Research shows that when talented social innovators lack “invisible capital”—the so-called right pedigree, right passport, right skin color, right gender—they may fail to get the attention and investment they need to succeed. How can leaders in philanthropy improve access to capital? What tools can help nonprofit leaders overcome these barriers and get the support they need?
Social entrepreneur, author, and Stanford University lecturer Kathleen Kelly Janus leads a discussion about these questions with Echoing Green President Cheryl Dorsey, Whitman Institute Co-executive Director Pia Infante, and California Endowment CEO Robert Ross.
“Philanthropy is reinforcing many of the very forms of inequality that we are all working so hard to solve,” Janus says.
Dorsey identifies three main systemic barriers—a lack of access to capital and opportunities, psychological stress from social exclusion, and the unequal control of resources and political power in society—as some of the challenges to achieving more equitable investment.
Funders have to take a structural response to addressing these barriers, says Ross. Solutions might include changing the makeup of board rooms, staffs, and leadership teams. Or it might mean looking out for emerging leaders who haven’t already received major investment, and supporting them or having funders participate in implicit bias training.
“You can’t see what you can’t see,” Infante says. “It’s important who’s in those choosing seats.”