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Builders Vision Hosts Inaugural Advising for Change’ Legal Convening

On October 14th and 15th, more than 75 attendees gathered in Chicago for a first-of-its-kind conference, focused on the intersection of impact investing and philanthropy. We had representatives from approximately 35 organizations representing more than $250 billion in assets!

From deep dives into charitability and mission-related investing to robust conversations with our peers from organizations like the Chan Zuckerberg Institute and Emerson Collective, the event covered a lot of ground. The jam-packed schedule featured six panels, a breakout session, a storytelling workshop, intimate salon dinners, and a special after-party. Here are some highlights from the big event:

Welcome Reception

On Monday night, we hosted a welcome reception on the 17th floor of 167 N. Green, which is the location of our upcoming office. We were so proud to welcome our legal community together in such a beautiful space.

A Conversation with Lukas Walton

After Ashlee Pinto Zurita, Senior Counsel, Corporate, and Lisa Forbes, General Counsel, kicked the room off with some welcome remarks, CEO and Founder Lukas Walton joined Lisa on stage for a conversation about the origins of Builders Vision and the “why” of our work. Lukas recounted how his childhood informed his perspectives on our natural resources and why he has committed himself to driving systems change in climate, energy, and food.

“In the construction of all of this, you have human beings from different industries who are starting to talk to each other and to understand that the work that they do in any individual sector — whether it’s in philanthropy, impact investing, or venture — is overall trying to shift a market and overall trying to shift a mentality,” Lukas said of our mission.

“There is a different kind of initiative that can be created that is more sustainable or circular in its economic impact, that can have jobs, that can have wealth and opportunity creation behind it,” he continued. “So, we exist today as an ‘impact platform,’ in which we can deploy capital from NGO to IPO.”

We also invited Noelle Laing to the stage to discuss the transition of 90% of the Builders Initiative Foundation endowment into mission-related investments. We were excited to celebrate this moment with our peers and, hopefully, to motivate and inspire more of them to follow our lead.

Impact Investing Landscape Study with Social Finance

Next, we moved into a conversation between Lisa Montez, Mike Silvestri, Director at Social Finance, and Michael Grossman, Managing Director at Social Finance, about the barriers that organizations and teams face related to impact investing from their endowments. It was a fruitful discussion based on an established partnership: Builders engaged Social Finance to conduct research to help us understand the current use of mission-related investments (MRIs) and barriers thereto. We’re looking forward to a full report from them by the end of the year, and, in the meantime, appreciated their moment of knowledge-sharing.

Impact Investing: Legal Issues & Challenges

Understanding the nuances of MRIs vs. program-related investments (PRIs) is critical to foundation impact investing, and no one can explain these issues quite like Miranda Lindl O’Connell! Joined on stage by David A. Shevlin, Partner at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, and Kevin Saunders, Vice President, Legal, Fidelity Foundations, Miranda’s highly-detailed and technical discussion helped deepen our attendees’ knowledge of this area of the law.

A Case Study: The Shedd Aquarium's Impact Investing Journey

“I don’t know about you, but I love a good case study,” Kathleen Strand said as she began her panel discussion on the partnership between Builders Initiative and the Shedd Aquarium. Kathleen was joined onstage by Bridget Coughlin, President and CEO of the Shedd, Paul Carbone, President and Managing Partner of Pritzker Private Capital and Former Shedd Aquarium Board Member, and our very own Bruce McNamer. It was a riveting discussion during which the participants shared their perspectives on the special relationship between Builders and the Shedd and how Builders supported the Shedd as it embarked on its own impact investing journey.

Evaluating Charitability in a Changing Landscape

Defining and understanding the legal nuances of charitability in the context of PRIs is complex, and it’s important for our community to stay on top of the latest thinking on hot issues like climate change, food, and green energy. Tomer Inbar, Partner at Morgan Lewis and a co-organizer of Advising for Change, took to the stage with Andrew Schulz, General Counsel at New Venture Fund, and Nishka Chandrasoma, Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel for the Ford Foundation, to break down need-to-know-information for our attendees.

A View from the Various Impact Structures

For the final session of the day, I joined a panel of representatives from innovative impact structures to discuss our organizations and our approaches to impact investing, philanthropy, and advocacy. The group featured Christy Brook of Emerson Collective, Emiliano Martinez of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Josh Mintz of the MacArthur Foundation, and Roxanne Almaraz of Arnold Ventures. What particularly struck me about this panel was the diversity of successful strategies and structures. There’s no singular pathway to meaningful impact, and we need to continue learning from and supporting one another on this impact investing journey.

While Advising for Change offered myriad takeaways and memorable conversations, I have to say that I was most blown away by our team’s hard work and commitment to excellence. Throughout the salon dinners following the conference, I heard attendees describe how this event set a precedent for lawyers and private foundations alike: “There’s nothing else like this for people in our roles.” In that vein, I am so proud of how Builders showed up and us on the map. I knew that our team members were one-of-a-kind, but seeing them in action during Advising for Change showed what a singular and special group of people I get to work with.

Lisa Forbes, Special Counsel, Builders Vision