In 2018, Morgan Stanley released The Trillion Dollar Blindspot, spotlighting how skewed investment practices are towards white male entrepreneurs, and how entrepreneurs of color lack the access to the social networks that white-owned businesses take for granted. This is particularly true for Native America, which represents billions of dollars in missed opportunities. In a survey of its investor members, US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment found that while 75 percent include “Indigenous Peoples issues” in their social investment practices, less than 20 percent had actually developed specific criteria for them. Saying that it’s important to include Indigenous Peoples in decision-making practices is one thing, but if the majority lack capital screens founded on Indigenous principles and practices, how can it translate into action?
This disconnect between philosophy and practice is emblematic of broader power and relational asymmetries between Indigenous Peoples and the private investment world.
These gaps are not new, of course. But as the pandemic demonstrates, we need more investments focused on the most vulnerable pockets of the world and nation, and investing in local governments and institutions is the best way to secure their future sustainability and growth. Since federal government stimulus can never address the complexity and depth of a crisis like COVID-19—while the recently enacted CARES Act only demonstrates how tribes and Indigenous small businesses get left behind—the impact investing community must prioritize organizations and institutions closest to the impacted communities.
However, Indigenous intermediaries are crucial to overcoming asymmetries between impact investors and Native America. At the moment, NDN Collective’s NDN Fund and Oweesta Corporation are the only national funds that fulfill this intermediary function. NDN Fund provides millions of dollars in flexible and patient capital directly to Native Nations, businesses, and organizations across Native America, while Oweesta lends to and resources other Native Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to meet the microenterprise needs within their local communities. Since these organizations can deploy tens of millions of dollars each year, foundations, impact investors, and even commercial banks can support large-scale and far-reaching impact through grantmaking and concessionary investments into these intermediaries.
Read the full article about impact investing and Native America by Nikki Pieratos and Chrystel Cornelius at Stanford Social Innovation Review.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for North America, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and North America.
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