On this Easter morning, it seems relevant to reflect on the theme of faith — a belief or conviction based on “spiritual apprehension” rather than proof. Faith is the foundation of every religion, of course, the reverse of the “seeing is believing” adage. It’s an emotion I find myself drawing on often in these strange times.
The “faith” I cling to most fiercely of late is this: that despite the current administration’s decision to abandon leadership when it comes to protecting the planet from humankind’s negative impact on our air, water and soil, many of our country’s most important companies and cities will continue to blaze the path ahead. I’m not naive enough to believe this behavior is entirely altruistic, but the economics favor these investments. The broader theme of social inclusion is also becoming ingrained in the investments some of the world’s largest businesses are making.
Here’s a recent development that will get you thinking: in early April, the Ford Foundation made a very bold change in how it will allocate funds. It’s devoting $1 billion over the next 10 years to what it calls “mission-related investments” that support social transformation. As the foundation’s president Darren Walker notes in his blog: “If philanthropy’s past half century was about optimizing the 5 percent, its next half century will be about beginning to harness the 95 percent as well, carefully and creatively.”
This video offers a primer:
For perspective, the organization’s endowment is $12 billion, so this isn’t a majority of the money it controls. But $1 billion is a substantial sum of money.
Walker explains the decision:
It is deeply rooted in our ongoing program work to build more inclusive economies, help mature the impact investing sector, and fulfill our special obligation to help move market-based economies toward “the high road”—squaring the dynamism of markets with society’s highest values, especially fairness and human dignity.
It remains to be seen whether Ford’s decision is an outlier or the fore-runner of a broader shift in how many of the big corporate foundations allocated their funds. The framework of tax laws will doubtless shape those decisions, especially since it’s difficult to “prove” the value of some of these investments. It’s a question of faith.