“Each one of us should lead a life stirring enough to start a movement.”
— Max Lucado
In our work with entrepreneurs and organizations at the Case Foundation, we always emphasize the importance of having a crisp “elevator pitch” that captures the essence of the problem they are trying to solve or the essence of what they are offering to the market. It’s easy advice to give but if I were to be honest, it is advice that has been hard to put into practice as we’ve tried to explain our own work at the Case Foundation, which is funny since both my husband and I come from marketing backgrounds. So a few years ago we set out to tackle this problem once and for all—and to do so, we called on a few friends, along with some experts to provide some guidance in the matter.
What we found didn’t necessarily surprise us, but it did enlighten us. Among our peers and partners there was deep respect for our commitment to millennial engagement and a genuine appreciation for our mission—to invest in people and ideas that can change the world—but many people had a hard time understanding what that meant. So we surveyed and interviewed groups and individuals to help us better understand how we could more effectively share information on the work of the Case Foundation, offer lessons learned and inspire others to create change. The feedback we received along the way was invaluable and led to the re-launch of our website and the unveiling of three Case Foundation pillars that provided more clarity around the vision and aspirations of our work.
As we said back then, the challenge of explaining what we do and how we do it had dogged us for years, mainly because we are a foundation driven by opportunities to innovate and spark new movements.
From pillars to movements: Tipping the scales from good intention to action
Our pillars—Revolutionizing Philanthropy, Unleashing Entrepreneurship and Igniting Civic Engagement—encapsulate what we saw as our three main areas of interest but what we soon discovered was that these pillars still didn’t get to the core of what we do. With a bit more introspection and with the help of outside experts we determined that these pillars are really the strategies we deploy to activate change. In other words, we’re in the business of catalyzing movements around social innovation by revolutionizing philanthropy, unleashing entrepreneurship and igniting civic engagement.
So what makes a movement? Awareness raising. Relationship building. Network development. Experimentation. Education. Inspiration. Sustained action. Reaching a tipping point. To us, and to many, that is the anatomy of a movement. And while we recognize that successful movements are citizen-centered and often formed from the grassroots up, we believe that philanthropy has an important role to play in driving social change through movement building. The truth is, while we’ve seen numerous good ideas in the philanthropy and nonprofit space, we’ve seen very few of them breakthrough to capture the interest and action of the masses. Put simply, this movement building business we are in is about inspiring, educating and activating people to action.
So that’s the backdrop that has brought us to now. Today we are driving at two major movements—impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship. And as a movement catalyzer, we are taking a fearless approach to social innovation to tip individuals and organizations from good intention to meaningful action. Within both movements we see boundless potential to get all oars in the water to help solve our most pressing social problems.
Impact Investing: Aligning social and financial returns
For years, passionate pioneers out to change the world have been building the movement for a new class of investors and entrepreneurs to lock arms and build companies that provide products and services that help tackle daunting social challenges, and generate a financial return for investors. Just in the last two short years we have witnessed a greater commitment to advancing the impact investing market and impressive momentum in the movement.
Both in the U.S. and around the world we’ve seen segments of the market move from informed, to educated, to activated. We’ve seen new private capital unleashed with a focus on impact across sectors, geographies, industries, issue areas and asset classes. We’ve seen more individuals and institutions move off the sidelines thanks to new initiatives and recent policy changes. And what we hope to see is that this movement goes mainstream as a wider set of individuals who want to align their investments with their values are empowered to do just that.
Inclusive Entrepreneurship: Realizing the full potential of entrepreneurial talent
At the Case Foundation we believe in leveling the playing field for all entrepreneurs—particularly women and people of color—in all places in order to create stronger communities, close the opportunity gap and scale creative solutions to persistent problems. While women and entrepreneurs of color are the fastest growing employers in the nation, only 2.7 percent of venture capital (VC) backed companies have a woman CEO and less than 1 percent of VC backed companies have an African American founder.
Given these stark realities it’s clear that there’s a need to disrupt the status quo. By increasing diversity and inclusion for all forms of entrepreneurship and unlocking more flow of social capital, financial capital and knowledge we can help lift up and cultivate more women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds. The inclusive entrepreneurship movement is very much at a nascent stage for us, but it is already sparking ideation, inspiration and has the potential to be a game-changer.
Earlier this month we led a learning lab at the National Association of Black Journalists’/National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ joint convention to explore the changing face of entrepreneurship and generate fresh ideas on how to challenge the common stereotype of the white, male Silicon Valley founder. And later this year we will launch a campaign dedicated to accelerating the inclusive entrepreneurship movement.
Two years ago, when we started down this path we took a bit of a risk by not exactly knowing where the path may lead. But what we did know was that to fully realize our vision for change in this world we needed to find a better way to share with others how they can join us on this journey. There is an urgency in bringing all talents and resources to bear on the issues that threaten our communities, this country and the world.
In the months ahead we will continue to highlight the key phases of movement catalyzing as well as our own work toward driving our movements. We will also spotlight the work of others who share our commitment to driving change through movement building. We hope that you will help move impact investing and inclusive entrepreneurship to the point of sustained action. Tell us how you will take a Be Fearless approach to meaningful action that can change the world.