The Power of Invitation with Joy Anderson, Criterion Institute

In this episode of “Be and Think in the House of Trust, I am speaking with Joy Anderson, Founder and President of Criterion Institute, the leading think tank on using finance as a tool for social change.

Joy is a prominent leader at the intersection of business and social change. Names Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, Anderson played a significant role in building new fields, developing gender lens investing, partnering with faith-based ecosystems to transform their relationship with finance, and demonstrating new ways to shape markets to create good.

Joy and I talk about what it takes to develop a gender lens investing ecosystem, the power of invitation and hospitality, the dark side of power dynamics, our duty to address this, and how Joy’s values are a strong foundation and guidance for the work to be done.

Highlights of this episode

(2:10) What’s more important than hope?

(5:39) We weren’t addressing issues of power

(10:30) People who use imagination to create social change

(11:34) You don’t want to be stupid

(16:46): Relationships begin, not when we encounter but when we first invite.

(20:17) We don’t build investment funds that meet what the world needs!

(21:15) Let’s fix the capital, not the companies…

Useful links

Criterion Institute Website:

Follow Joy Anderson on Linkedin



Servane Mouazan 0:02

Welcome to "be and think in the house of trust", a show for those of you who love to invest in social and environmental change and wonder how do I show up when I want to create the conditions don't make it still one another you might have My name is Sal Venom was the founder of conscious innovation and together with my guests, we pause and think about their behaviours and conditions that help you trust and collaborate, but also listen and care and deliver and fulfil your mission as responsible impact investors. Today my guest is joy Anderson, the founder and president of criterion Institute, the leading think tank that helps us use finance as a tool for social change criteria and demonstrates new possibilities through its groundbreaking research, innovative training convenings and institutional engagement. In recognition of her leadership, Joy was listed in first companies 100 most creative people in business

Joy, it's such a pleasure having you in the house of trust today. Wonderful, wonderful. You are in connected coach, aren't you?

Joy Anderson 1:24

I am today I am and I used to travel so much more and now I'm just here. It's wonderful. Oh, this

Servane Mouazan 1:31

is great. Before we dive in, I realised that we have many things in common. I'm not going to go through the whole list because we'll be there tomorrow. I think I would mind but I think you probably have other things to do. Amongst others. There's a joy. I mean, you carry the name as your privilege. I'm obstinately hopeful I think you've got some sort of hopefulness in you as well as your

Joy Anderson 1:54

hope really matters. I remember years ago when we started criterion. We had a conversation in Harlem in New York. At this amazing Bistro. And the conversation was what's more important than hope that I remember a friend of mine walking in to the dinner and just saying nothing, this silly question. Anyway, it was a beautiful conversation because of course from other people. There were things more important than hope but I love that question. Like what's more important than hope?

Servane Mouazan 2:23

There is that thing about gender Smart Investing, I think we can go back to it in in a minute. And the other thing we have in common is apples. My great grandmother used to preside her and experience in Brittany almost 100 years ago and I was busy eating them not 100 years ago. I'll give you that but you press cider and you boil Apple syrup.

Joy Anderson 2:45

We press we press cider a lot. We don't make Applejack very often or Calvados. But once a colleague from Social Venture network years and years ago, she 10 years ago, came here. We pressed apples all day. He took all of the cider back to his still. And then we took jugs of Calvinists to Social Venture network. It was really quite fun.

