Looking Ahead to 2022 | December 17, 2021

The Reconstruction in 2022: Seizing the moment to build multiracial prosperity and democracy

David Bank and Dennis Price

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ImpactAlpha Editor

David Bank

ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

‘Tis the season for our lookaheads to 2022 and, thanks to ImpactAlpha subscribers, we are able to make the roundups freely available. So give the gift of a link to ImpactAlpha’s industry-leading coverage of climate finance, impact in emerging markets, The Reconstruction and catalytic capital. You can find the whole set on our Looking Ahead to 2022 landing page

ImpactAlpha, Dec. 17 – A bottom-up and top-down mobilization to rewrite rules, redistribute power and redress injustice can turn disruption and division into renewal and reconciliation. 

How do we know? Because it has happened before. 

All year, as ImpactAlpha has covered efforts to address systemic change and redress systemic racism, we have been drawn back to the historical Reconstruction, the period after the Civil War when, as playwright Gene Bruskin says, America almost did the right thing.”

For decades, the story of the Reconstruction era, replete with denunciations of “carpetbaggers and scalawags,” was distorted by the perspectives of its opponents. In fact, the decade-long experiment in multiracial democracy and inclusive prosperity spurred small-town vitality and the flourishing of Black businesses and professionals across the South.

Reaching back 150 years may be, well, a reach, but the parallels fairly jump out of the history books. As then, so too now are we inventing the future of work and writing a new social contract in a time of dislocation. 

Then: a devastating Civil War and four million citizens newly freed. Now: a devastating pandemic and a racial justice reckoning. Then: the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. Now: Build Back Better and the For the People Act. Then: the industrial revolution and Manifest Destiny. Now: the digital revolution and the net-zero transition.

Issues of power and participation will be center-stage in 2022 as we sort out rules and relationships in an age of pandemics and climate change. The short-lived period of multiracial democracy and prosperity in the 1870s was subverted by a white supremacist backlash that itself echoes to the present day. 

“The backlash is often what’s remembered, another legacy of those that strove to control the historical narrative,” says Monique Aiken, host of ImpactAlpha’s podcast series, The Reconstruction. “But we resonate with the possibilities, and the possibility that this time the outcome will be different.”

Go deeper: “The Port Royal Experiment and the moment America almost did the right thing

A proactive vision in two-dozen podcasts  

Three words connect the conversations on The Reconstruction podcast: Rethink. Redress. Liberate.

A new “reconstruction must help us build a post-pandemic world on a foundation of economic liberation and racial justice,” Aiken writes in her recent reflection on the series. “This reconstruction needs to reflect new majorities. This reconstruction needs to prioritize justice as it redistributes power.” 

And, “this reconstruction will require the impact investing community to engender the changes in practice and new energy needed to do things differently.”

Aiken, an ImpactAlpha contributing editor and managing director of The Investment Integration Project, engaged two dozen “bright minds and problem solvers exploring the opportunity for systemic change,” including Common Futures’ Rodney Foxworth, the Insight Center’s Anne Price, Kataly Foundation’s Nwamaka Agbo, the Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Carmen Rojas and Ilumen Capital’s Daryn Dodson.

Tiffany Crutcher and Greg Robinson connected the 1921 massacre and destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Okla., with ongoing anti-Black violence. Vanessa Roanhorse brought in Indigenous practices in stewardship and lending. Saket Soni emphasized workers’ rights as essential to resilience in the face of recurrent catastrophes.

Jessica Barron and Marion Johnson centered women of color in the mobilization to expand voting rights. Lori Chatman took stock of what’s required to redress racism in real estate development and lending. And Stephan Nicoleau said efforts to stem climate change must start with climate justice.

Investing in The Reconstruction

The surge in Black and Brown entrepreneurship is one of the most promising trends to emerge from the COVID disruption. And the number of businesses owned by Black women grew the fastest of all.

That makes access to working capital and growth capital for diverse entrepreneurs not only a matter of justice, but of economic growth. Citigroup last year estimated the loss to the U.S. economy in the past 20 years because of discrimination against African Americans at $16 trillion. Conversely, the bank said, addressing racism could provide a $5 trillion boost over the next five years.

“We intentionally use the word ‘new majority,’ because not only is the country flipping, and many cities have already flipped, but the majority of entrepreneurs and small businesses are people of color,” 1863 Ventures’ Melissa Bradley said on Agents of Impact Call No. 36. “How do we begin to realign our capital to actually support the economic drivers of this country?”

On The Reconstruction podcast and in articles on the beat, we’ve gathered the strands of what might be called Reconstruction investing. Among the markers:

  • Capital that is flexible and appropriate 
  • Models that shift power and ownership
  • Entrepreneurs and investors with proximity to the problem
  • Redefinitions of risk in finance and investing

“For me, it always starts with who has the power? How can that power get disrupted?” Common Future’s Foxworth told Aiken. “How can more people, particularly those who have been most adversely impacted by these challenges, actually have power and can assert that power for themselves?”

If leading investors have finally awakened to the risks and opportunities of ‘E,’ for environment, the ‘S’ in ESG, for social, may be even bigger. Good jobs, affordable housing, thriving communities and wealth creation for the new majority – economic liberation for all is a mega-trend investors won’t want to miss. 

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Shaping new narratives 

Cultural change, made possible by popular TV, film, theater and video games, can augur political and social change. New tech stacks and business models are helping creators of all backgrounds sidestep legacy gatekeepers to build, monetize and own their creative production.

ImpactAlpha teamed with Bruskin, a playwright and former union organizer, to present an abridged video version of his musical, “The Moment Was Now,” which reimagines the early years of the Reconstruction era through a rollicking intersectional debate between Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and other historic figures. 

Douglass orates in the play, we must “unite our great movements, before it is too late.” And indeed, the ongoing sesquicentennial of the historical Reconstruction era provides ample opportunities to plumb the present-day relevance in theater, film, television and even video games. Together with Bruskin and others, ImpactAlpha is actively exploring such projects (join us!). 

The key, Macro’s Poppy Hank told David Bank in a session at SOCAP21, is “creating a narrative that people can see a version of themselves in, so they are entertained but also being educated.” 

Finance and production company has achieved critical success with films like Blue Bayou, Judas and the Black Messiah and Just Mercy. The slate is also financially outperforming, says founder Charles King

“What I want to tell people is that the returns are there,” said Carla Thompson Payton of the Kellogg Foundation, an investor in Macro and other cultural creators. “The question is whether you have the courage to stand up and do what’s right.”

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