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viewpoint

How do we help each other?

| Friday, November 13, 2015

The panel consists of pressed suits and styled bobs.

They talk of the necessity of relationship, of treating people humanely rather than as moneybags, of the difficulties of creating a metric for social impact, among other topics that arise when you ask, how do we help each other? Yet, these panelists don’t look like the usual crew of bleeding hearts with dirt-stained flannel and affirmative nodding in response to the term ‘social justice.’ Instead of spending their time in homeless shelters and service centers, they settle in their offices with brand-name coffee in sterile cups and an agenda focused on the bottom line. These panelists are a part of the Irish Impact Social Entrepreneurship Conference and are the first to point out that a good business plan is always more useful than an individual’s good intentions.

Yet, they are also the first to bring up how impact investing changes the world for the better. They live by the theory that investing in choice businesses can transform the lives of the marginalized without forsaking the promise of profits. By including the marginalized in a market that pervades all of our lives, impact investing focuses on pragmatic practices of inclusion rather than idealistic hopes of completely circumventing the capitalistic, materialistic character of the modern economy. These panelists play with big numbers, and consequently, touch the lives of an innumerable number of people, whether they are receiving paychecks from newly-created jobs or new products on the shelf of local stores that choice investing promoted.

Of course, impact investing is not the same sort of slow love that arises from simply being with the marginalized. It’s not passing afternoons playing King’s Corners so that the person in front of you is distracted from the upcoming custody battle she will surely lose. It’s not letting others comfort you as you cry, so they can realize that as infantilized and patronized as they are, they still have this shine that could light up anyone’s heart. It’s not quite as physically demanding, mouth-drying or soul-wrenching.

But it doesn’t mean impact investing is any less of an act of love.

Desire to help the world is a beautiful thing. The prominent answer to such a want is for one to do service, and it is a beautiful thing to have one’s heart touched and one’s soul filled with all one sees while doing service. And if you are not touched, that too is a beautiful thing. There are so many different ways of making the world better, from advocacy in legal courts to impact investing in business suits. The question remains: How do we help each other? Only your own answer can suffice for yourself.

If you are interested in exploring various avenues of changing the world for the better beyond service, consider these classes next spring:

  1. Through business: Social Entrepreneurship* with Melissa Paulsen TR 11-12:15, 2-3:15
  2. Through advocacy: Advocacy for the Common Good with Mike Hebbeler (Non-traditional times)
  3. Through qualitative research: Youth Empowerment, Literacy, and Changing Urban Landscapes* with Maria McKenna and Stuart Greene M 3:30-4:45, W 3:30-6:30

*Preference given to students of certain colleges/departments of study, but after the registration is completed, nothing but good can come from requesting a spot even if you are not in a certain college or minor.

 

Sherry Zhong

senior

off-campus

Nov. 9

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