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Traveling FromOregon, USA
Systems change is not for the faint of heart. Dr. Astrid J. Scholz has a track record of going deep on imagining the future we want and then building the legal, financial, and digital systems we need to bring it about. Her expertise informed the hybrid construction of Zebras Unite as a for-profit co-operative coupled with a nonprofit for public education and amplification, and the incubation of the Inclusive Capital Collective as a collectively owned financial intermediary for and by BIPOC fund managers and entrepreneur support organizations and their white allies-in-practice.
Astrid is a recovering nonprofit executive turned tech entrepreneur, Co-founder and Managing Partner of Armillaria, and Co-Founder and Capital Lead of Zebras Unite. She is motivated by figuring out how we can accelerate the pace of social change, and building the plumbing to mobilize people, innovations + capital at the volume and velocity to move the proverbial needle.
Astrid’s daily work includes a lot of active unlearning and dismantling of oppressive business practices and norms, and creating the protocols, policies, and patterns for the inclusive, equitable economy to emerge at all levels from the personal to companies like Armillaria and Zebras Unite, to the global networks in which these pursuits are situated.
Astrid holds degrees from the University of St. Andrews, the University of Bristol, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Zebras vs Unicorns: Money, Power, and Responsible Technology
Capitalism is a hell of a drug. When used responsibly, it can create freedom, innovation, and efficiency. But unchecked, hoarding, exploitation, and toxic side effects can run rampant. Silicon Valley’s way of doing business has set the tone for the last few decades, with venture capital and “unicorns” creating the dominant narrative about startups. It’s not greed and growth at all costs… it’s just business. Right? Wrong. We’re entering a new age, one where entrepreneurs want to create solutions to improve the human experience and quality of life without playing a zero-sum game. The age of the zebra. In this talk, Astrid will explain why and how purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive, why creating alternatives to venture capital financing for the businesses we need is a moral and economic imperative, and how innovation in business governance and practices can help us solve the world’s big challenges.
Beyond DEI: Building the Anti-Oppressive Businesses of the Future
End-stage capitalism is bad for the health and wealth of most people working in it, and recent events in the US and elsewhere have prompted a reckoning and examination of “business as usual” and its various -isms that perpetuate systemic injustice and harm on anyone who is not a white, cis-gendered male. But so many DEI efforts just amount to tokenism and unfunded mandates. In her 20+ years of leadership experience in a variety of corporate settings, Astrid has learned to wield her relative privilege and point of view of a first-generation immigrant to the United States to actively decolonize a large nonprofit organization; help invent the distributed, democratic, multicultural governance system of Zebras Unite; and formulate trauma-informed principles for creating new financial products and practices of the Inclusive Capital Collective. In this talk, we’ll get practical and tactical about using your positional influence and white privilege to transform your institution from the inside out.
We Can’t Build the Future We Want with the Systems We Have
Markets and governments are failing at providing solutions to the urgent social, economic, and environmental problems of our time. Drawing on the 10 principles for the principled design of new networks and infrastructure for mobilizing people, knowledge, and capital at a scale that matters, Astrid uses case studies from global movements for inclusive entrepreneurship; ocean conservation; and inclusive entrepreneurship to illustrate how we can use contemporary digital, legal and financial innovation to illustrate how to create the change that’s needed at the scale that’s urgently required.
This topic is particularly pertinent for influencers, philanthropy, large corporate entities, and financial institutions.
Alternatives to Venture Capital
Globally, there is about $100 Trillion in capital, of which roughly 1T is invested for impact, and another 1T sits on the balance sheets of US foundations. We need 50T to solve all the world’s ills, from poverty to sanitation to climate change, as characterized by the Sustainable Development Goals. Only about 200B is currently deployed in the form of venture capital into startups, too few of which are actually solving real-world problems, and too few are run by women, people of color, and generally people who are not white, cis-gendered males. So how do we activate more capital for purpose? In this talk, Astrid examines strategies for creating new financial assets and products that are legible to mainstream financial markets but have purpose hardwired into them. They include product innovations that leverage existing financial mechanisms–including loan loss reserves, government programs, pension, and sovereign wealth funds, and development finance institutions (DFIs)–, as well as new catalytic products that bridge key capital gaps in sectoral, regional, and/or demographic ecosystems.
How to Start a Movement
The business of philanthropy is broken. It has become another industry described by outdated business practices and norms that don’t meet communities where they are at, and, at worst, perpetuate power imbalances and inequities. Drawing on the experience of giving voice to a global, pent-up demand for a movement that centers the experience entrepreneurs of all different stripes, Astrid uses her experience as a recovering nonprofit executive to reframe how a movement like Zebras Unite gains traction and hacks existing industry norms and practices to create a new breed of social change organization that can anchor a movement in ways that are consistent with its ethic and principles. Buckle up, systems change is not for the faint of heart!
Other topics Astrid addresses include:
- Sustainable Development Goals
- Systems Design
- The Business of Philanthropy
- Impact Investing
- Ethical Tech
- Tech 4 Good
- Next-Generation Collaboration
- For Purpose Businesses