How Creating Jobs Can Help Us Build Back Better

StartingUpGood
StartingUpGood Magazine
11 min readDec 7, 2020

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By: Brady Press

This post is part of a series highlighting sessions from the SOCAP 2020 Virtual Global Impact Summit. Continue reading for information on the role of impact investing and social entrepreneurship to stimulate economic development for underserved communities in COVID-19 recovery.

Key Takeaways

  • The initial round of government assistance for COVID-19 left out Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and thus left out the people CDFIs are designed to support (often communities of color). Although the second round of assistance included them, it was too late for many
  • As impact investors, we need to be asking: how do we continue to innovate and provide the products and services that our entrepreneurs (especially those of color) need so that we show up in the way they need us?
  • If we want to invest in entrepreneurs of color better and want to have community wealth building and racial wealth gap outcomes through them creating good quality jobs, we need to see clearly what we are doing up and down our policies and work to make sure we’re doing the systems change we need to within our organizations and industry. Then, we need to communicate this to stakeholders

Summary

Impact investors and social entrepreneurs today must be intentional about creating good jobs. We must ensure that this recovery fuels the small and growing businesses that can create the next 500 million jobs — dignified jobs, with good wages in both the United States and developing countries. In this session, investors whose mission is to stimulate economic development for underserved communities will share actionable guidance on defining good jobs, supporting workforce development and building businesses that create economic opportunity.

Speakers

Background

Kate Cochran (moderator), CEO at Upaya Social Ventures — invests in early stage companies in India for the purpose of creating jobs for the extreme poor

Bubul Gupta, CEO at Pacific Community Ventures — a CDFI that provides affordable capital to small businesses in California, works to fill the mentorship gap for entrepreneurs of color and offers impact investing research and consulting

Meredith Shields, Managing Director at Sorenson Impact Foundation — a family foundation started by Jim Sorenson that is 100% invested in impact investments (globally)

Racheal Meiers, National Lead of Economic Opportunity and Impact Investing at Kaiser Permanente — the nation’s largest integrated health system; provides quality and affordable healthcare, including social health factors/upstream social determinants of health

Session Notes

  • The recovery following the Great Recession (2007–2009) has been known as a jobless recovery and it has led to some of the most damaging economic inequality in modern history; we saw half of Black generational wealth wiped out
  • This session’s panelists are all working to ensure economic opportunity in recovery from COVID is shared more broadly
  • Women of color start more businesses in the US than any other one demographic; 600% more so in the last few years have been led by Black women

What types of challenges have you experienced this year and how have you overcome them?

Bubul Gupta, CEO at Pacific Community Ventures

  • The bulk of our businesses don’t have more than 1–2 months of runway
  • The initial round of government assistance excluded CDFIs and thus all the people they are designed to support
  • Though CDFIs were included in the second round of assistance, it was already too late for many small businesses and many of the smaller, non-SBA loaner CDFIs were still left out (thus leaving out those they serve)
  • We’ve already seen 50% of Black-owned small businesses and 33% of Latinx owned small businesses in California alone have gone under (California has the largest number of diverse owned small businesses in the country)
  • If we don’t see more capital and federal support through the capillary system of smaller banks and CDFIs reaching these communities soon they won’t last; the assistance they got through PPP, if any, wasn’t enough to last this long
  • We’ve seen our lending capital spike 20X since the shelter in place mandates began and 5X for our business advising platform for entrepreneurs of color, which we scaled up through a partnership with Kaiser Permanente; mentorship is crucial because it is often how entrepreneurs get referrals and find other sources of funding
  • The California small business fund is meant to launch in the coming weeks
  • CDFIs are best positioned to reach communities of color that are in need

What was your thinking around mobilizing immediate response and what is your thinking as we move beyond that and into recovery?

