Without a barn raising you don’t make a sale

Now, Shaun Paul and I are no longer working on telling the Ejido Verde story to investors alone. We are teaming with Ken Hynes CEO of Artha Networks and Audrey Selian who leads the Artha platform, who are working with several Canadian First Nations companies that are ready for investment. We are making common cause to tell our stories together.

Our goal is to show that there are enough indigenous impact investing deals for an investor to take them seriously. We think seeing those examples of real indigenous entrepreneurs building real businesses will help people overcome the prevailing stereotypical perception that the indigenous are impoverished and perpetually dependent on government handouts.

SOCAP itself was built to overcome two pocket thinking,the idea that you invest for yourself, and put all the money you can in one pocket, then put some smaller proportion in another pocket to give away. Sometimes that second pocket of philanthropic donations ends up giving to non profits to overcome the problems that the investments done to feed the insatiable need for higher financial return that the first pocket caused.

With Artha and Ejido Verde, and with the other partners who will recognize that they need to build a collective brand to validate the category of indigenous impact investing and join us, we will be showing investors that there are investable impact economy indigenous companies. It’s just a version of the same process that worked to make SOCAP the largest impact investing conference in the world. This method works. It’s also the only one I know. I’ve been doing this for 43 years; a technique learned during my seven years as a country weekly newspaper editor in the poorest county in Mississippi

Audrey, Ken and I, and sometimes Shaun are starting by writing here on Medium at least once a week from the Canadian and the Mexican perspective. We are also working on creating a portal to show the world that there are enough good impact investing deals coming from indigenous communities that it’s worth focusing on and learning what’s different about these deals. We hope to create a bridge so that western investors can understand the cultures of the businesses they invest in, and the values like reciprocity and and “we are all relations” that imbue indigenous culture, but that is not a requirement. We expect many people will be passive investors, and just want to see these good deals that create community wealth through for profit businesses in indigenous communities.

We are beginning outreach to indigenous investors and investment platforms we know and work with to invite them to be part of the process.Like a lot of tech startups, we are going to be writing about the building of the collective effort. Artha and Ejido Verde have determined that to be heard, we need to join forces and tell the world, just like we did when we built SOCAP, that this category of indigenous impact investing is real, bigger than you thought and growing.

This is the only way I know how to build something; using a collaborative narrative ecosystem approach. I just made up that phrase. I told Audrey and Ken that my first job out of colleges 43 years ago, I learned this approach from my father in law, Delmus Harden was the most important mentor in my life. His philosophy was that he had to build a community in which his paper could survive. When you’re in the poorest county in the poorest state, that’s how you have to build; to optimize the flow of resources in a resource scarce environment. The Itawamba County Times had the largest circulation in the state; the mailmen on the Star Routes, who went far out in the county said that everybody who could read subscribed. Market penetration was north of 86 %.

To build at all, you had to build collaboratively. As I told Audrey and Ken if we don’t do a barn raising, you don’t make a sale.

To remind you about Ejido Verde, I’ve published video here and written about my work with Shaun Paul on Ejido Verde, a regenerative for profit forestry project working with the Purapecha people of Michoacan that will create astonishing levels of community wealth if we succeed. And I’ve written about how it fits within my focus of the last few years of channeling capital to businesses owned and run by people from marginalized communities, under the category of Neighborhood Economics.

Here is what Audrey drafted for outreach to our peers for a session we are hosting at SOCAP.

“A small group of us would like to convene a specialized panel showcasing innovative social enterprises emerging from indigenous areas, with particular interest on social innovation projects in Native American and First Nations contexts. We would like to examine the best of the recent transactions that are overcoming the financial exclusion of Indigenous peoples, who have been too often stereotyped as impoverished and perpetually dependent on government handouts.

Such mainstream misperceptions are both a cause and result of Indigenous peoples’ exclusion from financial, social, and knowledge networks. How can the SOCAP community more explicitly support the ability of indigenous communities to benefit from and contribute to the growing world of ‘impact finance’ and more traditional finance? How can this be done in a non-colonial, professional manner that builds on and respects their unique assets and value system?

The panel and broader discussion we intend to catalyze will address these questions and highlight incredible impact investments opportunities led by Indigenous communities. We would like to emphasize the scope of the potential impact of strategies that encompass these territories and communities, and to talk about the instruments to be applied, the leaders from which we can learn, and the incredible ripple effects we can see right in our own proverbial ‘backyards’ in Mexico, the United States and Canada. Working title for the session: Indigenous Finance: Re-Building Social Capital to Unlock Opportunities for Impact”

This should be fun.