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When We Activate Engagement, We Build the Whole Person

When We Activate Engagement, We Build the Whole Person


This piece is part of a periodical series where Net Impact CEO Peter Lupoff shares his insights on upcoming strategies and reflections of the organization’s work, with both our internal staff as well as our larger network. This is the first in the series, from our January 2020 team meeting. 


Like many organizations, Net Impact has regular all-hands team meetings at the start of each month. I usually kick off with an up-to-date strategy discussion, but this time, after some time off during the holidays, some time to think and reflect on the year, the decade, we went a different way. 


I find that in my downtime is when I do my best and deeper thinking. With no urgent fires to put out or time-sensitive matters, you can go down the rabbit hole deeper and deeper on topics.


You all probably know that I’ve been an impact investor in the last few years, in addition to teaching in higher education. I want you to know that I had a crisis of confidence about impact investing over the holidays. Better put, that it’s not enough! And so I came to a couple of realizations that I want to share with you, about where it fits in, and more importantly, something of a light bulb that came on about where we, our Net Impact team, fits in:


Doing Good is Not the Same as Not Doing, or Lessening “Bad”


Impact investing seeks the dual objectives of 1) a financial return, and 2) demonstrable and measurable social or environmental impact. But what about the bad in the world? Bad behaviors environmentally, socially, civilly?


Investing money for social or environmental impact may be redressing wrongs but it doesn’t stop “bad” — it doesn’t stop its persistence. 


Knowing What is Right is Not the Same as Doing What is Right 


The line I say to anyone that will listen (though not an original) is “If not us who, if not now, when?” This is a call to action — ours as Net Impact staff, our community, our shot at reaching beyond the comfort in our existing network and to our corporate partners and new members.


Because while our community will inherit $50 trillion over the next 30 years, and will, in that time, become the stewards of companies and capital, we do not have 30 years to wait to address the most pressing problems facing people and the planet.


Sorry is Not Enough — Sometimes, You Actually Have to Change


Some of the most pressing problems require real change by people that don’t feel accountable or entitled, or privileged. Environmental behaviors can be shaped by education, alternatives, and law. Social inequities require more.


Real change is redemptive, not coerced. When redemptive, reflection and acknowledgment efforts expand to redress past wrong. In fact, this is the difference between equity and diversity by way of example. It is hard to accept responsibility (or blame) and easier to deflect, defend and avoid — if we cannot get to redemptive change, there can be no equity.


So Impact Investing isn’t Nearly Enough as it Doesn’t Address the Persistence of Bad, this Requires More

It requires The Whole Person. Civic engagement and political involvement are multifaceted efforts. Push our institutions to do what they are able to do.

True philanthropy takes time and money, but only with no strings and an engaged, participatory beneficiary. The making of The Whole Person— participating and engaged civically, the thoughtful use of money to drive outcomes (as an investor and consumer) and philanthropically—  is the only way to address “Bad.”

Where We Fit In — Net Impact’s Mission is to Inspire and Equip Leaders to Foment a Just and Sustainable World — This Is Truly Important and Covenantal Work in this Time and Place

This is a pivotal time in the way we do business. Net Impact is on the frontline of this battle to inspire and equip our leaders to foment social and environmental change, to drive business as a force for good. When people ask me if we are activists, in our activities, I say, “no, we activate engagement.” As our community of members and corporate partners engage through us, we awaken the prospect of a spectrum of behaviors, from institutionally acceptable ones to those that challenge orthodoxy— this is spiritual work in a way, to my thinking.


We rouse the individual to their influence and control, that they can make better choices and drive our institutions to make the right choices too.


In so doing, we help one’s journey to become the Full Person: utilizing all the tools in the tool kit to drive a mission to lead for a more just and sustainable world. I am gratified every day that I get this chance to fight this good fight and am grateful to call you my partners and colleagues in this effort. I think we should all feel proud and important, valuable in the work we are doing to move business, institutions and our community forward.