Meredith Shields, Managing Director at Sorenson Impact Foundation

  • For a few years now, we’ve been thinking about how we can use our resources and assets beyond our financial assets to bring more people into impact investing; for example, we have people who fly around the world sourcing potential investments and grantees & a team that does robust due diligence (but only our team sees these reports)
  • On top of deploying capital to our own portfolio companies we also reached out to other investors in our network and were excited to learn of a number of coalitions like the R3 coalition and Village Capital’s Abaca (a high-level deal aggregating resource)— we jumped into both of these and tried to find a way to share our research
  • We wanted to attract more capital to the entrepreneurs that needed it most
  • Throughout the pandemic, organizations have been more open to different types of deal flow and different types of entrepreneurial networks/resources — a more collaborative approach

Kate Cochran, CEO at Upaya Social Ventures

  • The “missing middle” is where the jobs are created, but it’s the missing middle because it’s hard to invest there. The more we who do invest there start sharing our deals, the easier we make it for entrepreneurs who need capital right now

Racheal Meiers, National Lead of Economic Opportunity and Impact Investing at Kaiser Permanente

  • We had been having conversations with organizations about the idea of supporting job growth in our communities as a core to promoting health in our communities for some time, so that helped us because we had these relationships in place already and were able to check in with these partners
  • In June, we announced $100 million to promoting economic opportunity and racial equity in our communities
  • We have significant partnerships with Pacific Community Ventures and LISC (we each contributed $30 million)
  • Before the pandemic, we had created the Good Jobs Fund, which is a $20 million debt impact fund that offers flexible financing to small businesses that are intentionally bringing quality jobs; it’s focused on minority owned businesses but more so on mid-level businesses that are major job creators that have also demonstrated a commitment to job quality
  • Internally, we are looking at our own hiring practices — we are very committed to our labor partnerships, most of our workforce is unionized — how do we find individuals that are underemployed or unemployed in our communities and help track them into some of the more entry level jobs that can get them on a path to advancement in healthcare
  • We do the same thing with our business partners; we formed partnerships to make Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during COVID

Does Kaiser have a view of what they define as a quality job?

  • We like Pacific Community Venture’s framework, which is why we’re working with them
  • We believe in family sustaining wages and benefits (like sick leave)

Bubul Gupta, CEO at Pacific Community Ventures

  • Last year, Pacific Community Ventures became the first CDFI able to offer incentive payments (aka loan rebates) to our lending clients who are making progress on the quality job framework
  • We were looking at how to do a blended finance through capital model to be able to create more of a stickiness effect with our lending clients that would acknowledge their need for affordable capital and a financial advisor, but also say we want to stay committed with you on this jobs agenda and we’re willing to show up in the way that you need us to be able to help you stay on that journey with us
  • Given the crisis at hand, we’re trying to keep people on the good jobs agenda but also on a jobs preservation agenda. So, whatever capital we can raise to beef up those micro grants to a meaningful small grants program + be able to hang onto as many jobs as they can
  • To do this, we’re 1) raising affordable capital 2) working with other Black-led CDFIs like LISC, Hope Credit Union, Appalachia Community Capital, Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, etc.
  • As impact investors, how do we continue to innovate and provide the products and services that our entrepreneurs (especially those of color) need so that we show up in the way they need us?
  • When we think about our underwriting as an investment into small business owners — we already saw pre-crisis that our entrepreneurs of color tend to underreport things like personal assets, whether it’s because they distrust the financial system or think their assets aren’t worth reporting, etc., we have been really innovative with our lending criteria to make sure we aren’t being unintentionally punitive
  • When we think about systemic change, being able to invest in our entrepreneurs better with a whole entrepreneur approach that’s a bit closer to character-based lending was important for us to get to so that we aren’t looking at a minimum credit score or the tight credit boxes that fintech’s or banks look at because our whole mission is to reach the communities that get rejected by banks, SBA and fintech’s
  • If we want to invest in entrepreneurs of color better and want to have the kind of community wealth building and racial wealth gap outcomes through them creating good quality jobs, we need to see clearly what we are doing up and down our policies and work to make sure we’re doing the systems change we need to within our organization and industry and communicate this to stakeholders

The Sorenson Impact Foundation and Upaya Ventures co-invested in a deal this year which was all about jobs. The term sheets have very particular terms about job creation and income improvement for those artisans involved. How do you think about embedding your values into your investing?

