In Wharton Social Impact’s Dollars and Change podcast, Vice Dean Katherine Klein talks with leaders and researchers about the power of business and finance to drive positive societal and environmental change.

Here’s a look back at the Dollars and Change monthly podcast in 2021 — important and engaging conversations about overcoming the racial wealth gap, investing in affordable housing, building an impact brand, and more.

Catch up on episodes as you wind down for the holidays. And, if you are a new or regular listener, we would love to hear from you! Email us at to let us know your thoughts and suggestions as we prepare to bring you more episodes of our podcast in the new year.

1. How Leaders Can Get Serious about Diversity with David Thomas, President of Morehouse College, and Robin Ely, Professor at Harvard Business School

David Thomas and Robin Ely discuss the “business case” for diversity — the idea that the more racial and/or gender diversity you have in your organization, the better it will perform financially. This idea sounds good, but it’s simplistic and not backed by research evidence, Thomas and Ely explain. Even worse, it lets leaders off the hook in creating the conditions within their organizations for all employees to thrive. Getting serious about diversity requires committed leadership from the top of the organization and alignment with the organization’s values and practices.

2. Venture Capital that Builds Agency with Stefanie Thomas, Founding Member & Early Stage Investor at Impact America Fund

Stefanie Thomas discusses the Impact America Fund’s investments in businesses delivering strong financial returns and economic opportunity for communities of color. Impact America Fund works with entrepreneurs who have direct knowledge of the communities, systems, and problems that the fund aims to address. Thomas also discusses a broader mission to set a new standard for venture capital — one where racial equity investing becomes standard.

3. How Warby Parker’s Values Shape the Company’s Decisions with Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Warby Parker

Dave Gilboa discusses how Warby Parker prioritizes its values when making key strategy decisions. Like many businesses, Warby Parker had to make significant changes because of COVID. Gilboa discusses how the company’s pivots kept employees safe while creating a positive impact for the broader community. Gilboa also talks about the company’s data-driven strategy to achieve racial equity in representation, belonging, and career advancement.

4. Affordable Housing and Pride in Rentership with Bobby Turner, Principal and CEO of Turner Impact Capital

Bobby Turner discusses his impact investing work in affordable workforce housing. He also shares his perspective on the responsibility of business leaders to employ socially responsible practices — especially during a global pandemic, an economic crisis, and a civil rights movement.

5. Overcoming the Racial Wealth Gap with John Rogers, Chairman, Co-CEO, and CIO of Ariel Investments

John Rogers discusses the racial wealth gap in the United States and strategies to overcome it. Systemic racism has prevented many African Americans from participating in key sectors of the economy in which wealth is created — financial services, professional services, and technology. Rogers argues that education and business diversity (not supplier diversity) are key approaches to solving long-lasting disparities.

6. How Virtual Communities Help Students Succeed with Katy Kappler, Co-Founder and CEO of InScribe

Katy Kappler discusses how the virtual community platform InScribe aims to help any student (regardless of their background or their modality of learning) access the resources they need to be successful in their program. Kappler also discusses the emotional challenges of learning remotely, and why creating opportunities for connection and collaboration is important for addressing isolation and loneliness.

7. Empowering the AAPI Community with Sonal Shah, President of The Asian American Foundation

Sonal Shah discusses the state of the AAPI community in the U.S. today. Listen and learn how this new foundation is working to achieve belonging and prosperity — free from discrimination, slander, and violence — for all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Shah shares facts and statistics about the growing AAPI community, and discusses the Foundation’s focus areas: anti-hate, research, and education.

8. How B Corps Are Creating a Stakeholder Economy with Bart Houlahan, Co-Founder of B Lab

Bart Houlahan discusses the origins, work, and community of B Lab, the nonprofit behind the well-known B Corps certification. Houlahan describes how B Lab is building a global movement of corporations that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, and how these corporations are legally accountable to balance profit and purpose. Houlahan says we’re at the tipping point in creating a stakeholder economy.

9. Why Financial Inclusion Matters for Women with Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking

Mary Ellen Iskenderian discusses the need to increase women’s financial inclusion — access to bank accounts, insurance, mobile money apps, and even cell phones. Increasing women’s financial inclusion will increase economic stability, prosperity, and equality for women. Iskenderian describes Women’s World Banking’s advisory role, policy advocacy, and impact investing.

10. How Cotopaxi Integrates Impact in Every Aspect of the Business with Davis Smith, Founder and CEO of Cotopaxi

Davis Smith discusses how the outdoor gear brand Cotopaxi prioritizes impact in every aspect of the business — the supply chain, charitable giving, employment culture, and more. While many fashion-industry brands focus their impact efforts on the environment, Smith believes there’s “no way to save the planet if you’re not saving humanity at the same time” and shares why the brand prioritizes a people-focused mission in addition to its sustainable practices. And what if your business doesn’t have an obvious connection to impact? Smith shares examples of how any business, regardless of industry or size, can “do good” — he’s even transforming a pool table company into an impact company.

11. Investing in Transformational Social Innovators with Cheryl Dorsey, President of Echoing Green

Cheryl Dorsey discusses Echoing Green’s work as an early-stage funder of emerging social entrepreneurs. Supporting these extraordinary leaders is Echoing Green’s core strategy to drive positive social change across the globe. Dorsey also discusses racial and gender disparities in funding entrepreneurs and their ventures. Through a new partnership with Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women, Echoing Green will invest in Black women social entrepreneurs whose ventures are addressing critical needs in their communities, such as housing, education, healthcare, financial literacy, climate justice, and more.

12. How Do Impact Investors Measure Impact? With Michael Brown, Head of Research at Wharton Social Impact Initiative

Michael Brown discusses the complexities around impact measurement. Most impact investors report meeting or exceeding their impact performance metrics. But is this truly the case? Brown collaborated with Wharton PhD candidate Lauren Kaufmann on research that uncovers how it is common practice for impact investors to report impact metrics primarily to market, or publicize, their success – rather than to evaluate and understand where their impact may fall short. While the reality of impact measurement may not meet the rhetoric, Brown believes this is due to the challenges of measuring impact rigorously while simultaneously running an investment fund. He offers recommendations for measuring impact, and also explains why the field needs to get more comfortable with impact underperformance in order to learn and grow.

— Nisa Nejadi

Posted: December 20, 2021

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