June 3, 2010| 0

Investing and Saving for Human Flourishing: A Different Way of Thinking about “Giving Back”

How many of us have considered the question: How can our investment/savings decisions play a significant role in shaping the world to be more like God has envisioned it to be?

What if our investment/savings decisions incorporated a desire to proactively address issues of global poverty as part of a business being considered successful?

Microfinance has certainly opened the door to awareness and lively conversation regarding the intersection between “doing well and doing good.” Microfinance serves as a powerful “entry point” for individuals to make the connection between business and changing the world for good. And it can be an effective means to combat global poverty.

Yet it is only one of numerous frameworks within which business is now changing the world for good. And in fact, none other than the most well-known microfinance pioneer, Muhammad Yunus, continues to make the case for thinking much more broadly about the significant impact which the business community can have toward changing global poverty:

Charity is not the way to help people in need; it is not a healthy basis for a relationship between people. If you want to solve poverty, you have to put people in a position to build their own life. … (Conventionally/historically-speaking) if you wanted to do something good for the world, you didn’t think of starting a company; after all, you weren’t interested in money. (However), I believe there is no better way to combine your desire for a better world with effectiveness than through a company. (Ode magazine, July/Aug 2005)

Social ventures, social enterprise, social business … triple bottom line, blended value, socially responsible investing … corporate social responsibility, sustainability, stewardship …

The above are just some of the new and/or mainstream “buzzwords” associated with businesses and investors now willing to grapple with the paradox that “mission versus margin is not an either-or,” as described by social entrepreneur Julius Walls, Jr. (Greyston Bakery) in his recent book, Mission, Inc.: A practitioner’s guide to social enterprise.

Whether we have $25 or $25 million to invest, what if a portion of our investment decision making was allocated to consider the impact which our investment could have on preventing issues of poverty — in addition to achieving a financial return?

What if — instead of “giving back” only after we maximize our investments for financial returns — we aligned our investments/savings to achieve both (reasonable) financial profit as well as human flourishing, and thereby, created a world with less need to “give back” in the first place?

Can business change global poverty? And can our investment/savings decisions be a part of how we live out God’s vision for His creation?

The third and final blog post in this series will offer ways that anyone can invest/save for both financial return and human flourishing — whether $25 or $25 million — and proactively address the issues of global poverty through business and investment.

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About Jeff Keenan

Jeff Keenan is an author, poverty alleviation activist, and global supply chain leader.  He personally began investing (through a socially-responsible mutual fund) in Africa in 1994 as a way to have more significant and lasting social impact through the economic sustainability of business. Since that time, many more investment options and opportunities have become available, and he has been able to broaden his “portfolio” of social impact investments to be both domestic and international.  Socially-motivated investing has subsequently become a profoundly personal part of his faith journey, and a way to “balance his savings/investment portfolio” with God’s vision for a reconciled world. Social impact investing is one important way to help catalyze and develop sustainable economic livelihoods throughout God’s world, and break the too-often demeaning cycle of charitable dependence.

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