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As we near the end of a summer with intense heat, powerful storms, and wildfire smoke that had a real impact on millions of lives, we’ve seen many become exasperated with the realities of climate change. We get it. But that’s also why it’s been uplifting to see the “climate optimism” movement gain attention. As Marcy Franck of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health explained in a recent interview, it is important to stay optimistic because we know how to prevent things from getting worse, and we already have the technologies we need to be successful.

The Financial Times shared a similar sentiment in a recent article, pointing out that renewable energy — a key solution to climate change — is advancing unexpectedly fast. It’s not just the environment where optimists are seeing hope. Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed game-changing medical breakthroughs, including the first-ever malaria and RSV vaccines, a drug to treat Alzheimer’s, and the first pill to treat postpartum depression.

We applaud the innovators and fearless individuals who have played a role in developing these and other solutions to humanity’s biggest challenges, whether it is through technology advances, capital investments, or pure tenacity. This year’s Forbes 50 Over 50 features inspiring stories from many such individuals, including women dedicated to making a positive impact and investment leaders who are seeding a better future.

Below, we share more stories of inspiration and hope. In honor of National Black Business Month, we also spotlight a changemaker who has dedicated his career to helping Black entrepreneurs build thriving businesses.

Creating Safe Spaces for Black Entrepreneurs to Thrive
As president and CEO of the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), James “Jay” Bailey has dedicated his career to lifting up Black business owners. RICE is a business generator serving metro Atlanta, created to support Black entrepreneurs in overcoming the unique barriers they face in building thriving businesses.

In a recent Inc. video, Bailey talks about the importance of creating safe spaces for Black entrepreneurs where they can make big mistakes and learn from them to move forward and grow. By fostering a sense of belonging, Bailey and his colleagues have created a space where people can “fail and fly.” A great example of #BeFearless thinking.

Prior to joining RICE, Bailey founded the private equity firm Greenwood Archer, which seeks to build wealth in underserved communities, and served as CEO for the Southeastern Region of Operation HOPE, a global nonprofit organization focused on financial literacy. He was recognized at the White House in 2012 as one of eight Champions of Change: In the Footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr. honorees.

In an Atlanta Magazine profile earlier this year, Bailey explained why he has chosen his life’s work: “To change lives, change my community, and plant seeds that will grow trees whose shade I may never sit under.”
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Pro-worker Investment Strategies Challenge the Status Quo
The strong labor market has given rise to private-equity and private-debt strategies that aim to deliver “worker solutions” and “workforce impact.” Workforce-focused strategies are still emerging in impact investing circles, but a growing number of firms are betting that boosting quality jobs can unlock financial value. ImpactAlpha spotlights the “pro-worker” strategies of Two Sigma Impact, Lafayette Square, and HCAP Partners. This could be an interesting sector for impact investors to watch.
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Corporations Scale Impact with Venture Investing

A growing number of corporate impact investors seek to generate measurable environmental and social impact alongside financial return, says RBC Capital Markets. Last year, corporations invested $108 billion in start-up companies, representing 19% of global venture capital funding activity, up from 15% in 2021. Sustainability challenges increasingly influence those investments — for example, in 2022, corporations invested $70 billion in climate technology businesses.
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Best Workplaces for Innovators

Fast Company’s latest ranking spotlights companies that recognize breakthrough ideas happen everywhere, not just in the corner office. The Best Workplaces for Innovators list features many growing companies led by underrepresented founders and those that seek to make an impact, such as Dealmaker, a crowdfunding platform that creates new sources of capital for companies started by women and marginalized groups, and Spring Health, whose CEO become the youngest female to lead a unicorn in 2021.
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Entrepreneurship Is Thriving in the Southeastern US
The latest hotbed of small business activity falls decidedly outside the typical startup enclaves of Silicon Valley and northeastern states. Last year, the southeastern US — where population is booming — was home to nine of the top ten metro areas with the most new business applications per 1,000 residents, reports Axios. Miami, Atlanta, and Orlando topped the ranking, and Provo, Utah was the only Western state to break the top ten.
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Greener Summer Vacations

If you find your inner travel bug battling your desire to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, these environmentally friendly vacation ideas are for you. From train travel to conservation trips, the Environmental Defense Fund has ideas to help you unwind without stressing about your impact on the planet.
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