SecondMuse Capital's latest Future Economy Lab is building a financial mechanism that could ramp up investment in millions of girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color.
What might a world look like in which girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color are abundantly invested in? Not invested in to “close a gap,” which is so often the objective of funds, initiatives, and policies directed towards underserved youth. But invested in — financially, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually — to nurture their dreams, joy, and power; invested in without limits, the way funders, educators, policymakers, and whole communities naturally invest in youth from privileged backgrounds. What if rather than investing for the sake of “evening the playing field” or addressing disparities between those who face a convergence of systemic barriers and those who don’t, the world aimed vastly higher? What if the people and institutions committed to justice thought beyond addressing deficits — what these communities are lacking — and instead sought to support them in fulfilling their boundless potential?
These are some of the questions that drove SecondMuse Capital to launch its latest Future Economy Lab in partnership with the non-profit Grantmakers for Girls of Color, the nation’s only philanthropic intermediary that exclusively resources organizations and movements led by or centering girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of color. Like all of its future economy labs, the objective of this one is to design a financial mechanism with communities that are underserved by our existing system.
“Abundantly Investing in Girls, Femmes, and Gender Expansive Youth of Color,” as its name suggests, aims to increase investment toward these groups and their communities in the U.S. and tribal sovereign nations by recognizing their wisdom and engaging them deeply in the lab’s four-step process. Through this process, the team also aims to increase opportunities for these young people to engage in just economies that center their wellbeing and to ensure investors see girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color as respected leaders and economic actors.
Engaging Youth in the Process
We initiated this lab because we recognize the immense potential of these youth. The U.S. economy and society have underinvested in girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color (ages 13 – 24) for generations — and yet, these young people have repeatedly demonstrated their leadership and commitment to all forms of social and economic justice. In order to ensure youth voices deeply informed the development of the lab, the team has launched a fellowship and advisory initiative bringing about 40 young people together to explore the question of what abundant futures and abundant investments might look like.
The ongoing Define phase invites them, members of their communities, investors, entrepreneurs, and other key stakeholders to identify and define the issues the lab will address. Through research, workshops, interviews, and year-long fellowship and advisory initiatives, the team is digging into critical questions: How do these young people envision “abundant futures” and what support(s) do they need to get there? What sort of investments, tools, and resources would most support these young people so they can thrive? Which factors, if addressed, would catalyze the most positive change? Where is the current economy failing these young people? Where are biases and blind spots?
Next, the future economy lab team will work with youth, investors, and other stakeholders to design a financial mechanism and complementary programming that is truly viable, meaning that investors and other key groups involved in the process would support it. This could be anything from a fund of funds to an impact bond to a platform in which girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color participate in its governance. The final Launch phase will then bring the mechanism to life.
Beyond a Financial Mechanism
To ensure that girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color get the most out of the mechanism, the team will also identify complementary initiatives — anything from databases that connect youth with resources, to a network of programs aimed at educating investors about opportunities to invest in the target community. To spur wider change, the lab is going to publish a repository of learnings that anyone interested in supporting economic justice for historically marginalized youth can tap into. The lab will also support knowledge sharing among the many groups it’s bringing together: The hope is that participating investors and youth can learn from each other and act as ambassadors who can share their insights with their wider communities.
“Engaging girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color as co-constructors of a process to identify financial and other mechanisms to support their innovation and economic wellbeing is critical to realizing just and sustainable futures for our communities.” — Dr. Monique Couvson
Holistic and limitless investment in girls, femmes, and gender-expansive youth of Color will pave the way for these young people to boundlessly pursue their educations, their hobbies, and dreams — without wondering how they can access funding, or what major sacrifices they might have to make. And abundant investment in them stands to benefit everyone. These young people are part of the fabric of the country. Investment in their talent, innovation, health, wellbeing, education, and overall potential is an investment in the abundant futures of every community.