Impact Investing: Using Our Networks and Resources to Impact the World

When Nicole DeMeo first stepped on the land, she felt a powerful connection. Monterey greeted her with a bright blue sky, cooling breeze and calming view of the ocean. As she walked the trails among the old growth coastal oaks, she began to feel the business of the city fall away. Her focus turned to her passions and the inspiring people with whom she would be spending the day discussing them.  “I felt immediately connected with the group,” she said. “Being in nature let me slow down and listen to everyone there.” 

“The Gathering provided this amazing opportunity to connect with a small curated group people over mutual interests," said DeMeo. The day can start with a conversation, and also open up ways to start envisioning how to work together.”  

As a strategic advisor to companies whose goal it is to disrupt and make an impact beyond the financial gain of the people who are involved, Nicole joined the June 22nd Walden Gathering to focus on impact investing. “Impact investing is redefining the role of capital and channeling its full power to create a better world,” said Nick Jekogian, the Founder of the Walden Gathering. 

The Power of a Small Group

“What would I do if I had a billion bucks to use for good?” asks the writer David Brook, in a recent New York Times column entitled “Giving Away Your Billions. “ I’d start with the premise that the most important task before us is to reweave the social fabric. People in disorganized neighborhoods need to grow up enmeshed in the loving relationships that will help them rise. The elites need to be reintegrated with their countrymen. Only loving relationships transform lives, and such relationships can be formed only in small groups. Thus, I’d use my imaginary billion to seed 25-person collectives around the country.”

This of the goal of the Walden Gathering, a social venture that invites individuals, groups and organizations to gather, learn and collaborate on how best to contribute and invest their time, talent and resources to recognize the health benefits of nature while creating solutions for the greater good.  The day-long discussions in nature seek to explore ideas in a constellation of intersecting areas that include community, climate awareness, and gender justice. “We see everyone who joins as an equal expert at the table because we believe in the wisdom of a small, passionate group to find solutions,” said Jekogian. 

What We Invest in Today will Determine the World We will Live in Tomorrow

The conversation began with a trail hike in which the group discussed everything from the need to eliminate plastics at home to ways for people to experience more nature to bring balance to our minds, bodies, and society. Nicole said that because the group was small, she felt confident letting down her guard. “We were able to quickly get to a deeper level of connection and intimacy in the conversation,” she said.  

DeMeo’s passions focus on supporting women founders and companies that help to improve the environment. When she met the founder of The Ocean Harvest, a company focused on sustainable fishing, she got excited about going to San Diego out on their boat to talk more about their mission and ways to grow their company. “The Gathering provided this amazing opportunity to connect with a small curated group people over mutual interests," she said. The day can start with a conversation, and also open up ways to start envisioning how to work together.”  

After the hike, the group gathered under one of the most stately oak trees on the land over a farm-to-table lunch that included smoked salmon sandwiches and salad with heirloom tomatoes and fresh pears prepared by Walden’s private chef. The questions presented to the group allowed for “open thinking about the way people could not only leverage money but their connections, “ Jekogian said.   For example, the question,  “How can we draw on nature for impact?” inspired solutions such using satellites to look at cities and promote equitable access to open space to turning Boy Scout camps into nature-based communities and potential sites for future Walden Gatherings. 

The question, “How do we use our networks and resources to impact the world?” prompted solutions such as creating more community around vulnerability to find deeper connections - and even creating a fund to support this kind of community. 

As the sun began to set and the air cooled, the group shared some wine from a local vineyard, everyone agreed that they needed to stay connected to continue the conversation.  The group planned to meet up in a year to share their progress.  “It left me wanting for more time with each person,” said Nicole.  

Every Walden Gathering concludes with a findings solutions guidebook that captures the common themes, solutions and future goals of the conversation. “Everyone wants to change the world,” says Jekogian. “At Walden Gatherings, we don’t just talk about it. We make it happen. ”  

We invite you to explore the Impact Investing findings solutions guide and begin taking steps to make the solutions happen.       

Gathering Solutions and Key Goals 

  • Find a way to extend the Walden Gathering model outside the Monterey property. 
  • Create a community around vulnerability to find deeper connections.
  • We need to create more economically viable models of living in nature (i.e., the small home movement and community gardens for food production.)
  • Create a platform for ideas, solutions, and results powered by small groups of hyperconnected people.
  • Provide more access to rural areas for lower income urban residents.
  • Make urban parks and rural areas safer.
  • Create programs to give people better access to farms and better connect them with local food producers (i.e., Barn Raiser)
  • Bring more nature into video games and indoor spaces.
  • Find solutions to make nature less scary for urban dwellers.
  • Democratize investing with a focus on women-run enterprises. 
  • Use business to transform the world and create tools for a better life balance every day.