Joy Anderson wants us to stop thinking about our relationships with money and start thinking about our relationships with each other in order to shift financial systems. In this episode, SheEO Founder Vicki Saunders sits down with Joy to talk about what’s broken with the current VC funding model, how finance can be used to transform structural inequities and shifting the conversation from gender to power.
“We talk about money because we don’t want to talk about our relationships.”
In this episode:
- Shifting the conversation from gender to power
- Exploring our relationships with one another rather than our relationship to money
- How can finance as a system be used as a tool to transform structural inequities
- Why the current model of Venture Capital isn’t working
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VICKI Welcome, Joy Anderson. Tell us who you are.
JOY I founded this wicked cool organization called Criterion Institute about 18 years ago. My day job is to lead a remarkable experiment that’s really about changing systems. We focus at one particular point, which is the intersection of the world of social change and how we create change in the world to create the world that we want, and systems of finance. And so our mission is about expanding who sees themselves as able to use finance as a tool for social change, so that we’re thinking about who has a financial imagination, and so often, that’s relegated to the people who see themselves as already in positions of power and having finance. We work with grassroots leaders, women’s rights leaders, local congregations, think tanks working on human rights issues, to say, “You might actually also have an amazing imagination to bring to the system of finance.”
VICKI Which they say, “What?” When you bring that up, right?
JOY “That’s capitalist and evil,” and [crosstalk 00:09:52].
VICKI “We don’t want any part of that.” Yeah.
JOY And they’re not crazy. They’re not crazy that finance has created all kinds of weird things in the world, and yet it’s one of the most powerful systems in the world, and I think if we don’t engage, we do that at our peril.
VICKI And so how do we engage so that it doesn’t mess us up even more?
JOY Well, that funny thing that I think you and I started talking about, and I think it’s … I think we have weird ways of approaching money as people, and we spend a lot of our time working in churches, which is one of the places that I really learned about this, and in churches, there’s this conversation that is about what is your relationship to your money? And I think we do that in other settings as well, right? I just saw these couple conferences that I’m attending, and they’re all called … They all juxtapose women and money, and the relationship between the two. I think that’s problematic as a frame. It’s just … Maybe not problematic. It’s just not that productive, because I don’t know if I want to spend a ton of time exploring my relationship with money.
JOY I want to explore my relationships with other people, many of whom, those relationships, in fact, almost all of our relationships, include some kind of economic aspect. And so this kind of, how do we think about how we’re in relationship with one another, and the ways in which systems of finance, economic structures, money plays into that relationship, rather than thinking about our relationship to money.
VICKI It’s interesting that you say that too, because it kind of gave me a bit of an aha years ago, like 20-something years ago. I was asked, “How do you get more girls involved in technology?” Like the question that people ask ad nauseum, over and over again, and I’m like, “Wrong question.” It’s really what do girls want to use technology for? This is an easy thing. If you sit around a table and you’re like, “What do you care about?” And so we brought together all these people and they’re like, “I really care about body shaming. I really care about eating disorders. I really care about bullying.” We’re like, “Great.” And then use technology to amplify what you’re worried about, what you care about, and then people are like, “Oh. That’s creating a website? That’s so much fun.” But it started with, “What do you want to talk about and what do you care about?” And then the technology that’s underneath it. It sounds kind of the same, the way you’re approaching it with money.
JOY Exactly the same, and I think that it’s a genius comparison, and one of the ways, one of the similarities, so something popped into my head as we were talking, and I just need to find my way back to it, but one of the things that’s happened, so I think as you know, you know this, Vicki, but I’ve been in this impact investing space for a long time, like [crosstalk 00:13:26].
VICKI For a long time.
JOY For a long time.
VICKI Since before it was called that. Yeah.
