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Systemic investing at the World Economic Forum

Photo credit: henryiddon.com
23 January 2024

How do we go beyond ‘doing no harm’ to a truly regenerative future? What would it take to completely reimagine our investment and finance systems? ‘Systemic investment’ offers a window into a new version of the future of finance. What kind of role does finance have to play and who gets to decide where and what kinds of problems it is helping to transform. Can finance support transformation of and rebuild the root foundations of our relationship with each other as well as part of the living systems of nature. 

On 16-17 January 2024, Unearthodox co-led a session on systemic investing at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF is a Geneva-based international organisation that works toward global cooperation on the biggest economic and social issues facing the world at present.

The session, which was held in the SDG Tent and co-sponsored by InTent, included a panel discussion and interactive workshop. It was co-moderated by Unearthodox’s CEO, Melanie Ryan, along with Dominic Hofstetter, Executive Director of TransCap Initiative, a ‘think-and-do-tank’ at the nexus of real-economy systems change, sustainability and finance. 

The session featured a discussion among a group of esteemed panellists:

Dominic Hofstetter gave an introduction to the fundamentals of the emerging field of systemic investing, explaining that the traditional portfolio paradigm in finance is risk reduction through diversification, whereas systemic investing is about amplifying value through combinatorial effects. “What this boils down to is the question of how you orchestrate different kinds of capital from different sources for different interventions that need to happen in a strategic and coherent way,” he said. “And this is not how finance operates today. But it's exactly what systemic investing is attempting to do.” 

The panel then discussed how systemic investing offers a multi-asset class and multi-dimensional lens for investing, and spoke about its inherent complexities. “Systemic investment can rebuild the broken trust that is needed now," said Ndidi Nwuneli, urging investors to work with local organisations to plug finance gaps and to consider how to better fund women-led organisations.

In the second half, participants broke into small groups to discuss a case study, which explored how joining up multiple areas of investment could unlock capital for sustainable and inclusive prosperity. By the end, participants concluded that to fully invest in transformational change and systemic finance, we must accept that systems are complex and there are many unknowns. 

Kirsten Dunlop summed it up powerfully: “We sit here on these panels and say the solutions are already here, we just have to combine them…The solutions are here. And when you start to combine them, all sorts of unintended consequences come about, because these are complex systems. And they're complex because we are in them. And we are messy. So it is about getting in and learning and, above all…learn[ing] from one another, so the effects are not just aggregate effects, they're transformational effects.”

At Unearthodox, we are a ‘thinkubator’ taking people from big ideas to action and helping people move through hard conversations about systems change for nature and society. We work together to reimagine the future and then support innovators to build out pipelines of innovation that make it real. In 2024, we are launching our newest portfolio of work on the theme ‘Regenerative Futures’. It will explore how we move from sustainability to regeneration for nature and society. 

Are you someone with a bold, disruptive idea or a funder who wants to get involved with our work? We’d love to hear from you. Please contact: Anca Damerell, Director of Innovation, anca.damerell@unearthodox.org.

Want to get in touch?

Email the project team at  info@unearthodox.org
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