The panel consists of pressed suits and styled bobs.
They talk of the necessity of relationship, of treating people humanely rather than as moneybags, of the difficulties of creating a metric for social impact, among other topics that arise when you ask: how do we help each other? Yet, these panelists don’t look like the usual crew of bleeding hearts with dirt-stained flannel and affirmative nodding in response to the term ‘social justice.’ Instead of spending their time in homeless shelters and service centers, they settle in their offices with brand-name coffee and an agenda focused on the bottom line. These panelists were part of the Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference and are the first to point out that a good business plan is always more useful than an individual’s good intentions.
Yet, they are also the first to bring up how impact investing, the topic for the most recent Irish Impact Conference, changes the world for the better. They live by the theory that investing in choice businesses can transform the lives of the marginalized without forsaking the promise of profits. By including the marginalized in a market that pervades all of our lives, impact investing focuses on pragmatic practices of inclusion rather than idealistic hopes of completely circumventing the capitalistic, materialistic character of the modern economy. These panelists play with big numbers, and consequently, touch the lives of an innumerable number of people, whether they be receiving paychecks from newly created jobs or new products on the shelf of local stores that choice investing promoted.
Of course impact investing is not the same sort of slow love that arises from simply being with the marginalized. It’s not passing afternoons playing King’s Corners so that the person in front of you is distracted from the upcoming custody battle she will surely lose or letting someone comforting someone as they cry, reminding them of light in themselves and in those around them. It’s not quite as mouth drying, physically demanding, or soul wrenching.
But it doesn’t mean that impact investing is any less of an act of love.
Desire to help the world is a beautiful thing. The prominent answer to such a want is to do service, and it is a beautiful thing to have your heart touched and your soul filled with all that you see while doing service. But, there are so many different ways of making the world better from advocacy in legal courts to impact investing in business suits. The question remains: how do we help each other? Only your own answer will suffice.
If you are part of the Notre Dame community as an undergraduate or graduate student, and interested in exploring various avenues around changing the world for the better, consider these classes and experiences:
- Through business: Social Entrepreneurship
- Through advocacy: Advocacy for the Common Good
- Through qualitative research: Youth Empowerment, Literacy, and Changing Urban Landscapes
Sherry Zhong is a current senior at the University of Notre Dame studying in the Program of Liberal Studies. She has done a Summer Service Learning Program in a women’s homeless shelter through the Center of Social Concerns, proceeded to spend another summer at the Catholic Worker in South Bend, and is now interested in understanding how to prevent the cycle of poverty rather than simply reacting to it. Feel free to e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org for conversation about the intersection of business done for good and business done well.