We live in extraordinary times — but in too many ways, it’s a global version of “a tale of two cities.”
If you’ve been blessed to live in countries or regions on the rise or those at the leading edge of the curve, you’ve seen and felt and benefited from the astonishing progress of the last two decades: worldwide GDP has doubled, more than one billion people have been lifted out of poverty, and a synergy of technology and science and in a few areas good policy have increased life expectancy, boosted connectivity, and brought diseases that were once global killers under control. For so many, the global economic future looks promising.
But if you’re on the other side — left out or left behind — you feel trapped in a world stuck in reverse or neutral — with existing capacity strained in new and dangerous ways that contribute to conflict and discord. In too many places, as the population swells with young people who, thanks to technology, can see the benefits the rest of the world is sharing in, the environment is under constant and increasing pressure, basic infrastructure is lacking, jobs have disappeared, and the tools to compete and win are nowhere in reach despite everyone’s appreciation of a rapidly changing global job market.
That’s the global divide that I encountered everywhere I went as Secretary of State. Aspirations are universal: people want jobs and the dignity that comes with them; they love the promise of technology to connect them, and they hope to be a part of a future that’s dynamic and exhilarating. But unmet expectations in so many places drive despair and rage, and create openings for despots and demagogues to fill the emptiness with appeals to hatred and hollow promises.
The work to ensure shared opportunity and shared prosperity has never been more critical. The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals form a globally agreed-upon framework to address these build a more prosperous, healthier, cleaner world. But making them a reality requires an estimated $13 trillion in new funding, in an era where governments are increasingly fractured and unable or unwilling to devote the necessary resources.
What do you do in an age that demands one hundred Marshall Plans but few constituencies anywhere stepping up to provide them?
The answer is, you think differently — and you think creatively.
The only path that today leads anywhere close to where we need to go is paved with an unprecedented level of collaboration between the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to channel resources and skills needed to meet today’s challenges.
The potential of private enterprise — which holds more than $50 trillion in investible capital right now — to transform the world’s response to these issues is a potent one. When it comes to creating impact, the global power of our entrepreneurial ecosystem is a crucial resource. I’ve thought hard about the potential of new efforts to shake up our concepts or what development looks like, and I’ve recently become involved with The Rise Fund, which is putting front and center a model to channel private capital toward ideas, entrepreneurs, and innovation, a model that others can leverage to build collaborative new solutions.
We hope that we can write a new playbook and demonstrate that impact investing can be scalable, profitable, and truly measurable. If we succeed, we can open the door for institutional investors to deploy capital toward investments that drive positive social and environmental change without compromising returns. The engagement of institutional investment in addressing trenchant global issues allows philanthropies and governments to channel their resources more efficiently and effectively. Working together, we can attract and deploy the trillions needed to achieve sustainable development goals and build a more just, healthy, and sustainable global society.
At the core of the model we hope to create is a recognition that it’s not enough to simply realign existing structures. To catalyze action and drive tangible progress, we need a new approach. We need to harness the energy, forward thinking and collaborative nature of the world’s innovators. We need to support them with the investment they need to bring their ideas to reality and extend the depth and breadth of their impact. Years of diligent work by impact investors around the world has created a foundation and the mission now is to show the world that impact investing can succeed at scale, generate the kind of returns investors have come to expect, and bring new private sector resources to the table to do what governments alone aren’t doing or can’t do at all.
The time is now to try — because the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.