Working to Benefit Society, Not Just Companies

on Oct18
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What did you want to be when you were young?

By the time I was in fourth or fifth grade, I wanted to be an elected official or a policymaker. My grandfather Ruby, whom I was close to, read The New York Times every day from front to back and engaged me in conversation about policy and social justice from an early age. I assumed the best way make a difference was to run for office.

Who or what inspired you to go into your field?

A series of relationships and mentors have helped guide me, including my parents and my grandparents. I spent time in college working on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and the elder Basil Brave Heart was a spiritual and moral center.

But it was former Congressman David Skaggs who really set me on my path. After I interned in his office, I asked if I could return to work for him after college. He said, “Maybe, but I think not yet.” Instead, he told me to do something out in the world — to see what our economy is all about. Although I had no experience in capital markets at the time, his words set me on that path and away from public policy. And I saw that I could effect change without being a politician.

Where do you find sources of creativity?

This is not a creative field — it’s not tech, art or music, but I do think that it requires a lot of creativity to invent what an economy ought to look like. But I’m not a mad genius imagining things and willing them to be true.

Instead, I find that creativity comes through relationships and community, and through conversation to find the right design.

What obstacles do you need to overcome?

We face an enormous challenge in that the economic system, over the last 400 years, was built on extraction, without limits. People have been treated as just another economic input, rather than as humans.

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