Servane Mouazan 3:11

Yeah, that's a good deal. So how about we dive in now? Joy I'm gonna give you a little bit of your background for people for the rare people who don't know you yet. You have a strong voice at the intersection of business finance and social change. And in a previous episode on that and envy and thinking I was trust, we were talking about social mobility in the VC world with silly pigeon. And interestingly, you have you have been a high school teacher in New York City public schools, right. You wanted to understand how power works in big systems. You stayed for a while for Teach. I mean, nowadays staying eight years as a teacher is is a is not a means feat. Because you said you fell in love with the students, right? Or HERSA. Wow. And you had several leadership roles in the teachers union, and you manage federally funded programmes for the school district and then you became an entrepreneur. And you probably do pre care criteria and venture is in 2002 service. There's a happy birthday or happy anniversary as we say. It's 21 years ago, you co founded good capital with Tim Froelich and given John's in 2006 and you led the development of healthcare uncovered in 2006 2009, which was funded by Rockefeller. What I journey which was

Joy Anderson 4:39

after that I founded the field of gender lens investing. So there Yeah.

Servane Mouazan 4:44

So let's talk about that. Gender Smart Investing. So that was like 1212 13 years ago, started

Joy Anderson 4:53

in 2000. And I'm not gonna do the math. Well, a while back.

Servane Mouazan 4:58

What's our debt? What are the odds of that?

Joy Anderson 5:03

We were Suzanne and I were very we've been friends for a very long time. And we're both very active in impact investing and I founded a venture fund good capital with with those fellows and and so I think I was sort of in the middle of the early days of impact. Investing and it was sort of coming of age and figuring out who we all were and I had just enough training and gender studies to know that ended up experiencing life to say we weren't addressing issues of power. I just, it was a conversation. I remember going up in meeting with the VC in Seattle 2007, something like that. And they were they were quite convinced that all they had to do was take all of public education and put it online, and they would solve the problems of poverty and inequality in the world. Because if you eliminate all the teachers who were actually the problem, and we put it all behind it all be more efficient and everybody has access to education. I mean, the man was literally full of his own it lacked this arrogance, and so much of the early days of impact investing and still it's still today, I don't think it's changed dramatically. We're just driven by that arrogance, right. It was so driven by venture capital, which requires that you true that you're smarter than everybody else. And so impact investing wasn't addressing questions of power was sort of we're gonna innovate our way to some grand new future and equities racism, that was all just gonna fall away poverty all going to be eliminated just because you know, we engage market systems. And so with that, I wanted to figure out a different way of looking at things and I wanted to figure out how to, of course, correct some of that. And so, there were a bunch of us it was Shari Bernbach. And the Calvert Foundation who's passed away since then. But Jackie Vanderburgh, of course, and Suzanne was around in those early days and

Servane Mouazan 7:17

Suzanne Biegel just for people who don't know.

Joy Anderson 7:20

We bring together the conversations about gender and for me, it was the conversations of power. I don't know if it was for the rest of them, but it was for me.

Servane Mouazan 7:27

So what did you discover along the way that you didn't expect to discover?

Joy Anderson 7:37

Wow, that's a good question. Um, I mean, maybe it's one of those like, I think I had no frickin idea what to expect. So sort of looking back, I mean, this was all a grand adventure. I mean, so much of criterion has been I mean, we're, we've we've been a sustained experiment and ways of creating systems change in different ways. And so I I was never the kind of leader I am now which is interesting. This is the first time in my career where I plan and I think I'm right. And so I don't think at that time, I had a plan. Anybody who worked for me at the top Republican firm, I had no plan. I just wanted to figure out what's possible. And I've never built a field. But we've built a field. I hadn't built a venture fund and build venture funds. I guess at some point it was how can we how can we try a different set of things? Is there a broader set of things possible? I remember the first conversations with with Shari, looking at what is now oh, goodness covered foundations amazing product that's been around forever. I can't remember the name of it. Hugely disrespectful to not being able to do away with it, but they were one of the first really focused gender lens investing products. And sharding just didn't believe it was possible. Right. And so I remember hours and hours of conversation with her just like well could just something isn't there something we could do? And so, the kind of what did I expect? I don't know. I don't know if I had expectations. I wanted to see if there was a different path. And I didn't know what that would look like. Wow, stay in the game. I mean, that's the story of entrepreneurs, right? Have enough staying power to still be around 21 years later.