JOY [crosstalk 00:13:29] I was impact investing. I am still struck by the number of times we have conversations about how much money has moved, and we legitimate ourselves to one another by how much money is moved, and I was in a big, important, powerful meeting the other day, and I was really nervous and thinking through a bunch of stuff, and in the middle of it, this woman said, “Well, have you had any impact?” And I was like, “Oh, crap. That’s really hard to answer. How could I name? We do this abstract systems change stuff and it takes a long time and it’s really hard,” and then she said, “Well, have you moved any money?” And I thought, “Oh, that’s an easy question to answer. Yeah, [crosstalk 00:14:21] billions of dollars have moved,” and she’s like, “Oh, good.” I’m like, “You shouldn’t care about that, though. It’s not the point.”
JOY At some level, one of the things that I think is so simple, but it seems like a big shift in a conversation, is we talk about how do you use finance as a tool to create social change, and the question then is, back to your technology, what social change are you trying to create? That’s a good question. Great. What are you trying to get done in the world? What are you dissatisfied with the status quo? What are you trying to push in new directions? What do you want to transform? And then the question is, can systems of finance, can investments, can how capital moves be in any way helpful to that? And we have a really big imagination for how finance could be helpful.
JOY We’re quite bullish on the fact, but it’s a different question than I have a problem, can you move money to it? Which is so often, like, “How much money have you thrown at poverty?” Is a very different question than, “What are you trying to transform about the structural inequities that ensure that poverty stays in place, and by the way, particularly more for some people than for others, to be really straightforward about it?” How can finance, as a system, be used as a tool to transform those structural inequities? That’s a very different question than, “How much money did you move?” We talk about how much money is moved in microfinance, and I think microfinance has been transformational in the world in hundreds of ways, but by moving, by giving a woman a loan, the thing we can definitively say is that we’ve increased the debt that she has.
JOY What she does with the loan, how her business shifts, how her community changes as a result is not necessarily about the money. It could’ve been really bad money that put her farther in debt and created an exploitative relationship with a money lender, and increased sexual violence in her world, all of those things could’ve also happened, but we start with this, and this is what I think is so fascinating, and it’s why I’m one of your biggest fans, and an endless booster of SheEO, is because you systematically within SheEO deconstructed all of the relationships that go into funding and enterprise, like every single one of them. You must have seen so many bugs, looking under every single rock, and the little centipedes that go really quick, those nasty little bugs, but looking under every single rock and saying, “What is it about how we structure this relationship?” Because it’s about the relationship, not about the money.
VICKI And I still have a really hard time explaining that, like we still go, “Oh, what does it mean to be an Activator? Oh, you contributed $1,100 and oh, shit, I just did it again.” Right? Damn. Leading with that, as opposed to, “We are going to get you in a relationship with the most innovative, amazing women who have breakthrough ideas to work on the world’s to-do list, and together, we’re going to transform our communities. Oh and by the way, there’s a price tag attached to it,” but leading with this whole thing, it’s been really challenging to break that down.
JOY It’s even that it’s inviting finance, inviting money, capital, investments to be part of your relationship with people is, it’s a different way to frame it, so you’re going to transform, as an Activator, you’re transforming your relationship with people. I can never get your to-do list thing. I love it so much when you say it, but to the women working on the world’s to-do list, you’re going to build a relationship with these women, and you’re going to have 85 different ways that you’re in that relationship. One way that’s super powerful is that there’s going to be this financial relationship, but we are taught, and this is back to why some of our historical work in churches is helpful, is because at some point, there is …
JOY My father is a pastoral theologian. He works on family systems, like he’s a theologian, but he works on the family systems, and one of the things that happens in family systems is we tell stories about our family, and if you think about it, the family is the ultimate relationship, right? And if you think about how many of your stories of your family have to do with money, it starts to name … But it’s not to say that money shouldn’t be in families, right? People used to always say to me, or they still do, like, “I don’t want to have a financial relationship because that would make it less pure.” And my answer is always, “Crap. You want to give all of the financial relationships to people who don’t care.”
