carousel | March 15, 2016

Clara Miller: Steering a Course Toward Shared Prosperity (Podcast)

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The need for a new strategy for raising living standards for poor Americans was the catalyst for the F.B. Heron Foundation to go “all-in” for impact.


The mid-sized foundation is in the process of aligning all of its $300 million in assets with its mission of helping people and communities help themselves out of poverty. Clara Miller, president of Heron, narrates the transition in her recent essay,”Building a Foundation for the 21st Century.”

Heron’s shift, and the urgency of redirecting capital more broadly, is driven by rising inequality and falling living standards, Miller says. We cannot rely only on nonprofits “to be a cleanup crew for the inevitable mess real capitalism leaves in its wake.”

Hear Clara Miller on Steering a Course Toward Shared Prosperity on ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment podcast.
The banking crisis spurred Heron’s to commit “100% for mission.” Heron had worked to abate poverty since it was founded in 1992. In the Great Recession, Miller and others at Heron were forced to admit that “people are worse off than when we started the foundation.” Asset-building wasn’t enough; there needed to be more jobs throughout the economy.

Foundations’ role is to mission-align their assets to nudge the economy in a new direction. “We’re in breach of our fiduciary responsibility unless we use 100 percent of our assets for mission,” Miller says.

Returns on Investment by ImpactAlpha on Apple Podcasts

I’m collecting intelligence on what might be called the investment case for shared prosperity. In this moment of populist insurgency, I’d like to identify clear cases in which raising living standards for those in the bottom three or even four quintiles of income, in the U.S. and globally, is not only pro-growth generally, but also is a good investment. (See, “Making Better Livelihoods for the Poor an Investable Proposition.”)

Those are the kind of investments the united program and investment teams at Heron is also looking for, so I was eager to catch up with Clara for a podcast chat. Have a listen.