Meredith Shields, Managing Director at Sorenson Impact Foundation

  • When we say we’re impact investors, it’s interesting because you look at term sheets and oftentimes you don’t see the impact in the term sheet. It’s the financial terms laid out the same way that any other investor looks at a deal
  • We wanted to explore that and think through, how do we create some accountability in an achievable way that’s supportive to entrepreneurs? Creating incentives to have a multi-stakeholder approach. Especially when it comes to jobs and employees, I think that if you’re focused on the wrong area, that can become an expense to reduce not an asset to leverage
  • We had a deal with a company which organizes artisans in India and provides them with skills development and access to supply chain and lots of coaching and mentoring so that they can increase their income through aggregated sale of their products to retailers around the world
  • When we started looking at the company, we liked the fact that they had really impressive, not only number of jobs that they were creating (1,000+ every year that they’d been operating, it’ll reach almost 2,000 this year), but also the income increase was really impressive
  • So far this year, the artisans who’ve been working with the group have increased their income by over 23% in a fairly short period of time.
  • So, the key deal terms in our term sheets — the discount rate and the valuation cap — are on a little grid that’s front and center in the term sheet and the rate that they get is more beneficial to the entrepreneur if they’re overachieving on the impact side (if the benefit to the artisans who are their employees is increasing over time)
  • We felt like that was one way that we can act with impact at the forefront of what we’re doing, but also align everybody’s incentives so that the company is incentivized to continue to develop so that they produce better products that generate more revenue. So far, they’re tracking and doing really well

Q&A: Are any of you working with worker owned or multi-stakeholder cooperatives as a means of workforce development and equity?

Bubul Gupta, CEO at Pacific Community Ventures

  • We look for these in our lending as much as we can both in the applications coming in if they’re interested or where our lending can be supportive and helping companies convert into worker ownership
  • We also partner with organizations like Project Equity and others that are trying to serve multi-stakeholder worker co-ops and support those conversions where our lending capital can be valuable in the capital stack and giving access to our advising platform
  • When we talk about minority-owned small businesses, we are seeing them being bought out by larger companies rather than being converted to worker ownership and keep the wealth, either because someone in their family doesn’t want to take over the business, wasn’t able to, or wasn’t exposed to worker co-op models or financing
  • So, we’re trying to work with minority supplier development councils nationwide and regionally to make sure we’re integrating into their messaging and work to keep wealth in Black communities and to help make these ownership conversions happen
  • In our research last year, we saw that the companies we were making the most “good jobs progress” on were on the larger side of small businesses and were white male owned. There is an inherent conversation going on internally on how do we help more early-stage, smaller, BIPOC-owned businesses
  • We need to translate the language used around impact and community to reach the communities we want to help

Racheal Meiers, National Lead of Economic Opportunity and Impact Investing at Kaiser Permanente

  • For our partnership with LISC, conversions to employee ownership is a priority
  • We are also looking at our supply chain and trying to understand our diverse suppliers
  • Particularly in the area of construction and building related trades we’re seeing a lot of minority entrepreneurs reaching retirement age and their families not showing interest in taking over the business
  • We’re trying to understand who may be willing and open to a discussion around employee ownership and providing them with technical support and potential avenues for capital from partners

Meredith Shields, Managing Director at Sorenson Impact Foundation

  • We don’t see a lot of worker-owned proposals, but when we do they tend to be biased
  • We like the idea of building wealth within communities with the workers themselves
  • Ex: We’re invested in a company in Liberia where the majority of the workforce is female and the women own 50% of the factory/assets and will continue to earn when they’re not working there; we also work with a US-based affordable housing producer with a neat model where they partner with communities and their employees own part of the company (on top of them providing health coverage, a living wage, etc.)

Do you have examples of the ways you’re working in partnership with any public sector partners such as health education or social services?

Racheal Meiers, National Lead of Economic Opportunity and Impact Investing at Kaiser Permanente

  • We announced a partnership with the state of CA to hire 500 contact tracers in the state and we are working with a nonprofit and are prioritizing low income people of color for the job roles
  • We also work with K-12 schools through a program called Thriving Schools, which was initially focused on healthy eating and activity but has pivoted to be focused on resilience and mental health
  • Through this, we developed a playbook for safe and healthy reopening of schools post COVID
  • There’s also an organization called Healthcare Without Harm we have been supporting that looks at food sourcing for schools and has an investment component

Want to know more?

For more SOCAP content, visit full session recordings on YouTube or see here for other Starting Up Good summaries of our favorite recordings.

Brady Press is a Director at Changing Our World, where she specializes in building strategic corporate citizenship programs. She is a consultant to SDGCounting and StartingUpGood.

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