Servane Mouazan 9:31

staying power, I guess there's many changes along the way. So every time you're a new person to joy imagine let's let's let's play a little game. Imagine you come across someone a man for instance, who has never heard of impact investing, let alone gender Smart Investing, and doesn't seem that bothered at her side and how would you describe that work, joy, its impact, your work, its impact and its relevance, you know, to someone like that outside of these ecosystems.

Joy Anderson:

There was just talking to my team yesterday and criterion, we actually spend a whole lot of time with people who are not trying to create social change. We're trying to work with people who are trying to create social change, and think about how they can be brought more broadly, more creatively with more imagination. Use finance to create social change. And so, the most of the conversations that I have with people who are not working in, in a bit of finance, or with changemakers, for whom finance is an evil system of power and domination that has perpetuated capitalism. And so in that context, I'm mostly just trying to say it's a system of power, just like all of the other systems that we work in, right? See it as a system of power, figure out where it needs to change, figure out where you need to manoeuvre around it and manipulate the system or where it might actually work to further your goals. Sort that through just like you would any system of power. And when I'm talking to people who are sort of mainstream finance people, you know, at some point for me, I'm like, Look, you don't want to be stupid. There's a whole bunch of stuff that you will get wrong. Right, we've, we've all seen those better. It's just nobody laughs as loudly as they want to, when they say take him back to the future. He told my wife as a handbag like, effing idiot, you realise. And so, at some level, when I'm talking to people in finance, who I actually think are genuinely really bright people. I'm engaging as a really bright person to say, here's a set of data that you're not aware of and that might make you look stupid.

Servane Mouazan:

Right, right. So bit of truth telling here. And amongst the next to the truth telling, I hear that you've identified your like in a great storyteller that you are, you've identified your villain, which is the problem with power, the power and power dynamic and when you started criteria, and you you named your well, your your, your heroes, I call them heroes, because you got three values that you started with in 2000 in the grace to hospitality and the power of invitation, and I'm sitting on the edge of my chair. Wow, would you show up with them in practice when you're you're the hero of the story.

Joy Anderson:

Um, that's a great question. One thing that I'm really really proud of, and I would say, you know, I mid 50s. So I've been doing this for a while. Still in formation as a leader for sure. I feel like the last five years. Well, maybe last three years, I've started to become a good leader. And part of that was really been I've always been grounded in the values. And recently I've just gotten much more open to listening carefully to whether or not I'm actually living the map. And I'm not saying that was a bad person, I did shitty things. But in the last couple of years, I've just listened really, really hard. And I think for some of us, COVID just gave us a little more space to think things through. And so one of the ways that I'm really proud just last last last month we announced a new compensation plan at criterion. And it took me about four months to work through and it's super transparent and super equitable. So for me, that's about the sort of extraordinary strength of creating a hospitable place where people feel safe enough to do brave crack, to really go out and try things. And to know that there's a system around them that will support them. And I think for many of us, who are many entrepreneurs, I mean, I've never worked. I've never worked in a place where I felt taken care of. It's really interesting, right? I've never had a job where I had I worked in New York City public schools, and if anybody has ever worked in here, a couple of people this is not a place where you feel taken care of. Finding finding pension to find pension was pretty much it. The kids were great. The teachers could have done without but the administrators had my activism of the Union. And so I never actually worked in a place where I felt like somebody else was responsible for my job. Like somebody else was responsible for creating that safe place. And so I didn't know how to do that. So I think I mean, I've had many ways to live out these values. It's been we've had our values since before the company started and before now it's a nonprofit that back 21 years, so I've had a million different ways that I've experienced these values. One of the most I mean, I do love these values. And maybe look at the third one. So so just to define them quickly. Grace is about showing up in the world. Trusting that the world will surprise us right seeing it a little more playfully as opposed to us against them. Hospitality is about welcoming the stranger knowing the stranger will change you so many of us host with the interest of no showing off our house or showing off our stuff or showing off our content and many people host to influence other people. For us hospitality is about owning our own point of view, but also being open to being changed by who shows up. And so the third is really then about the power of imitation. And I truly believe that relationships begin not when we encounter each other. But when when we first interact we first didn't fight right you're on the other side of the room and somebody says, Hey, I'm going to come talk to you. Or, you know, the all of those first encounters where somebody is inviting us into a relationship. Relationships begin with an invitation, and then all kinds of stuff happens after that. But I think so often, what we forget, we pay attention to how we're being invited. I think that's something very much pay attention to when they're justice issues within that. But for me, the value is to remember that we have the power to invite the way we solve how we feel if if I feel like I'm not invited. Well, my response is to invite somebody else. And to remember that I have the power of invitation and the way I vix not feeling welcome or not feeling invited is by being the environment. And so ever once I was at a conference in a roundtable of investors and there was one Junior woman at the table and I watched has her boss dismissed her at the table and just sort of Politico a really problematic way. And I walked out of that meeting I he also be finished with her right onto me, right? It's like and you also, I'm not doing anything more to it. It was a really harsh meeting. As so many of these meetings can be impacted best in doesn't actually mean everybody becomes nice. Um, and I walked out of that meeting, and I walked up to her, he said I'll do anything to help. Just tell me if you ever need somebody to have your back. I'm here. And that that reminder that when we don't feel like we're getting what we need, that the best thing that we can do is see if we can help somebody else is one of the more empowering moments for me. So that's the power of invitation