VICKI What? That makes no sense. Right.
JOY It’d probably be bad if only people who don’t care about friendship or humility or grace are the ones who are managing all of the financial relationships in the world. Wait a second. [inaudible 00:20:33] indicators in the general state that we’re in.
VICKI Yeah. Sounds familiar.
JOY Wait for it. No, I’m not at all suggesting that people in finance are soulless, but they’re taught that they’re supposed to be, and that not being that is somehow in the way of this pure financial transaction, unless of course it’s the bro club, at which point it’s all about friendship and … Anyway, I digress.
VICKI It reminds me, I mean all of this, but one of the things that just hit me was a couple years ago, I was at an airport, and I bumped into someone who I hadn’t seen for quite some time, and he came up to me and he’s like, “Hey, how’s it going?” I said, “Great. How are you?” And he goes, “Awesome. Raised $35 million.” I’m like, “Okay. Great.” He goes, “Yeah. I raised it from name drop, name drop, name drop. Got to go catch my flight,” and he went running by, and I was like, “To do what?” Didn’t even talk about his business, like no idea. He didn’t lead with, “Hey, I have a startup and it’s doing this cool stuff.” He literally led with, “I raised $35 million. Check.”
JOY Don’t you also want to ask him, “To do what?” But then I want to ask him, “Do you like those people? Do they like you?”
VICKI Yeah. That was so far down the, “What, what do you mean? It’s money. Of course I like them.”
JOY But I do think, honest to gosh, I do think there are fault lines emerging in the system of venture capital in particular, but this isn’t all just Pollyanna, let’s be nice to each other and have relationships, like the systems that venture capital was built on, and particularly not necessarily the first idea of how to run a venture capital fund, but how it got built up in the dot com world, was the infrastructure underneath that is not holding up. It literally hasn’t performed against its own benchmarks. I’m not going to be able to get the exact number, but I was talking to Lisa Kleissner the other day and she named something like high, mid single digits of what venture capital has returned.
VICKI Yeah. It’s returning worse than municipal bonds. OMG.
JOY But that’s so fundamental level, Vicki. The whole idea of venture capital, what it is celebrating is that intimacy of a venture capitalist with an entrepreneur, and let’s face it, that relationship is not working out so well. There’s a lot of parts of toxic masculinity that are not working out really well, and so I always ask the question, if you take that ultimate … I love the way that venture capitalists have launched venture capital firms, I love the way they take bets on people. It’s not that [crosstalk 00:23:47] part is not cool, it’s the go big or go home [inaudible 00:23:56] I don’t want to hear about … The level of mental instability that’s happened within entrepreneurs who have taken venture capital that’s extraordinarily high, you start to break apart the infrastructure that sits under these glorified relationships, and you start thinking, “They were never that stable. They just fit a particular model of what we think successful relationships look like.”
JOY I think like you, I live in this world where I have to make things that I think sound commonsense and practical, like how about we have better relationships that work as opposed to destructive ones, but it often gets dismissed as … A very nice man called me Pollyanna once, and I like the phrase Pixie of Possibility, that’s one of my more favorites, I don’t think of that as an insult, but the [inaudible 00:24:59] have I told you this story?
JOY I was giving a speech in Singapore, and I was in front of this very nice audience of very, very wicked smart, cool people, I loved … It was Asian Venture Philanthropy Network. I love that conference. So I’m standing in front of this room, and I’m laying out our work on rethinking gender-based violence and the connection, the risk that gender-based violence presents to our financial investments, and I said, “Well, what if we go out into the future and we imagine that gender-based violence cut in half, which companies that you’re invested in would survive in that market, and which ones would fail?” Just like climate change. And he looked at me and he was like, “Well, don’t you think that’s a little Pollyanna?” As if there’s no possibility that we could reduce gender-based violence, although all the statistics right now are saying that it’s on a downward trend, just not as fast as human beings should want it to be.
