Impact Accelerator Profile - Danny Almagor
This week our Exec. Director, Mel Greblo had a wonderfully rich conversation with impact trailblazer, and extraordinary human, Danny Almagor. As many of you will know, Danny leads Small Giants, an impact-driven B Corp, dedicated to building empathy and the new economy. Danny has not only been a seed supporter and constant friend of the Impact Investment Summit, he is a staunch activist, which sometimes means just simply...being. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation...
M. What drives you in your impact work?
D. I think connection at the deepest level. We’re all connected, part of the same eco system, and therefore part of each other. It's felt more acutely sometimes like when you're with your kids, your partner or a moment in nature. Our world in recent times sadly has been designed to disconnect us. We are continually reminded by society that we’re not connected, that we’re separate, that it’s a competition. We’re all told we’re individuals, but historically the wisdom traditions tell us we are one, and we can feel oneness, happiness, joy, so what drives me is connecting to each other and humanity and the world and then realising - that’s all we have. If your finger is bleeding you can’t ignore it and hope it will get better. It won’t, the hurt and pain, swelling, it will spread and it will get worse, it will hurt more, it will hurt the whole body. Our bigger ecosystem is the same, when one individual hurts, we all hurt. Moments of fear and loss and deep connection remind me of this. Impact investing is not fixing the problem, it is re-aligning our mindset towards oneness. It is a small step towards this knowing, this knowing that connection is all we have. I heard a podcast once, by Jaron Lanier, a tech wizard, one of the early guys of the internet, he first coined the term virtual reality. He is a Silicon Valley superstar. And he said, “all the money I’ve made, I'd give it all away, to create a better society’. We’re still creating divides between the rich and poor, the haves and have nots. We need to move far more towards community success, not individual success.
The idea of making billions and then investing it in impact is a charade to maintain power – just another attempt to stop the revolution.
What we don’t have yet in impact investing is an ideology, we have a methodology, but we don’t have an ideology of change. There is a potential for a new ideology, something that sits in between what we’ve had in the past and what we have now. Some new narrative that’s not just about it’s either capitalism or socialism. Removing ownership and replacing it with stewardship. Responsibility without ownership. If you think about how we treat our children, they are products of us, but we do not own them. You are their guardian, just because they are essentially a product of your labour (and love hopefully), doesn’t mean that you own them. Impact investing is still holding on to old economy ideas. We haven't really changed the system.
M. Was there a catalyst that drew you to this work, to your vocation it seems?
D. I can’t remember a particular one but more there have been many moments. When I was at university, I went traveling in india and there was massive earthquake [Gujarat], and almost 20,000 people died, hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. I was right near the epicentre, and the job of the whole world fell into place, it was our job to help people. This is really where Engineers Without Borders was born. There have been many other catalytic moments, like hearing my grandparents recount stories about the holocaust. Another time was simply sitting under a tree in London in a park reading a book, and I felt so deeply connected, to everyone. It's like Viktor Frankl said, we have to find connection to our own meaning, or we die - at the core of life, is our purpose. It's an essential this connection to self, our physical body and our reason for being. And then the world. Impact investing is a response to feeling disconnected in the financial sector.
M. I know you're likely working on a squillion things, what's really putting fire in your belly at the moment?
I'm working on three levels at the moment. The first is practical. l'm working on a drawdown fund, based on the work of Paul Hawken, it gives practical impetus to solving climate change - and gives us 100 things we can do NOW to reverse global warming. I'm working with Paul and others to create a fund off the back of that work, it's early stage private equity fund. Climate change connects everything else, it's a gender issue too, we have so much to gain by addressing it and investing in solutions. The second thing I'm working on is structural. I'm starting to think, and I'm by no means the first, in terms of regions/place-based change. John Fullerton from The Regenerative Capital Institute is doing this work around regenerative cities, communities, integrated place-based work. How do we learn from and replicate this, and embed the key learning that what's good and works for one community cannot simply be transposed onto another. It's looking at structures that think of scaling differently like more about learning the philosophy and principles attached to place-based change, and stewarding these wild places and then sharing the knowledge. It's about shared principles, principles of living. The third thing I'm working on is mindset and philosophy. I'm deeply motivated by the question, how do we truly connect? In a largely secular society, we’ve deified money and business, how do we wake people up and get back to connection. Impact investing is like an introduction, a pre-cocktail party before people come to dinner. It’s a start. The deep philosophical question is what is our pathway, a modern day pathway for those already in the financial system, how do we get the investment banker to shift mindset? How do we bring these conversations to the fore?
M. What's top of mind for you right now about how we grow this impact investing space?
D. The truth that is abundance - what’s good for me actually doesn’t ever have to take away from anyone else. We don’t diminish by sharing, so how do we create more laughter, smiling, joy, sharing, meals, regenerative agriculture? It's growing the practice if the idea that the more you plant the more the soil replenishes. Let’s build an economy based on that idea, not competition and scarcity. We need to let go of fear that keeps our power-based structures in place, our fear that these ideas are somehow anti-establishment, anti-corporate. It’s not about anti-corporate, it’s about pro-human. Love, community, relationship, connection. If your business is not about that, then your business is wrong.