As a family foundation established for the purpose of alleviating human suffering, we are outraged at the acts of brutality against the Black community and we stand firmly with those seeking to end racial injustice. The Sorenson Impact Foundation was created to save and improve lives through purposeful grants and impact investing, and we were founded with the fundamental belief that opportunity should be made available to all. As such, we have been gravely saddened, disappointed and frustrated to see over-and-over again that access to opportunity is not equal and that systemic barriers continue to keep some communities, particularly the Black and Brown communities in the U.S., locked out of opportunities. We are committed to taking action and being a part of the solution: as such, we have taken this time to listen, learn, self-reflect and evaluate where we can be better and do more to support racial justice and equality.
Over the last decade, as an impact investor we’ve been humbled and inspired by the entrepreneurs we support globally, 40% of whom are entrepreneurs of color, who have developed solutions that increase income, jobs, education, safety and healthcare for underserved communities around the globe and improve the lives of over 100 million people. But we recognize that we must, and we will, do more as a foundation and as part of the broader impact investing community to do better for the communities that we serve.
We believe that the first steps are listening, learning, and self reflection. Over the last few weeks we have learned from our Black and Brown partners in the impact investing and social entrepreneurship space about where they see opportunities for change. We are also asking ourselves the same questions that we ask each company we invest in: “how can we reduce barriers in order to create more opportunity that will have a greater and more equitable impact on the communities we serve?”
This process has led us to evaluate our own investment practices, internal operations and our role in the impact investing ecosystem. As such, we have developed an initial set of initiatives that we’re implementing to act with intentionality as we seek to be part of the solution and knock down systemic barriers to equality and opportunity.
- Deal Sourcing: Acknowledging that the “friends and family” based nature of start-up investing can lead to unequal access, particularly for entrepreneurs of color, we are committed to acting with intentionality to expand our sourcing network and ensure that we are more inclusive in our investment communities. As part of that, we are committed to developing stronger relationships with diverse networks including entrepreneurs from Black, Brown and otherwise underrepresented communities. Our team is actively working to assess and re-evaluate our sourcing relationships and we welcome additional suggestions ([email protected]).
- Supporting Platforms that Democratize Access to Capital: We are committed to advancing solutions that remove bias and systemic barriers from the entrepreneurship and investing sectors, sectors that we believe are key to building wealth and ultimately power in underserved communities. Two years ago we funded the development of a technology platform called Abaca that is being developed by Village Capital to democratize access to capital by connecting entrepreneurs and investors based upon a matching algorithm, replacing the traditional “friends and family” networks to which many do not have access. Abaca launched in March of this year in the midst of the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and we’re seeing entrepreneurs and investors finding each other and circumventing traditional channels. We are committed to continuing to support innovations like this that can disrupt the status quo, help remove blind spots for capital allocators, and dissolve historical and cultural barriers to opportunity.
- Actively Measuring and Tracking Our Progress: We believe that this movement isn’t just a moment in time, it’s the start of a new, and hopefully better, chapter of history. As such, we are committed to lasting change. To accomplish that goal, we will enhance our diversity and inclusion metrics and reporting across our portfolio by requiring that our portfolio companies measure their impacts on all people of color and asking that our grantees do the same. It is our hope that the positive changes undertaken by the impact investing sector will be a model for other sectors and help lead to a more equitable future overall.
- Engaging Diverse Perspectives: At present, our investment committee does not include representation from all of the communities that we serve, including the Black community in the U.S. This is an opportunity for us to grow and learn by broadening the composition of decision makers at our organization and bring more diverse perspectives to some of the most important discussions that we have. We are committed to expanding our investment committee to include more diverse representation. We believe that empowering more diversity in decision making leads to empowering more diversity in capital flows and ultimately, equitable opportunity and impact.
We believe that impact investing is a means to disrupt for good and create sustainable change that can enhance livelihoods and communities worldwide, building power and eradicating the barriers of inequality and injustice. And part of serving communities in need is being willing to continually listen, learn and grow so we can better affect change. We look forward to working alongside our partners, existing and new, as well as the broader impact investing community to continue to grow and determine how we can better support the communities who need us most by eliminating injustice and creating opportunity.
As we continue to learn and grow, we welcome your suggestions, ideas, and feedback ([email protected]).
Sorenson Impact Foundation Team