Module 1: Solidarity

What CST principle(s) and/or theoretical framework(s) speak to you most in the context of the work you do today as a steward of financial assets, or one who is supporting such stewards?

I believe that the CST principle central to our community and network building work is solidarity. 

As Tony Annett explained in his interview with Elizabeth and throughout his book on Cathonomics, Catholic Social Teachings are borne on the basis that humans are altruistic, have strong views of fairness, and have evolved over time to be increasingly more cooperative and focus more on cooperation and less on competition. With this understanding, as well as the recognition that neoliberal economics doesn’t give us the necessary tools to solve the climate crisis, we see how powerful CST can be as an economic ideology that helps us bridge the gap between ethics and economics and give us an ethical grounding.

This cooperative nature is the exact foundation that our community of Catholic asset owners was built on. As is outlined in our mission and vision statement, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) is a community that shares our experiences and celebrates our Catholic faith, so that we might expand the stewardship of financial resources in service to the common good. In fact, our three main goals are to share stories, build relationships and foster collaboration in pursuit of our mission to foster a world where capital is a transformative force for good, stewards the environment and enhances both equality and human dignity. 

Anna Rowland further explicitly states that humans are created to have relationships of friendship, unity, and mutuality. As a principle of CST, solidarity requires more than just empathy, but requires intentional structure and development. It’s not a vague feeling of compassion towards others, but a structured commitment to being with neighbors in a mutual relationship. CIIC creates this structured community of solidarity.

CIIC has always strived to create a neutral space for Catholic asset owners to learn, exchange, and engage in this mutual relationship. In the coming months, CIIC will prepare to formalize our community by launching a paid membership program for investors to continue this dialogue. Catholic asset owners who are making impact investments have very different definitions of impact, risk, concessionary return, etc. and sometimes have very different approaches to their overall investment portfolio. CIIC has always served as a neutral space for these investors to share and learn, but as we establish a formal program for members and the principle of solidarity remains central to our work, the nature of this “neutral space” is something that I struggle with.

The questions I keep asking are:

– If our faith and values are what we share as a community, how does using CST as an investment guide look so different organization to organization? How can CIIC better understand each investor’s interpretation of CST?

– What responsibility does CIIC have to encourage its members to invest in opportunities that are more closely aligned with CST, while respecting every organization’s unique set of institutional constraints and opportunities?

– Does CIIC even have the authority to be an arbiter of which investments are more closely aligned with CST? What are our own institutional limitations of being a “neutral space”?

While I don’t have the answers to these questions, I come back to Pope Francis’ words in Fratelli Tutti, that solidarity means “thinking and acting in terms of community”. I hope our community will be an example of different stakeholders working together to serve the common good, despite our differences in approaches. CIIC has always started from a place of relationship-centeredness and will continue to do so. We might not find a “perfect” common ground (i.e. we all invest in the same exact opportunities and have exactly aligned definitions of CST) but I hope that we continue to grapple with questions of ethics, morality and encourage one another to move in the direction of impact and progress.

2 thoughts on “Module 1: Solidarity

  1. Thanks for this post.

    How prescriptive we can be and should be about members’ adherence to the principles our organisations are founded on – especially as supporting organisations rather than as asset owning fiduciaries – is such a relevant challenge for me personally, too.

    In the context of our organisation (a much younger organisation at a similar crossroads, now looking to launch a formal paid membership programme for asset owning groups of many faiths), our question is one of what does it mean to be faith consistent, and I think many of your same subsequent questions apply.

    Just on the basis of this week’s blogs, there are many questions which CST raises and many ways CST principles can be applied.

    Perhaps a benefit of being neutral on the “how” is that we can allow space for new solutions and approaches to be learned and formed.

    But it is important to find and be comfortable with that balance, and not feel that neutrality leaves us drifting into a state of general agreement that risks taking us away from the real challenge and radicalism inherent in CST.

    I would be interested to explore an approach which considers where neutrality and firmness are beneficial along different parts of FBO’s investment journeys, so that solidarity is never just limited to empathy, and also seeks an outcome.

    From my reading of CIIC’s approach, many of the foundations of a clear and helpful balance are there to be explored further, as a group which
    i) is clear on the sources of its principles
    ii) is firm in its own application of those principles
    ii) perhaps neutral on how it supports different members to explore, understand and act on their interpretation of those principles
    iii) actively encourages those members to engage with other members on how the define and act on those principles
    iv) can celebrate the diversity of outcomes that different contexts and starting points and levels of alignment bring
    v) is decidely non-neutral in showcasing more broadly how CST principles have led these different groups to move in the direction of impact and progress.

    This is certainly a theme to come back to as our workshop progresses!

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  2. I think Nana makes a great point around the value of “being neutral on the how” that relates to the solidarity on outcomes. If we take an approach to CST that is too rigid with labelling of the “right way vs. the wrong way”, it seems to me that we will miss those opportunities for creativity Nana highlights. We lack perfect knowledge of what outcomes our investment actions will create, thus is seems a fool’s errand to assign any group as an arbiter. My greatest appreciation for groups like CIIC are in their role as a neutral connector for investors of a shared faith seeking similar outcomes with different approaches and opinions. Diversity is so often held out as a virtue in investing (and one I believe in) because many different viewpoints often lead to the best observation of a problem.

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