This week, Dean Taylor Randall, Jeramy Lund and I had the privilege of traveling with Jim Sorenson to an event he sponsored in New York City that is hosted by the Financial Times called “FT Investing for Good USA.” The convening of 150 people is billed as an event spotlighting “Innovative Finance as a Force for Global Change.” It attracted speakers such as the Ford Foundation president, Darren Walker, the Case Foundation CEO, Jean Case, and of course, our very own Jim Sorenson, representing his Sorenson Impact Foundation as well as the Sorenson Impact Center that he endowed at the David Eccles School of Business.
These heavy-hitting investors had come together to discuss how private capital could help solve some of the world’s most intractable social problems with innovative financing and impact investing. Business leaders took the floor to discuss ideas from stemming climate change to improving global education access to promoting gender equality around the world, among other pressing topics.
Earlier this year, the Ford Foundation announced its unprecedented commitment to invest $1 billion of its $12 billion fund into mission-related investments “seeking to earn not only attractive financial returns but concrete social returns as well,” as the foundation stated in its April 2017 press release. Walker, who leads the second-largest philanthropy in the country, kicked off the event with a thought provoking framing of philanthropy, stating there is a “difference between generosity and justice.” He said he leads Ford as social justice philanthropy and urged the crowd that if they don’t feel uncomfortable then they should. He specifically pointed out that the sector needs more innovative philanthropic leaders like Jim Sorenson who will push the boundaries.
Several hours later Sorenson and Case, two veteran impact investors, took the stage to discuss where the impact investing market is going and what is needed to get there. “Much of the gravity of impact investing lies with the next generation,” said Sorenson. He explained, “Research shows that millennials believe a company’s social and environmental impact are integral to their investing decisions.” He described how the millennial mindset of improving society while making a living go hand in hand. “It turns out, I have a lot in common with millennials!” said Sorenson.
Perhaps that’s the biggest reason that Sorenson endowed the Sorenson Impact Center at the David Eccles School of Business — he believes in the power of the next generation of social impact leaders, and he’s willing to take big bets on students across majors, industries and disciplines. This year, the Sorenson Impact Center has over 50 student fellows from both undergraduate and graduate schools across the U, hailing from 10 countries.
If social impact interests you, see about our varied fellowship opportunities, and don’t miss our very own Winter Innovation Summit from January 24–26 taking place at Libby Gardner Concert Hall, where leaders from universities, government, nonprofits, the investment community and the business community will gather to discuss and debate social impact and innovation across sectors. Promotional codes are available for University of Utah staff and students.
For me, traveling to the FT Investing for Good conference in New York City — and seeing such a passionate group speak about how we can better use resources to address global social problems — was a testament to our social impact work here at home at the University of Utah.