JOY But you know those moments where you actually have the comeback in the moment that you’re in? So I turned back to this guy and I said, “How come Elon Musk gets to say that we’re going to live on Mars, and I suggest we’re not going to beat the crap out of people, and I’m the Pollyanna?”
VICKI [crosstalk 00:26:32] Pollyanna. Yeah. No. Totally.
JOY Which is a small digression from our core point of we, in some ways, talk about money, because we don’t want to talk about our relationships.
VICKI No, I totally … It’s easier to … This whole narrative of it’s just business, it’s not personal, the humanity being pulled out of everything, the suck it up, the not being able to talk about all the other things that are going on in your life, and then that extra dump on top of women of all the other things that we need to deal with is, yeah, just incredibly painful, and then how we just make … That it’s all harsh. We’re mechanistic, we can’t bring our humanity to the table, and I feel like that’s one of the biggest things that I brought forward with SheEO that I stand in front of a crowd and I cry, and I own it now. When I was 35 and I did that when we were going public, my entire board was like, “Holy crap, would you get her out of here? She’s a nightmare.” They were so uncomfortable by the emotional experience of it, and I love your Pixie of Possibility because that just took me back to this writer did a gotcha in an interview with me way back.
VICKI I was on the cover of this business magazine. We were going public, and I gave him this quote, he’s like, “Tell me about your leadership style,” and I said, “I exist in the cloud of possibilities,” which, oh, god. Anyway, I had said that because someone had told me the day before, “You really exist in the cloud of possibilities,” and so I just had that in my head and I said it, which would never have been what I’d said about myself, and then they fact-checked it, they called it like, “Did she actually say that? There’s no way she said that.” And then they made that the quote about how ridiculous it was to exist in a cloud of possibilities.
JOY Actually, when I first, when we were first finding good capital, I had done other things before finding a venture fund, and so I had one mentor that was concerned that I wasn’t going to make the transition well into the world of finance, and so he very directly said, “You say the word yummy too much.”
VICKI I do, too. We’re like lost at birth.
JOY That’s literally, like, I’m sorry, that’s your advice for me? In all of this. I do think that your sanitized point just hit home with me, because there’s a kind of language sanitation and there is … Finance is about a construction of a kind of expertise, that it is about, “Trust me with your money.” It’s real. Nobody is going to give you money if, which is sort of his point, if you sound like a Pollyanna woman who walks around saying the word yummy too much, and so there’s a kind of … How we construct trust within the systems of finance is a performance of trust. It’s not really that some set of people are fundamentally more trustworthy. It’s that how they perform that trust looks more like the dominant culture, and what is trusted within a dominant culture, and I don’t know if I’m going to say this right, but I think part of the problem is with the …
JOY It’s not just sanitized. It’s not just sanitized in the way that it takes out the humanity. It just focuses on one kind of privileged humanity, and anybody else’s expression of what human life could look like is not honored, is not welcome, and it’s not that it’s lacking … I think when we think about it as sanitized, and I’m just playing this up, I’m not sure where this is going, but when we think of it as sanitized or lacking in humanity, it loses the fact that it actually is ascribed with somebody’s expression of humanity. It’s just not … It’s a very particular one. Let’s just face it, venture capital, one of my things that I always feel worried about in how we approach the failure for the lack of access to capital for women and particularly women of color, just across the board, who is excluded from getting venture capital, we start with this assumption that, back to where we started on this conversation, that the goal is to get them that money, right?
JOY So you start with this proposition that the problem with venture capital is that not enough people have access to it, so what we need to do is expand access to venture capital and have more people start high growth ventures, and people have access to accelerators and business programs that would support their ability to launch very high growth businesses that would then be appealing to venture capital. Women and people who experience broad-based structural inequities tend to build normal growth businesses, in some ways because they don’t have access to venture capital, they build normal growth businesses that grow one revenue line at a time. From a financial perspective, normal growth businesses are a more liquid, more stable investment, than venture capital.
