Ally Voices

 Our ‘Ally Voices’ is a new series of blogs that will chronicle the stories and views of WBA’s diverse and global Alliance. 

Written by: Milos Maricic, Partner, The Altruist League

The Altruist League sees the work of the World Benchmarking Alliance as absolutely essential for achieving the SDGs. Two things are very hard as we try to solve the world’s systemic problems in the next ten years: one, we need to be clear on our goals and metrics; two, we need organizations that bring others together and coordinate efforts. The WBA has, its short existence notwithstanding, already managed to do both, and the League was delighted to become a member when given the opportunity. The recent Assembly was our first experience attending a WBA-organized event and we found it immensely informative and very well executed.

The League itself is a membership organization that brings together governments, philanthropists and companies serious about systemic change, taking practical steps to preserve our climate and reduce inequality, be it gender, economic or racial. We currently have staff working in our HQ (Geneva), regional offices (San Francisco, Hong Kong, Nairobi) and embedded in local communities on six continents. Business model-wise, our members pay a yearly fee for access to our tools, research and advice, plus a percentage of their assets under our management.

We help our members build global portfolios that include all the different actors in the value chain of systemic change – grassroots movements, positive lobby groups, new technologies that empower activism, independent media outlets, etc. We started as a philanthropic foundation ourselves, adding consultancy and advisory functions over time, and have now evolved into a decidedly research- and technology-driven organization, with two core products:

  1. A machine learning-driven dataset of the world’s grassroots movements, the most robust of its kind globally, with solid predicting powers, making it possible to identify interesting movements for investment and to create custom portfolios for members quickly, depending on their area of interest, geography, etc. We include the most promising grassroots organizations in what we call the Altruist Index™, and encourage members to invest in those organizations.
  2. Our trademark Systemic Changemaker Score™ (SCS), used to judge the systemic impact of a portfolio or a company, combining ESG metrics, CSR metrics, for-profit activities and other assessments. Our aspiration to see the SCS become the de facto standard of how systemic change is operationalized and measured. WBA’s work has, again, been extremely inspiring in developing our methodology.

In addition to the above, we run extensive training programs for our network, helping members diversify their portfolios and become trust-based investors, as well as connect with others who are on the same journey. Our goal is to demystify real change and make it as operational and as accessible as possible.

In a troublesome time of a raging pandemic, racial and social tensions, and a world torn between the status quo and the currents poised to challenge it, the League’s crucial advantage is having its ear on the ground. The disconnect between the hands-on activist and the young changemaker on one side and the institutional investor / philanthropist on the other has never been greater. Bridging this gap inspires our work and our research.

In a recent research piece, we use the outcomes of our 23-country study of global activism to distill fifteen practical lessons for philanthropists trying to make change happen. Some of the revelations were downright shocking for our membership: two thirds of people in movements now feel that real change through the system is so hard that it’s unavoidable to break the law (say, by being arrested at protests) to make it happen. Others lessons are a wakeup call: philanthropy needs more credibility and honesty, not new theory; investors must add value through money and connections, not oversight and paperwork, etc.

We constantly discover other organizations out there with goals and activities similar to ours. Often just learning of their existence takes time, effort and luck. It is a big world out there. This is why networks such as WBA are crucial, so that not all of us have to start from scratch and go through the journey on our own. For this and all the other reasons mentioned above, we are looking forward to continuing and expanding our relationship with WBA in the future.

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