After returning from the Resource Center for Religious Institutes (RCRI) Conference in St. Louis, I’m moved to recapture my experience as it relates to our mission here at UnSectored. RCRI is primarily a conference for religious treasurers to learn about developments in financial management that relate to their ministry. Not surprisingly, topics in Socially Responsible Investing are particularly prominent. I attended to represent Calvert Foundation and was joined by many impact investing (or community investing) organizations
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with many great people, but I especially appreciated the chance to reconnect with two nuns that I’ve worked with over the years. Sister Pam Buganski of the Sisters of Notre Dame and Sister Corinne Florek of the Religious Communities Investment Fund are each forces of nature in their own right – inspiring, compassionate, tireless advocates for social justice…and new thinking in finance. My conversations with them called to mind two things: first, that the faith community has an unrecognized place in the development of what we now commonly know as impact investing, and second, that there is a world of value in intergenerational dialogue.
More than 30 years ago, the faith community began to point to scripture as a basis for moving real assets into the community development space, jump-starting countless community loan funds and microfinance institutions. This meant moving beyond generous donations and grants that had always been a staple of the Church, and thinking about visionary ways to use retirement assets to provide loan capital to distressed communities here in the US and around the world. Congregations and religious retirement funds continue to be some of the most significant contributors to impact investing institutions.
As an industry, impact investing cannot realize its vision without understanding its roots. Faith communities have continued to support the industry when it’s been difficult, unpopular, or in glaring contradiction to the prevailing financial philosophies of the day. I felt incredibly fortunate to be soaking in some of that historical perspective in my conversations with the nuns this past week. But I also noticed, at least in a small way, that I was providing them some value too – a product of our generational differences.
Sister Pam has been working to connect some of her fellow sisters who are working on the ground in various localities with the local community investments of the Sisters of Notre Dame. We sat down to take a look at Google Maps and I showed her some tricks with Google Fusion Tables that would allow her to plot out the investments they’ve made with respect to where their sisters are located. I left feeling rewarded from our exchange: I taught her a bit about a Google app and she schooled me on my history and deepened my knowledge of the industry in which I work, a testament to the value of intergenerational sharing
This is the spirit of UnSectored – building upon the invaluable diversity we all have around us. It was striking for me to look back at one of my earlier blogs and notice that it was mostly devoid of any conversation about the need to collaborate across religious beliefs and generational differences. Instead, I focused on our need to look beyond our political and organizational identities. I’m grateful for my experience this past week, and most especially to Sister Pam and Sister Corinne for reminding me of the essence of UnSectored.
Photo credit: Goldemberg Fonseca