Power, Purpose & Profit: bigBANG! Focuses on Putting Money to Work for Good

Speakers at the Dallas social innovation event took on the concept of impact investing and what that looks like in the realm of real estate, foundations, faith-based work, and more. 

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An investment can change the world.

Beyond making a financial return, people are putting their dollars to work on social good as well. 

“We want environmental and social impact to become the norm rather than the exception when we are making investment decisions.”

Abigail Noble

Though impact investing makes up only a fraction of global assets under management, it’s seen significant growth over the past few years, said Abigail Noble, CEO of The ImPact, a nonprofit comprising a network of families making impact investments.

She told attendees at the annual bigBANG! Thursday at Paul Quinn College in South Dallas, that last year there was a 17 percent increase in capital deployed through impact investing.

Still, it’s only a “drop in the bucket,” she said.

“We want environmental and social impact to become the norm rather than the exception when we are making investment decisions,” Noble said.

BigBANG! is Dallas’ longest-running event focused on convening and discussing social innovation. It was started by Social Venture Partners Dallas. Past events have tackled social justice and racial inequality.

During this year’s event, speakers took on the concept of impact investing and what that looks like in the realm of real estate, foundations, faith-based work, and more. Event collaborators included United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and the Lyda Hill Foundation.

Beyond talking about investing, bigBANG! took action in its Fast Pitch Competition, featuring three social ventures vying for $25,000 to scale their businesses. 

Dallas-based Skratch, an app connecting teens to jobs in their neighborhood, claimed the top prize. 

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Abigail Noble, CEO of The ImPact, outlines the basics of impact investing during bigBANG! Thursday at Paul Quinn College.

IMPACT INVESTING: BE INTENTIONAL

BigBANG! keynote speaker Noble first outlined the characteristics of an impact investment. It must be intentional in its social purpose, have a double or triple bottom line (financial, social, and environmental), and be measurable both financially and in its social effect, she said.

To find them, you have to get out in the community and talk to people, learn where gaps lie.

“Impact investments are made not found,” Noble said.

Referring to the writings of Soap Hope Founder Salah Boukadoum, Noble said Dallas has an important role to play in the realm of investing for good.

“Impact investments are made not found.”

Abigail Noble

Dallas has a “unique opportunity” to grow its impact investing said Tynesia Boyea-Robinson, bigBANG! master of ceremonies, and president and CEO of Reliance Methods.

There are more than $2 billion of assets under management in Dallas area foundations, she said. 

“That is unheard of for most cities,” Boyea-Robinson said. 

She proposed: what if more of that money went toward a social purpose?

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Bobby Turner (left), principal and CEO of Turner Impact Capital, and Eva Longoria (middle), actress and impact investor, talk about an affordable housing project in a discussion moderated by LH Holdings CEO Nicole Small.

MARKET-DRIVEN SOLUTION TO AFFORDABLE HOUSING

Following Noble’s talk, LH Holdings CEO Nicole Small moderated a panel featuring Bobby Turner, principal and CEO of Turner Impact Capital, and actress, impact investor, and Texas native Eva Longoria.

Longoria invested in a Turner Impact Capital fund that creates affordable housing in cities across the U.S. including Dallas.

“We don’t buy and improve. We buy and enrich.”
Bobby Turner

Instead of buying workforce housing, renovating it, and increasing rent that might drive out individuals, Turner has added services such as security, health care, and educational programs on his properties to keep people from leaving. The model is aimed at combating what he says is the biggest expense in workforce housing — turnover.

“We don’t buy and improve. We buy and enrich,” Turner said.

Longoria said the fund has already affected 7,000 people across 13 properties.

Turner said “there’s a symbiotic relationship between profit and purpose.”

“What happens to the demand for high-end condos when the Dow Jones drops in half? What happens to the demand for affordable workforce housing? Nothing,” Turner said.

