking, we've always been in a space of trying to solve society's problems, right, and so we've invested in affordable housing for years.
We've invested in one of our, probably our ... I like to call it our flagship philanthropic project, is our Grow up Great Program, and that's impact investing at its best. The Grow up Great Program is a $350-million 10-plus-year investment initiative of the PNC Foundation where we are looking to get kids ready for kindergarten, so they start school not behind but on par with all of their peers. That's been going great for us.
Natalie: Wow. Talk about great impact right out of the gates, and they've been doing it for quite some time, so you and PNC are pioneers, in a way, of this whole movement.
Jason Paulateer: Yeah. We look at ourselves as a pioneer and one of the original corporations to really get into early childhood. Like I said, we've been in it. We started it, I want to say it was 2004, and so it's a 10-plus-year ... In 2004, we said we were going to do it for 10 years, and then we're going to stop, but it's got so much momentum that we just continued the program. It's really changing lives in some of the toughest neighborhoods around the country.
Natalie: Do you have prominent action plan that you want to take on, on going forward from this?
Jason Paulateer: So, you're giving me a chance to philosophize.
Jason Paulateer: What I'm going to take back, and it's a quote that I heard here, and it is, "People find it easy to remain a product of their past as opposed to becoming an action for a result, creating a result for the future," and so what we're going to be looking at doing is how do we take what we know and what we've learned to become actions for a better future?
Jason, as always, you are as thoughtful as they come. How fortunate this industry is to have you in the field with your heart, spirit, and brilliant mind. Love it.
This wraps up the special edition podcasting from the Our Common Futures conference. Be sure to check them out and make plans to attend in LA next year. You won’t want to miss it!
By for now, and, until next time, keep those bonfires burning!
Jump over to the website for the podcast at www.bonfiresofsocialenterprise.com
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