VICKI 100%. Yep.
JOY The companies that would take venture capital there on that hockey stick thing. So if you do the comparison between the two, normal growth businesses are actually a more desirable investment on a lot of terms, especially if you bring in the municipal debt number, but I wanted to start working on normal growth businesses about six years ago, and there was this amazing stuff that’s been happening around alternative term sheets that support normal growth businesses and how do you structure term sheets different so that not everybody needs to take equity at the same level and you can blend debt and equity, and I was so interested in all this, and I thought it’d be really exciting to work on it because there’s this challenge that women tend to build normal growth businesses.
JOY And I got a phone call from somebody we both know well, it wasn’t some crazy whack job, it was somebody we both know well, who said, “We would prefer, Joy, if you not work on this, because if you work on normal growth businesses,” because I’m known for working [inaudible 00:33:53] we founded the field of gender lens investing with all these amazing people, “It will be seen as a women’s thing and devalued.” So at some point, I guess the point that I want to … I think that we make it too easy when we say it’s dehumanized. It’s just humanized in a particularly privileged way, and that one mode of being in the world, one privileged experience of the world, is set up on a pedestal, and so Mark Zuckerberg ends up looking like what we should all want to be, and it’s not working out all the time.
VICKI Not so well. No. The pendulum has swung so severely in the last 20 years from when I started to be an angel investor in D.C. where it was still a very small percentage of the population that would ever talk about this. It was so niche. It was definitely not a mainstream thing. And now, literally people who have no business even thinking about venture capital are talking about, “Well, I couldn’t start a business unless I raised money,” and so it’s just gotten so whacked out, and so yeah, the fact that the very first media interview I had with a big magazine in the US, the … It was the editor-in-chief of the magazine called me and said, “People keep talking about SheEO. We keep hearing about this, but we don’t understand. You’re doing debt? Why? Debt isn’t growth capital.” Quote-unquote. I started laughing. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” And she had no idea what I was talking about. She was like, “Debt isn’t growth capital.” I’m like, “Oh my god. We are so brainwashed and clueless.”
JOY Right. And then that’s not real finance, like most growth is financed by debt, not by equity, and your equity is not other people’s capital, it’s your own stuff. I actually think this is a way in which, in the echo chamber of … I think there’s a way that venture capital ended up becoming a metaphor for how we think about finance much more broadly than it used to be, but I also think we, within the world of impact investing and sustainable finance, the trajectory of that field came from people who had experienced venture capital and then wanted to explore this, so you and I both work all over the world, and I get frozen with fear when I see reports that say, “We’re going to build a financing structure in,” name the country, and it looks like a venture capital pipeline of early stage, to friends and family, to early stage angels, to expansion, to venture capital, and somebody who literally described to me … This is back to where you started.
JOY I was talking to a fund in some place in southeast Asia, and he said to me that the purpose of the fund was to have more series A investments in that country. I literally, again, asked him, “Towards what end? [crosstalk 00:37:40].”
VICKI Yeah. To do what? Yeah. Yeah.
JOY Right. Is this an indicator of some other thing? He’s like, “No. We just need more series A investments, because the series A investments will build a better marketplace.” And it’s not that that’s not true and it’s not a legitimating fact, but part of the problem is we live within this bubble of what is legitimating, and that’s part of the problem in finance. That’s why you and I are … That’s why we’re rocking it right now, but for a long time, we were a little bit on the, “What are they saying?”
VICKI We were so, “What is this weird thing over here?” Yeah. It was hard to get any phone calls returned, and now it’s like, “Oh, this model is actually working. What? There’s another way to do things?”
JOY 2008 helped so much.
VICKI Yeah, it did. Thank God for the crash in many ways.
