Exactly one year ago, 20,000 Israelis showed up for the funeral for an American-Israeli soldier they did not know. A mother celebrating her young daughter’s birthday posted that no one showed up for the party, and within an hour the house was packed with not only with guests, but also clowns, entertainers, presents and joy.
Hundreds of new pages and web sites based on volunteering and sharing fill the Internet every day: the whole country fighting high prices for cheese, a shortage of affordable housing solutions, government concessions regarding new natural gas findings. The examples are endless.
In the middle of “Tzuk Eitan”, the war we experienced last year, I came across a post on Facebook saying that one of the wounded’s wife was by her husband’s bed at the hospital all the time. She has two small children who live far from the hospital, and no baby-sitting solution for them. As I lived close to the hospital, I searched and found her on Facebook, and offered my home and my kids, who were the same ages as hers. I wasn’t the only one. Dozens of mothers offered to help in different ways.
This is a new era. Israelis — and I believe many other people around the world — are using their new technology and capabilities to do good, and be personally engaged in their communities. Not only geographically speaking, any form of community: social network, parents, work, etc.
We have access to new information and the power of the crowd, and we can use them to make a better world for ourselves and for the communities we live in. We give us much as we can, and increasingly ask others to do the same, from our political leaders to our captains of industry.
The startup nation has discovered the individual’s power to make a difference. In all aspects of life. In a country where people are connected to the news every hour and check their social network 20 times a day, a country with a large percentage of entrepreneurs who find new ways to make life better and reduce gaps in society, this power gets multiplied by the minute.
This change is spreading to the business world as well. Companies are expected to be more socially responsible, to their clients, employees, suppliers, stakeholders and the environment. Moreover, people are looking to invest their money where it will make a difference. I don’t mean philanthropy. They invest for the best IRR but now are looking for social impact as well.
This is called IMPACT INVESTING and the approach has been growing since the Rockefeller foundation announced the strategy in 2007. The biggest names in the field are already involved and showing great success. According to JPMorgan, 146 of the world’s largest impact investors report having committed $10.6 billion to impact investments in 2014, with plans to commit 16% more in 2015.
My experience in Impact Investing has proven to me that there’s no trade-off between financial return and social impact. The more effort you put in social aspects and invest in the community, the better the financial results. Investors also direct their investments accordingly. It is not enough to make money by producing dairy products in Africa, where there is a shortage, by selling to the highest bidder, for example. Investors want to make sure the know-how stays with the farmers and changes the lives of members of the community.
Impact Investors want to make sure they benefit the local market with new products, better nutrition, lower prices. They want to see a new reality, where African children are fed, educated and healthy and they are willing to put their money where their heart is.
In fact, it is not just about money anymore. This is the era of caring for our weak and hungry. This is an era where we use whatever we can to bring those from the base of the pyramid to as close to our standards of living as possible because this is the right thing to do.
I feel so lucky to live in this era, and so privileged to take part in the effort of closing the gap.