Jan 28 2019

Two New Labs Coalescing for Transform

Image by PixaBay

Two labs are coming to Transform that I am working closely with and am really excited about. Labs, you might remember create systemic solutions that are ready to go to scale or replicate but need some key blockage removed or a bit of a strategic life. Labs provide a place to workshop problems and solutions and keep the conversation and collaboration going afterward.

Unlike a standard conference, events in the Transform series are only a piece of the puzzle. The real action starts before the conference and continues afterward in zoom calls, slack and the online platform we were given by the Capital Institute. Sometimes it means we help create a new financial vehicle to bridge a structural capital gap like we did with Self Help, Impact Hub Oakland and Uptima Business Bootcamp around the Runway Project Oakland, that brought friends and family funding to entrepreneurs from marginalized communities who didn’t have a rich aunt or uncle.

Regina Connell, one of my co founders at GatherLab, the group that’s putting on the Transform Series, and I spent three days with Regenerate Illinois and their allies the Delta Institute and Iroquois Valley Farms last week in Evanston, Ill. We collectively decided to focus on some hospitals one of the members, Erin Meyer has been working with for years who realize that food is a key to health and that the soil health in which your food is grown is is where it all begins.

We think we can help regenerative agriculture move from the tiny farm to table niche to the huge food service market if we pick one item to get on the menu in a hospital. We are looking at the potential of oats (all hospitals serve a lot of oatmeal) and ground beef from regenerative intensive grazing.

Alongside health, regenerative farming is one of the biggest ways to respond effectively to climate change, through both sequestering carbon and reducing flooding due to rich topsoil’s ability to absorb the rain from the increasing storms that will come from climate change.

If we can make that phase change from boutique niche to scale for regenerative agriculture in one hospital, we think that approach could replicate all across the midwest.

The other lab coming together with a clear focus is the indigenous-focused operating system led by Shaun Paul of Ejido Verde. It’s a massive reforestation and indigenous wealth creation project with the Purapecha people in Michoacan, Mexico. Guayaki, Lotus Foods and Indigenous Designs are all adopting the dashboard, which focuses on relationships of reciprocity and creation of cultural value as the first points to measure for any business sourcing food, drinks, clothes and natural materials from indigenous people in those companies’ supply webs.

An extremely high functioning collaborative, they quickly took to the lab concept and came up with issues that are either limiting their progress or that they could take to scale with the right funding and support. The lab that won the most votes is scaling their influence to help other businesses adopt regenerative practices in ways that also help propel our respective companies and elevate our respective brands. Should we expand the number of companies in a structured working group (currently 4 companies); do we help others form working groups (if so, how?); do we use the B Corp community as a platform to promote ‘all’ B Corps to adopt regenerative thinking and practices that include adopting and promoting the Regenerative Dashboard that could be ultimately adopted as a GIIRs metric (the metric that impact investors use).

And that caused them to wonder what the optimal financial model for scaling is. What is an optimal approach to attract the required financial resources (eg grantmaking vehicle, investment vehicle, membership dues), they asked?

And while Transform will be rich with deep dives like these, it will also be a place you can make sense of the broader landscape of businesses and investors doing a new kind of business that serves communities in light of climate change with a new way of using capital. The Croatan Institute will be bringing their ground breaking research into the new funds and finance companies that are figuring out how to fund this new transformed economy where you can invest to create healthy communities for all that respond well to climate change. Not surprisingly Delta Institute and Iroquois Valley are key to that research and understanding.