These are not new principles. They are – in fact – ancient principles that are part of the Vedanta, and have been written about by Deepak Chopra and many others. I am reflecting on these principles in the context of deep impact investing.
Even though I write about these principles as distinct and separate, they are interrelated and interwoven. We cannot independently consider one principle, and not the other. Also note that these principles complement the regenerative principles that John Fullerton has been writing about.
Principle of Intention
The principle of intention has been part of the definition of impact investing from the beginning. The impact investing world usually assumes that intention is coming from the brain, not the soul. Deep impact investors are approaching this principle from an awareness/consciousness perspective, from their soul.
It is not about ‘what’ we do but ‘why’ we do it. Becoming aware of your intention is important, since our intentions influence everything we do and influence the results that we get from all of our activities. The intention with which we undergo something influences how vastly different the results can be.
Intentions have infinite organizing power; they are orchestrating the activities of the universe. Inherent in all intentions are the mechanics for their fulfilment. The subtler the intentions, the more effortless and more powerful they become. As you bring your intentions and desires into conscious awareness, surrender the outcome to nature (also see principle of detachment from outcome). Deep impact investors align their intentions with the intentions of the beneficiaries of their investments.
When we articulated our intentions a few years ago, I hoped that we would be able to move the needle just a tiny bit with reference to changing the financial system. I have been humbled and inspired by the power of intentionality, as our story unfolds with so many co-creators and collaborators from around the world.
This journey has inspired us to set our next intention, which will probably also take a decade to play out: our intention of changing the benchmarking industry, creating a 100% thematic impact portfolio and changing Modern Portfolio Theory on the way.
Growing up as an Israeli meant to be part of a new and growing country, a country built on the basis of genocide, with an internal conflict that is linked to our existence as a nation. As a child, I was only exposed to the local challenges with a notion that Israel does not have the luxury to deal with anything but its own challenges. Throughout my life I've searched for the purpose behind my existence and the meaning of it all.
After ten years of working in wealth management I decided to stop and explore. That’s when I met Danny Almagor and Berry Liberman, 100%ers from Australia, who showed me the path to lead an impactful life. They have been my inspiration and still serve as my space for nourishment and growth. Through them I joined the 100% community at Toniic which enabled me to align my values with my capabilities and gifts, realizing my potential as a citizen of the world, not only a citizen of Israel.
My motivation and intention is to lead by example. Through my company, Beyond Family Office and together with my business partners, we guide individuals in making choices with their lives, show them it is safe to lead an impactful life and it's within their reach.
I too am called to fulfil my purpose by making a meaningful contribution to the well-being of the world. I first pursued purpose through environmental non-profit work. Realizing that wouldn’t be enough, I launched into conservation investing in the early 2000s. I moved from projects, to funds and now into systemic solutions, and my work shifted to focus on people, communities and nature. Now I help investors, donors, community leaders and landowners be their best selves and achieve their purpose and their vision for their capital, communities and landscapes. I have become ever more completely myself through conscious practice, and my investing and philanthropic work has become more and more whole-hearted and spiritual. What I do with my capital, and what I help others do with theirs, is a key expression of who I am and why I am here. For if we are to create the world we want to pass along to our kids, we need our capital to serve and be a reflection of our best selves. I am profoundly grateful to be on this journey, for the gifts of consciousness it has given me, and for this merry band of deep impact investors I call friends and loved ones.
Principle of Consciousness and Awareness
Deep impact investors draw upon a clear inner purpose for their inspiration, focus, and strength. These investors are profoundly connected to their mission in life, to humanity, and all of life. To them, investing is an extension of their life’s calling. Many of the 100%ers have a spiritual practice, and for them their investment activities are simply an expression of that practice.
Deep impact investors are rarely constrained by their beliefs or mental models. This freedom gives them a powerful capacity to rapidly and radically shift their opinion, actions, and even the design of their investment strategies (also see principle of detachment from outcome).
Deep impact investors ground themselves in transpersonal – even spiritual – meaning when they invest. They design and engage in transformational change initiatives from a place of deep connection with themselves, the people they invest in, the broader world, and – for some – with consciousness itself (see Barrett Brown).
While deep impact investors do rationally think through things, they complement logic with intuition. By using intuition, they are able to deliver better results, their strategies are easier to execute, and the process of investing becomes more inspiring.