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Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas discusses skills training for the future workforce during bigBANG!

PREPPING WORKFORCE WITH SKILLS FOR FUTURE

Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, took the stage for the afternoon to discuss prepping the future workforce.

He said there’s plenty of talk about improving secondary education, but not nearly enough centered on amping up skills training especially at community colleges.

Dallas County Community College District has made strides in skills programs, but other community colleges in the U.S. “just aren’t geared up for this,” he said.

“We’re catching up, but not near fast enough,” Kaplan said.

“Our purpose is for them to be viable, sustainable nonprofits when we’re done.”

Richard Kaplan

And, it’s not just students in their 20s that should be concerned with staying up-to-date. Once they reach their 30s and 40s, they should expect the need for retraining to adapt to changes in their fields, he said.

“You may have to accept the fact that you get trained for one [job] and 15 years later you will have to get trained for another. That is not in our DNA in this country [right now],” Kaplan said.

Kaplan also touched on his work as co-chairman of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.

The foundation invests $300,000 over a three-year period to build up early-stage social ventures.

“Our purpose is for them to be viable, sustainable nonprofits when we’re done,” Kaplan said.

OVERHEARD AT bigBANG!

Scroll through quotes from keynote and breakout session speakers from the annual social innovation event. 

Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College

“We don’t care if we stumble. Stumbling is part of the arc of success.”

“We don’t think poverty should exist. Period.”

Bobby Turner, principal and CEO of Turner Impact Capital

“If you want to really cure [social issues], you have to harness market forces.”

“We need to be activists. We need to take our capital. We need to invest in hope.”

“When and where there’s a for-profit solution and you want to scale your impact, the best way, the most scaleable, sustainable way is by harnessing market forces. That’s what social impact investing is.”

Eva Longoria, actress, impact investor, and Texas native

“Latinas are starting small businesses at six times the national average whether that’s a restaurant, cleaning service, or a small clothing line.”

“If you give a woman an opportunity, she changes her family. You change your family, you change communities. You change communities, you change nations. That’s what we’re trying to do with my work in the [Eva Longoria Foundation].”

Bryan Chambers, director of Blackstone LaunchPad at University of Texas at Dallas

“We live in a Shark Tank nation these days.”

“We need to have more funds dedicated to fund hardware deals.” 

Matt Myers, EARTHx vice president and co-founder of the E-Capital Summit

“There are a lot of gaps, but where there are gaps there are opportunities,” in clean tech innovation.  

“Convening is one of the key pieces of this puzzle.” 

Frank Mirabal, director of collective impact on Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Richard Berry’s Executive Leadership Team

“It’s better to build with than to build for.” 

Eva Szalkai Csaky, director of The Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity at Southern Methodist University

“The culture is such that we like to tell the success stories and nobody likes to talk about the failures. … We launched the Inclusive Economy Consortium … We are hoping it can help foster a genuine exchange of experiences including things that do not work.” 

Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

“I think, today, globalization is an opportunity for the United States to grow faster.”

PHOTO GALLERY

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Bryan Chambers (left), director of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UT Dallas, and Arun Gupta, founder and CEO of Skyven Technologies LLC, talk clean technology innovations at bigBANG!

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EARTHx Vice President Matt Myers (left) along with Chambers and Gupta.

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Nick Jean-Baptiste (second from left), co-founder and principal of The HiGro Group, addresses the audience during an Inclusive Economy session.

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Salah Boukadoum (left) and Kyle Lukianuk pitch The Good Returns Group, a new impact investing tool, during the Fast Pitch Competition.

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CauseBot Founder and CEO Ken Koo was the second Fast Pitch Competition presenter. His business helps bring nonprofits into the next generation with artificial intelligence and blockchain technology.

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Scratch co-founder and CEO Scott Bennett presents his mobile app that connects teens with part-time jobs in their neighborhood.

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Bennett is awarded the top prize in the Fast Pitch Competition.

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