JOY Well, because at some point, it was so clear that it was a human-constructed issue, not ebbs and flows in the economy, but the people who were doing calculations on subprime loans and the derivatives, like it was clear what was happening, and that it was a financial design issue, which let us start to distinguish to say, “These financial design issues have real impact, and it matters how we design finances,” and it wasn’t like written on a stone by some odd bloke.
VICKI Yeah. There’s a brilliant Chilean economist who I’ve followed every since I met him at Davos way back in 2003 or 2002, named Manfred Max-Neef, and he studied poverty for many, many years, he taught at Berkeley, and he said when the crash happened, and he saw the banks get bailed out with $17 trillion, which we found in three weeks, he realized for the first time, he had believed for decades that there wasn’t enough money to solve for poverty and hunger, and then he actually started to believe that, and he said, “When I saw that $17 trillion in three weeks, oh my god, that’s 600 years without hunger on the planet. We did that in three weeks.” It’s now about values and culture, and that started to unlock people’s thinking about systems.
JOY Right, right, right. Because let me push you on that. I don’t actually think it’s about the money. I think it’s the way we are in relationship wouldn’t actually change the structural inequities. We could spend, quote-unquote, all of that money, and we could spend all of that money, this is what keeps surprising people, is we spend all this money and nothing changes, but if you don’t actually address the underlying power dynamics in the relationships, you actually won’t ever change anything.
VICKI Let’s talk about those. Let’s talk about some of the underlying power dynamics.
JOY They suck. [inaudible 00:40:45].
VICKI What else do I need to say? They suck and change them. Okay.
JOY [crosstalk 00:40:52].
VICKI We had this amazing conversation I think in the Philippines last year where you were in this place of gender lens investing, we’re very focused on gender, and it was just like, “Wait, should we be talking more about power instead of gender?” And there was this whole … We’re learning as we go. We’re evolving as we really understand the challenges we’re facing. Do you want to talk a bit about the thinking that started to evolve for you around that?
JOY Yeah. It’s actually just in polishing a strategic plan, the whole future is, how do we think about power and relationships? I think part of it is understanding how power operates both in systems of finance and in the world, so understanding how power dynamics operate between the genders is actually what gender analysis is, so gender, just to stick with that one for a second, because gender is actually a construction of a set of power, that comes out of a set of power relationships, and so even if what we chose to talk about was gender, we still would be talking about power. That’s a basic distinction I always use, the sort of … My sex defines whether or not I have certain body parts that allow me to reproduce, potentially. My gender is what allows me to be dismissed in a room. It’s about the power dynamics, and because it’s about power dynamics and how identity plays into that, it means it’s shifting.
JOY I think actually the thing that has opened us … The thing that’s very powerful about looking at power is it is a different thing to analyze than what women are, so I get told all the time, “Women take fewer risks,” and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who’s saying it to me. Overall, it’s a bullshit statement overall. That’s a ridiculous … Like, which women in what context? Childbirth? Really? [inaudible 00:43:22] seriously, there are risks that people take. And they’re like, “Oh, no. I mean financial risks.” Right. But in some ways, the reason a woman might make a different choice in a particular context to take fewer risks has to do with the context in which she’s in, or the context in which they’re in, the sort of what are the options available, what are the structural barriers that will prevent her from being able to make one choice or another?
JOY People talk all the time about women reinvest in their communities, as if somehow this maternal instinct makes us care for our children in different ways. Well, in most of the places where the data is about women reinvesting in their children, reinvesting in their families, women don’t have freedom of travel, so of course they reinvest in their own communities. They can’t actually go [crosstalk 00:44:20].
VICKI Anywhere else. Right.
JOY It’s not a … Women buy things in malls. Exactly. They are allowed to go to malls. That is the occupation they’re allowed to have. And so thinking about analyzing power, I think gets us to a more accurate depiction of what are the underlying factors, which then lets us see how power dynamics can change, and yeah, that’s from an analysis standpoint of what actually are we trying to figure out when we look at things like race and class and ability and gender and age and on and on. It’s not really about those things. It’s about how those things show up in the world. That gets you to broad macro trends. I think the amazing thing that we have in the system of finance is we can literally look at what are the power dynamics in a particular transaction?