Servane Mouazan:

and so when you invest in someone, does that work as well? I imagined that grace, that hospitality and the power of invitation that you invite people to be invested in. I'm curious. I'm sure other people are wondering.

Joy Anderson:

So I mean, it's been a long time since I've been an active investor raising capital. Was was a one time fund. And so I would say more where I apply this is we work with within criterion in order to accomplish our mission. We participate in lots of sort of larger capital endeavours, and I suppose I sat on boards and investment committees and stuff like that. So I think the piece for me where all of this connects with investing, right now probably most poignantly is we tend not to build investment. We mean, the world of investing. We don't actually build investment funds that meet what the world needs. We build things that work for the capital, and that don't work particularly well for the economy. And and I we we've been in a deep commitment to working in the Pacific Islands and and over the last six years one of the things that I've watched it's just one person after another going to Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea and saying, You know what, if you change and become a different kind of company, and have a different economy, then we'll be able to do impact investing here. And so first of all, we'll give you the technical assistance to enable you to be kinda come become the kind of company that will enable us to invest in you. And so one of the slogans that criterion is let's fix the capital that fix the companies because too many investors wander out in the world and say, What's brilliant about me is I've got this money and you should want it and you should be willing to transform yourselves to be able to take it because I know largely untrue, specific intelligence that is gifted to be considered investment positions. And they know their capital, they may not know the context in which they're working. And that's often where it ends up being the most tragic so so for me there really is this question of how do we how do we fix the capital not fixing the companies? And that requires a sense of grace and hospitality and invitation that actually says honestly, I'm not just going to do a landscape study to figure out how my capital fits within that context.

Servane Mouazan:

Julian Assange shows us here that values shouldn't be just for sold up on a whim there are deeply meaningful components for your work and the generally guide the core of your action. So now we are clear about Joe's feelings, you know that people hold the power and we don't pay attention to those who want the world to bend so that they get what they want. And now the other side you have the hero's values, in our case, they are grace, hospitality and the power of invitation. From this episode, we understand that without listening, changing, adapting, convening and caring, and being of service, we might be quickly in the way and out of scope. These attributes can also underpin our staying power. So what do you think? This is it for this episode of being thinking the house of trust, my name is Servane MOuazan and I look forward to our next show. The series is available wherever you love to listen to your podcasts, connect with me through where you can get regular conscious innovation updates to help you navigate the mental models that are needed. To collectively and individually ignite positive social change.


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