Morgan Simon: Bridging Finance & Social Justice
“We want to give back to communities more than we take out… We want to achieve the financial objectives of clients while also making transformative social change.”
Morgan Simon grew up in an average middle-class home in the “extremely diverse and segregated” city of Los Angeles. At a young age, she developed close relationships with Latino immigrant families in her community and witnessed their many challenges, including employment and abuse due to undocumented status’. It was then that she came to an important realization. “I felt that the economy was the thread that united them all,” she shares of a perspective that would influence her life’s work.
A lifelong activist, who spent the past two decades working at the intersection of social justice and finance, Morgan learned something else from those formative experiences: the important distinction between charity and solidarity. As she explains, “Charity is seeing people as if they’re lesser than you versus solidarity which is treating everyone as if they were your family.”
She chose the latter viewpoint, a decision well-reflected in her work as a serial entrepreneur, educator, author and visionary who helped advance the impact investing movement in big and impactful ways over the past two decades. Along the way, she’s also pioneered a new layer to the movement, one that explores the social justice definition of impact investing at every opportunity.
As the founder and CEO of Toniic, she attracted 200 investors and put $4.5 billion toward social and environmental enterprises. She was also the co-founder of Transform Finance, a non-profit that bridges finance with social justice.
In her current role as co-founder and co-lead of Candide Group, an Oakland-based registered investment advisor, Simon supports families, foundations, athletes and cultural influencers looking to invest in social justice. Over the last six years, Candide enabled close to 70 investments in companies diverse in geography and sector, with over half women and people of color.
From solar power projects for the Navaho nation to worker coops n New York and low-income housing in South Africa, the support they’ve provided all have one thing in common: a focus on non-extractive finance. “We want to give back to communities more than we take out,” Morgan says, adding a reasonable financial return is key too. “We want to achieve the financial objectives of clients while also making transformative social change.”
As for the challenges facing the impact investing industry, the need to change the culture of money is one of the largest, says Morgan. It comes down to how people define their legacy. “I don’t want to look at my children and grandchildren and say, ‘I built wealth for your family by locking up someone else’s family’, she says, referring to an issue to which she’s very committed: prison reform.
“It’s about thinking holistically about legacy, not just the money you make but your position in the community and how you treat everyone around you,” she says. “Your money is an extension of that value.”
All in, Morgan has personally influenced over $150 billion in funds since 2001, an impact she examines in her book Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change, which has been featured everywhere from Harvard Business School to the United Nations.
As an independent, full-service, impact investment firm committed to using capital as a tool for social and environmental progress, our mission is to help organizations and individuals invest more responsibly, sustainably and with greater impact.
Like Morgan, we at Rally also believe in transformational investments and that how you use your money is one of the more powerful decisions you can make for your community and the planet. As she shares, “Your money is a vote that you get to make every day; we often give up that power too easily.”