JOY We’re doing this really cool project right now where we’re looking at a portfolio of investments in the Pacific Islands, and I’ve been talking about this project for years. We love this work with Pacific RISE funded by the Australian government. But we’ve gotten down to these 10 amazing investments, just delicious, yummy companies, and financial vehicles that move money that would make a difference for women’s academic empowerment in the Pacific Islands, Fiji, Manawatu. And what we’re doing is actually building relationship maps, essentially deal maps, transaction, pictures of transaction to get really clear about who holds what power in the transaction that’s happening around this company.
JOY So for example, there’s this amazing company, maybe I shouldn’t name them, but I love them so much, I want to tell everybody about them, but I also want to tell this quick story, so I won’t name them, but they started looking for classic, single investor, come into this company, yummy, yummy company, see yummy conveys [crosstalk 00:46:49].
VICKI Yummy. There you go. Yeah.
JOY So yummy company, get an individual investor to put capital in, and started to be … The founders and others started to be really concerned about the power dynamics of a single investor coming in. So we worked with a bunch of other people to get a group of, more of a SheEO model, actually, we called you in the midst of it, of a group of investors who would come in and serve as champions for this business, and build a community of investors. Lo and behold, that then gave the entrepreneur enough gumption to go talk to their neighbor, who happened to own property, and figure out a joint venture that would allow her to use the property to then leverage a bank loan.
VICKI Beautiful. [crosstalk 00:47:42].
JOY And so it moved from a single Australian to 20 Australian to another person in Fiji putting this together, and in each one of those, the relationship shifted, the power dynamic shifted, and that’s what we have to keep figuring out how to do.
VICKI I just love it, and again, that was unlocking other forms of capital, right? Yeah. Absolutely. And actually [inaudible 00:48:10]. I’m like, “Okay. If that’s really messy to get that money and that’s really messy, see you guys, later. I’m going to go over here,” and we’re starting to see that happen in a couple of environments, like in the past, there has been this, let’s just call it a scarcity of capital, there isn’t, but that’s what is experienced by some of the founders in our network, and as soon as you start to shift the kind of terms on these term sheets that work for you, and there are more people showing up, you can say, “No thank you,” to one, and yes to over here.
VICKI And we just saw this happen in one of our regions, and someone we said no to who has never been said no to, ever, right? Like a total whale. It was just like, “What? What just happened there?” And I’m like, “Welcome to SheEO.world.” Alternatives are starting to come up of treating people the way that we want to treat people, and not walking in and saying, “I want X, Y, and Z.” Really interesting.
JOY I think that happens exactly at the moments where we stop making it about the money, and think about what’s actually needed. Again, this is really fascinating work of figuring out how to build an investing market in the Pacific around impact and all of this, and what does that look like? Anyway, one of the things that we kept noticing is there was a mismatch. There was money that wanted to move, and there was amazing economic activity happening, but the money that wanted to move wasn’t moving to the economic activity, and we did this whole capital mapping project that came to one very simple conclusion. The problem was the vehicles. We were using vehicles, so we’ve been reinventing, we’ve been looking at how do you create a design and investment vehicle that allows you to invest in informal enterprises so that you don’t have to have a formal business to take an investment?
JOY Well, that would unlock an enormous amount of economic activity that has never had access to any money, that they need to do transactions within their business, not because they need to grow, but because it would reduce their cost of doing business to have a little bit of money upfront, and so thinking about … We stepped back, and this is where I think at a macro level, impact investing, gender lens investing, all these different fields have gotten just a little bit off, is for so long, we made it about moving money, and we didn’t spend enough time redesigning the structures that managed the relationships. We didn’t say, “Is this the right term sheet?” We just downloaded term sheets off the internet and said, “Tada. We’re doing investing.” Now I think we’re starting to do much more of that financial design work, but not fast enough, because we’re still saying, “This doesn’t work in the structure that worked for something else.” Well, of course it doesn’t.
