From Real Impact, by Morgan Simon, Cofounder and former CEO of Toniic, and is cofounder and Chair of Transform Finance.

I saw that markets were failing people over and over again, particularly people who looked or spoke a certain way. But I didn’t give up on the idea that the right intervention through the nonprofit sector, or via public policy, could fix the problem, and that these channels were the source of a solution. It took me a decade of experience before that belief fully unraveled; before I came to realize that these “good works” were actually part of the problem in legitimizing an inequitable economic system.

It isn’t news that this free-market-plus-charity model is failing to produce global prosperity and well-being. Its failure is why we seek out new solutions like impact investment. But I’ve only recently begun to see how our unconscious cultural attitudes towards the economy actually shape what we view as possible. There must be another way to structure an economy to better serve people, if only we can access the imagination required to envision it.

For those of us in the United States, for instance, it can be hard to imagine an alternative to the kind of capitalism we’re used to. Or for us to understand and appreciate local economic structures, such as cooperatives, that are common and successful across the Global South but rarely used here. Throughout my career I have spent time in forty-seven different countries, including some – as wide ranging as the Netherlands, Brazil, Cuba and Sweden – with economic views that are very different from our own. I do not raise this point to invoke the classic capitalism-versus-socialism argument, but just to say I know it’s incredibly hard for all sides of that debate to break out of their respective worldviews and try to envision new rules for a global economy. Engaging with this book may require an unlearning, an openness to the idea that we can learn from strategies that do not immediately seem to fit our preconceived notions, so that ultimately we can use this knowledge to build a very different economic system.

Envisioning alternatives does not mean that charity and aid are universally bad; clearly they have the potential to do good. Instead, it’s recognizing that they are structurally inefficient in creating systemic change, in part because they themselves are integral to the current system. Ultimately, they are unwittingly reinforce the economic paradigms that provide people with fundamentally unequal access to both resources and opportunity.”[1]

[1] Real Impact, Simon, Morgan. Page 12-13.

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