Deep impact investors are keenly aware of what is happening with other people and the environment. They establish their awareness in defenselessness. They do not waste their energy defending their point of view or attempting to convince others. They remain open to all points of view without rigidly attaching themselves to any one of them.
Consciousness and awareness means paying attention to truth, even when that observation may be threatening to our ego identity. The quieter the mind becomes, the more we realize how interconnected we are with everyone and everything, that we couldn’t have the life we have without the involvement of millions of other beings. Every action has an effect. Interconnectedness is endless.
We may know this, and yet we likely say “Oh, that’s cool” and then move on. But if we remain curious about all types of interconnectedness, it motivates compassion and the obviousness of investing in each other. Then we look for where our capital can reap the most reward and provide the most benefit.
I believe that if Buddha were alive as a layperson today, he’d be an impact investor. Deploying capital in impactful ways is a tremendous way to free sentient beings from suffering. The more conscious and aware we become, the more this motivation naturally arises. It seeks expression, especially once we realize we don’t have to sacrifice security or life enjoyment to invest this way.
Principle of Detachment from Outcome
Many investors and philanthropists get attached to the intended outcomes of their investments and grants. Getting attached to a particular outcome prevents you from seeing other potential outcomes, thereby severely limiting your choices, results and impact. In order to acquire something in this world, you have to relinquish your attachment to it. This does not mean you give up the intention to fulfil your desire – you simply give up your attachment to the outcome. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity.
Systemic change requires experimentation. If you are too attached to a particular systemic outcome, you will not be able to adapt your strategy as the context shifts. Deep impact investors might launch lots of experiments and pilot projects to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what sticks and what is rejected. They might alter their strategy based upon this information, and repeat the process. They aren’t wedded to the ‘right way’ of doing things, but committed to finding a ‘workable way’ that gets them closer to their intended outcomes.
Detachment from outcome requires being open to what is happening rather than trying to control how things unfold. When you commit to detachment you have to accept uncertainty. Uncertainty and ambiguity become allies that help you become increasingly more creative, productive, and impactful.
Berry Liberman and Danny Almagor
We have lived a passionate journey committed to investing 100% of our money, energy, resources and skills into triple bottom line businesses and projects. Our efforts are founded on the belief that money is energy and can be used as a powerful tool for positive change. We have spent our entire adult lives both proving the viability of the financial model and affecting communities and the planet in regenerative and sustainable ways. Even though we have a vision of what we are trying to achieve, we cannot control the outcomes, and therefore must honour our personal journey and our limitations by doing the best we can whilst nourishing our physical and spiritual selves along the road. The more you do, the more you realise there is to do. The cycle of activist investing can become exhausting. Climate change, social division, peace, inequity – all of which are the result of broken systems and fractured thinking, weigh heavily on our hearts. Even using words like ‘heart’ and ‘spirit’ in the same sentence as investing and finance feels somehow incongruous, yet it fundamentally isn’t. We believe that by aligning our authentic selves with our work makes both the work, and our own lives, much richer and meaningful.
Stef van Dongen
I am founder/president of Enviu, a Social Enterprise Group based in the Netherlands and founder of Pioneers of Our Time, an enterprise that offers retreats for change makers and landscape restoration investment opportunities in Spain. With Enviu, we co-found social enterprises that drive the development of Markets for Good. We basically fall in love with a market failure that creates large social and environmental damage, not with a specific solution. An example is the creation of a global market for micro pensions. The purpose of setting a high ambition is to create a mindset and to provide guidance for the team to set priorities. Often the solutions to realize our ambition are unclear and are changing over time, and that’s perfectly fine. We create testing loops and pilots to see what works and pivot our solutions over time. In Ghana, we have been working for four years to create a Micro Pension product, favorable market conditions for other micro- pension funds to start co-developing the market with us, a regulatory framework, knowledge about the market and customer awareness. This year we aim to welcome our 100,000th customer, and in five years’ time we aim to break even.
Let me summarize the three principles: have clarity of intent; get your ego out of the way; detach from the outcomes; surrender the intention and let it go; go back to awareness and observe how everything unfolds; adjust and repeat as necessary.
In order to change the financial system, system transformation has to go hand in hand with human transformation. As the deep impact movement grows, so too must consciousness. May the ancient principles of intentionality, consciousness and awareness, and detachment from outcome serve as guideposts during this transformation.