Fifteen years ago when Heidi Cuppari began the work she continues today, there wasn’t a term for “impact investing.” Since then, Heidi has been introducing individuals, families, foundations and more to once little-known opportunities of impact investment that allow them to connect their everyday life and interests with their investments and philanthropy. She has been searching for a turning point to broaden impact investing through the involvement of more and more investors. She sees that future as powered by blockchain.
Heidi: “In the early days, we were trying to convince early adopters that they shouldn’t think about philanthropy and business as totally separate things and that they could actually align their head, heart and wallet.
Then and now, a lot of investors still think they are going to make a lot of money on one side, and then give away money on the other side. What we’re really talking about when we talk about investing in social innovation & entrepreneurship, is a way for you to invest into a system that regenerates and is not just donating. Many people don’t have access to even thinking they can be a philanthropist or be an impact investor. They don’t even know that these opportunities exist.
When I was working in this field, I’ve been trying to look at what is the big leverage point to get more and more people involved and to create an impact with their everyday life that doesn’t require a huge behavior change. And I feel that that future is now. It is happening now through blockchain.
Now, people can be empowered. They don’t have to go through all these institutions to figure out how they can start to make an impact, especially with RootProject. With social impact applied to blockchain technology, it allows people to transact between each other and empowers them from the lowest socio-economic levels on up.”
Not only does Heidi see the power of blockchain as a tool to generate impact investments in developed nations, but as a potential revolution in bringing a major financial shift to developing states and markets.
H: “I think about this as the next green leap.
We had the green leap with energy. A lot of places that never had power and were never even using fossil fuels went straight to renewable energy such as solar and wind.
And then there were cell phones. Many developing communities didn’t have phones lines, so they went straight to mobile. And now they’re using mobile for payments, remittances and much more.
Now, from what I can see for blockchain, this is like the green leap for a whole new financial system. Many people on this planet are not involved in the global economy. Now, we’re giving them access to join the global economy and create wealth for themselves. And that is going to create major change.”
In her work with major global nonprofits, Heidi learned a lot about the successes and failures of international aid. She brings this knowledge to any discussion of the potential for blockchain or a financial green leap to better support and improve local communities.
H: “An author Dambisa Moyo wrote a book called Dead Aid. Her posture is saying that you can’t create change in local communities if people can’t even meet their basic needs. You need to give them a way to make enough money so that they can meet their basic needs.
Through my work with Acumen and iDE, what I’ve learned is that when you give people a way to make more money, they solve their own problems and change their own lives. They make their own choices about health care, about school. They have to pay school fees in a lot of these countries. But they tend to do that. And all the prescription that we tend to give from the West saying you need this, you need that. They already know what they need.
By treating them as stewards, as investors, as entrepreneurs in their own lives, empowers them to make their own changes. That’s where dignity comes in and actually being able to create something for themselves that is meaningful for their family and in their community. And then, they can become wealth holders through RootProject and other programs like this. They can start to become investors in their own community and then they can start to look outside of just survival and say now I want to help others. That’s how I see this having an incredible impact.”
RootProject is beginning to explore projects in the area of deforestation. For Heidi, this challenge aligns with her goals of empowering local communities and providing opportunities for people to become their own entrepreneurs and investors, and this inspired her to join RootProject to develop key global partnerships in the impact investing space.
H: “Deforestation is going to be one of the main challenges that RootProject can really help solve as this happens most of the time when people don’t have any other way to make money or to heat their homes.
I’m familiar with the unsustainable palm oil practices. In that instance, you can’t ask poor people that have no other way to make money to stop doing that if you don’t give them another option. So the benefit of RootProject is creating another opportunity for people to make money, better their community and heat their homes, so they don’t have to cut down the trees anymore.
This is getting to the root of the solution which is really on the ground change.”