Dealflow | October 10, 2022

Common Future shifts from investee to investor and takes a stake in SOCAP

Amy Cortese
ImpactAlpha Editor

Amy Cortese

ImpactAlpha, Oct, 11 – Common Future, the Oakland-based nonprofit focused on economic inequality, has taken a stake in SOCAP, the venerable impact investing conference that was restructured earlier this year by Sorenson Impact. 

The “substantive stake,” alongside majority shareholder Sorenson Impact, offers a way to “level up our influence via ownership,” Common Future’s Rodney Foxworth told ImpactAlpha. Foxworth will take a seat on SOCAP’s board. 

The move might come as something of a surprise: Common Future has more commonly been on the receiving end of grants and funding. But fortified with a “seven-figure” unrestricted grant from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott last year, the organization has been making the shift from convener and investee to partner and investor. 

In September, Common Future acquired Seattle-based nonprofit lender Community Credit Lab, The organizations have worked together on character-based lending initiatives. 

That followed the May merger with Uncharted, the nonprofit social impact accelerator spun out of the Unreasonable Institute. With Uncharted’s help, Common Future launched a policy incubator to help entrepreneurs and activists pursue policies that can broaden their impact.

Those deals enhance Common Future’s ability to “incubate, co-create and fund different initiatives across the country and within our portfolio,” says Foxworth. 

In contrast, the investment in SOCAP, short for Social Capital Markets, is a chance to help shape the future of impact investing. 

“We’re looking at the opportunity to be able to influence the field more broadly and see SOCAP as a valuable platform,” says Foxworth. 

Common Future also advises foundations on how they can share or cede control to investees and community members. 

“We’ve become a pretty multifaceted institution,” says Foxworth. “We’re not just an entity that you should consider as a grantee. You should consider Common Future as a partner for your impact investments.”

Loving critic

SOCAP returns to San Francisco next week after a two-year Covid-induced hiatus. The shutdown caused revenues at SOCAP Global, the event’s parent company, to fall by 70%. Open Road Alliance and Sorenson Impact restructured the debt as part of a takeover in June. 

This year’s event will be produced by the Sorenson Impact Center, based at the University of Utah’s Eccles School of Business. Common Future’s influence will be felt over the longer term, said Foxworth. 

Foxworth has been a longtime “loving critic” of the SOCAP gathering, which for 15 years has helped build the field of impact investing. 

“There’s been a lack of inclusion, ownership and visibility for leaders of color who are central to advancing strategies, narratives and positions within the broader impact investing field,” he explained. “We’re looking at the opportunities for really interrogating how the impact investing field operates. Is it just making capitalism more tolerable and removing the sharp edges? Or are we creating a new form of economy?”

With SOCAP, “We’re trying to demonstrate that, ‘Hey, there’s a different way that impact investing can operate.’”