My message is that we’ll be watching you.” – Greta Thunberg

Having been born in 2000, I can’t remember a time before climate change. We the youth of today are undeniably the climate generation.

But we are also a generation of incredible privilege. We have inherited all the necessary tools, the awareness and the conviction needed to rise and face these complex problems. And we want to be a part of the journey towards a solution. 

For me personally, this journey begins with impact, and so the Festival of Impact was a fantastic opportunity to sit amongst investors, entrepreneurs and change-makers and learn.  

Wisdom is Empathy & Empathy is Community

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Impact Investment Summit, aptly themed “Wisdom, Courage and Urgent Action”. 

Being the youngest in a crowd can be intimidating and I have to admit that I was nervous when I first arrived. However, what I was met with was no regular crowd, but rather a supportive community energised by the opportunity to hear from pioneers and thought leaders across the impact spectrum.

The day began with ruminations from Dr Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann around the First Nations’ concept of Dadirri, to “listen deeply”. Her perspective, carefully assembled through generations of Indigenous wisdom, offered an immediate insight into one of the foundational tenets of Impact – that solving problems requires a true understanding of one another. 

Throughout the day, we heard about the significance of gender-lens investing, with various leading professionals outlining the business case of equitable support for everyone. She’s a Crowd CEO, Zoe Condliffe took this further, outlining the lived experience of gender inequality. 

A personal highlight of mine came from the audience, with Georgie Camp from Huber Social asking “How can we shift away from investors (the people with power) deciding what impact is important, and instead, asking the beneficiaries on the ground, what they need?”

With the panel nodding in agreement Michael Traill answered “It’s got to be client centric”, again reinforcing the importance of empathy and inclusion. It was clear that in impact, being wise alone is not enough, we need to be wise together. 

Courage Means Starting Yesterday 

Another one of my favourite moments from the day came from Joel Soloman, author of ‘The Clean Money Revolution’, and a leading mind within the space. 

Zooming in from California, Joel recognised “Bringing deeper, more thoughtful values to align with our money is one of the most important active moments going on across the world right now” and echoed my sentiment that “young people want to work and invest more consciously.”

The idea that impact will permeate beyond just an investment lens, into the fabric through which our generation makes decisions was a recurring theme throughout the event. 

In particular, I found Professor Catherine Clark’s analysis that “impact must be treated as a managerial lens” incredibly compelling, as “we need to let go of apples to apples, and build people who understand fruit”. Zarmeen Pavri built on this, stating “all investments are impact investments, whether you know it or not. You get to decide whether that impact is positive, neutral or negative.”

This was followed by StartSomeGood.com’s CEO Tom Dawkins, who challenged the audience to “illustrate the gap between good and good enough.” He reflected on the necessity for the impact ecosystem to be courageous by being different, and by starting now. 

“We don’t want to innovate, we don’t conspire to innovate, we have to innovate.” – Tom Dawkins. 

There’s Nothing Stopping Us Now

One of the most powerful speeches from the event came from Greenpeace CEO David Ritter, who urged the importance of a “no Australian left behind” approach to climate. He argued that returns on climate investments are contingent on evolving frameworks and policy at both the big business and government level, and that this evolution is reliant on advocacy. 

Kylie Charlton from Australian Impact Investments added that whilst “There definitely needs to be more [policy reform] to accelerate the movement… there’s nothing stopping us now. There’s no need to wait.”

And this sense of urgency permeated every discussion throughout the day. Erica Vargas highlighted that “We already have the necessary capital to achieve our climate outcomes and the SDGs, it is now just about making the correct investments to create solutions… We have to be a little bit brave.”

Closing Thoughts

Having been a part of the inception of the Sydney University Impact Investing Society (SUIIS), a student group looking to bring people-and-planet-first thinking to the next generation, I am always impressed by my peers. 

They are intelligent, driven and focused. Yet, even more impressive is their desire to change the world for the better. They aren’t just motivated by the minimum need to work towards saving the planet, but rather they want to

For us, impact investing isn’t an investment of our capital, at least not yet. For us, it’s an investment of our time, our intellectual capital. It’s an alignment of values and career, in a purpose first organisation. 

Because, when we are told to ‘vote with your dollar’, young people are left behind. Instead we are learning to vote with our voices, with our actions and with our careers. Because for us it isn’t a vote for some illusory, distant tomorrow. 

We believe in wisdom, courage and urgent action. Our vote is for today. 

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