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The key in impact investment is to improve the conditions of people, the planet, and profit. However, the decision makers have been mostly white, Western men. We at Acini are no different, as Anand Giridharadas’s noted in his book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.
We can set metrics, measure impacts, focus on outcome. We can use tools to measure impact investment, to engage in venture philanthropy or in foreign development banks, or we can give directly. But it does not alter the fact that the calls are often made by people far away from the challenges people experience. Whatever we do, no matter how much we listen, we can only absorb a part of what is needed to change lives far away. Yet, as slow as these instruments are, they’re still all well-intended. We hope that, step by step, they will bring about change where local capacity is growing. Local participation is empowered, knowledge transferred, respect mutual, and barriers lowered.
At the end of the day, we need to include people in decision-making in the global economy. One of the most empowering tools is work, and if work can support the local economy and connect people across borders, that’s even better. Far too much funding is going to projects that only support the few, that require imported products or competence, or are not sufficiently measured by local outcome.
The international community is improving the methods, but too much money is still flowing back to Western companies, vested interests, or even to corrupt actors.
To succeed with greater impact, we need to include more voices, imagine new approaches, and bring more women on board. It simply requires a critical, empathic local market that can challenge sponsors and not only give feedback, but influence their own future actively.
We simply need to build societies that do not need saving, but flourish on their own.