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Can Financial Products Improve the Lives of Poor People?

Sep 16, 2016

Happy Friday!

Just a quick note up top, since I’m on my way to SOCAP16, the annual confab of social entrepreneurs with a very cool tagline: A conference at the intersection of money + meaning.

My panel explores a very nuts-and-bolts topic – how poverty alleviation strategies can scale through new and creative (in a good way) financial products. But these dull sounding loan/grant hybrids and subordinated debt products are changing how we think about philanthropy forever, and opening up new opportunities for financial institutions and high-net worth individuals - and everyone else - to create products that can improve life for the poorest people.

It's already working: In the last two decades, some two billion people have emerged from absolute poverty, many of them the beneficiaries of smart strategies and creative impact investing in health services, agricultural businesses and water and sanitation. What new products and services will take them the rest of the way? This population, and the people who are still emerging from the bottom of the pyramid, are forming a new class of consumers with rights and responsibilities, along with new freedom to go to school, work, buy the stuff they need, become entrepreneurs, artists and philosophers, and in general, make a better life.

I’ll be back next week with lots of money and meaning stories, no doubt.

Have a meaningful weekend, everyone!

On Point

When only one of you is traveling while black

Fortune’s John Kell offers a wrenching account of how an experience with Airbnb nearly destroyed a 20-year friendship. When he was able to confirm his friend’s worst fears, that she was unable to book rooms on Airbnb – ten of them – for their upcoming trip because she was black, his first response wasn’t ideal. “I wasn’t aware of how much I’d upset Malika by using Airbnb when she was having such problems,” he writes with regret. His confession of a missed opportunity for empathy is both touching and instructive. Please read and share.

Fortune

Now we know who Saleforce’s Chief Equality Officer is

And he sounds pretty awesome.Tony Prophet, a familiar name in Silicon Valley circles, was just named Salesforce’s new Chief Equality Officer. The company called him a “champion for human rights and social justice,” and the former Microsoft executive has had a high profile in Bay Area non-profits focusing on children's healthcare, at-risk teens and HIV-positive women. While at Microsoft, Prophet created several initiatives focused on inclusion.

TechCrunch

Some charter schools disproportionately suspend and expel black students

A CityLab fellow investigated charter schools with the most suspensions in New York, Boston and D.C., and discovered a clear trend: black and Latino students were most likely to be suspended. The schools tended to be part of charter school chains that had adopted “broken-window policing” style disciplinary strategies. Kids were being suspended for even minor breaches, like untucked shirts.

CityLab

Jay-Z writes and narrates a film decrying America’s ‘War on Drugs’

Beyonce’s husband has stepped from the shadows to lend his voice to a short art video on the history of the draconian drug laws in the U.S. that exploded prison populations and disproportionately targeted black and brown people – even though white people sold and used more crack cocaine than anyone else. (It’s a caste system, whispers Isabel Wilkerson.) Oh, and he mentions the legal marijuana industry, which leaves out black and brown entrepreneurs. The excellent video features the artwork of Molly Crabapple.

New York Times

Violence at Trump rallies is being underreported and that’s a problem

Todd Gitlin, a journalism and sociology professor at Columbia University, says that the underreporting of violence at Trump rallies has normalized a highly disturbing and unusual trend. As a result, police are less likely to intervene and the chance for civil discourse is destroyed. “If outbursts of violence, as of venom, fade into the hush of background noise, the deplorables have won,” he writes. Skip the comments if you want to have a good weekend.

Bill Moyers

What does it mean to support Donald Trump?

Ijeoma Oluo, a Seattle-based writer, speaker and self-described “internet yeller” has written a passionate and controversial piece that answers the question with a bold statement: It means you are a white supremacist. It doesn’t mean that if you vote for someone else, you’re not. Her point – if you’re willing to overlook his racist and Islamophobic statements and policies, then you’ve become comfortable with the idea of the suspicious brown “other” who must be controlled or eliminated.

The Establishment

The Woke Leader

By overvaluing confidence, we’ve lost our way

In a world that tends to overvalue the brash, confident and arrogant among us – and that rewards egocentric bias - we’ve overlooked the power of intellectual humility, argues Jacob Burak, a culture writer. Intellectually humble people, he says, prefer truth over status, work hard to grow, and exhibit an openness to new ideas even when they conflict with their own. Here’s just one outcome of valuing confidence over humility: Online trolls thrive. Real world ones, too.

 Aeon

An actor becomes typecast as a terrorist in real life

His acting skills and audition practice helped Riz Ahmed get through airports, the streets of London, and private school, he writes. He learned to become less threatening as his brown skin and Pakistani heritage triggered an ever-changing series of hostile responses in the majority white circles in which he often traveled. “As a minority, no sooner do you learn to polish and cherish one chip on your shoulder than it’s taken off you and swapped for another,” he says.

The Guardian

Speaking other languages shifts ethics and morals in interesting ways

If you feel, even subtly, that you’re a slightly different person when you speak or think in another language, you may be on to something. Recent studies suggest that when people are confronted with moral dilemmas, they respond differently when considering them in a foreign language than when using their own.

Scientific American

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