VICKI Right. I see this every day, because now it’s super hot and everyone is talking about. Women, women, women. And so we just keep creating a female version, a woman’s version of an existing structure-
JOY [crosstalk 00:51:28] term sheet.
VICKI … which is actually going to get us to the end of humanity a lot faster, if we have another 50% of the population pillaging away towards the brick wall that we’re heading at, and so this … I’m just so thankful for your reframing around this. I think it’s really, really powerful, is looking at how do we redesign the structures that are managing the relationship. I love that phrase.
JOY And then how do you analyze power in the context of those relationships, that are in those structures, and then say, “Could this work differently?” This is where we’re so bullish, because this isn’t happening in a vacuum. We’re looking at the Canadians’ announcement of $1.8 billion, yay Canadians, of moving to innovative finance, aligned with the Feminist International Assistance Policies. Okay. What does it look like to move $1.8 billion with a feminist lens on it? I’m not saying they figured out how to do that, but it is at least asking the questions, and the launch of the Equality Fund, a lot of what as happening in the launch of that fund, also in Canada, was looking at, what is the underlying structure that supports the Equality Fund? It’s not the $300 million. It’s the fact that there will be a new vehicle that is designed differently. Yay.
VICKI Yay. The beginning. I just want to end off on one thing. What are you most excited about in the world right now?
JOY Oh, I can’t say you?
VICKI In this space.
JOY [crosstalk 00:53:02].
VICKI Thank you.
JOY I am truly excited about … I will say my genuine, unthought, true answer, was I’m excited about a bunch of us who are breaking through right now. There’s so many of us who have been working against, on the bleeding edge, nowhere near where profit is flowing [inaudible 00:53:34] island [inaudible 00:53:36] alternative schemes, and that’s shifting. But I think for me, that translates into I’m just so excited about this moment. We have a moment in which there are a whole bunch of different factors aligning that, whether it’s a shift in how governments are doing innovative finance where there’s a kind of disgruntledness in both impact investing and gender lens investing of, “Is this all it was?” There’s a kind of, still the massive wealth transfer, and a coming age of a set of leaders who have been doing this for awhile, and have some ability to kick some ass, and that’s not the right kind of relationship, but you know what I mean.
VICKI Yeah. I get it. Yeah.
JOY So I’m excited about this moment, and with that comes a kind of urgency to say, “This moment is not going to last forever.” One of my mentors in systems thinking was a project manager at a pension fund, very straightforward man, but he said to me, “The way you do systems change is you sit patiently and watch until the system shifts enough that a door opens, and then you walk through it,” and so I feel like we’ve been watching for 18 years as systems have been shifting and we’ve been pushing and prodding and nudging them, and there are some doors opening right now that I am loving walking through.
VICKI Yeah. I feel exactly the same way. There really is this observe, observe, observe, become one with everything, and that opportunity, and nature abhors a vacuum, right? There’s a moment now to step in, and I think one of the things I’m really excited about around this is that each of us are in conversation, and we are in relationship together, and we are thinking global, and we are connected to some of the leaders in the space, and to be able to align our initiatives to leverage all of our different approaches is really exciting. So thank you for your time. I know you’re incredibly busy and I caught you between some airport and another airport, and-
JOY And for those who might be listening to this, if you’ve made it through nearly an hour [inaudible 00:56:00] you should surely reach out to us and tell us [inaudible 00:56:03] listened to us for an hour. There’s a lot more of that. There’s a bunch of people here at Criterion doing amazing things.
VICKI How do we find you? Where? What’s your website?
JOY Yeah. Criterioninstitute.org, or … Yeah. I think we’re on CriterionInst.