We recently held a video panel discussion with experts in the field of education and educational technology, to further explore the topic we first raised in our report Investing in the Future of Work. The Cornerstone team was joined by:

The discussion centered on the need for ongoing, lifelong learning, and the different forms that may need to take in order to better enable the workforce of tomorrow (and today, in fact) to better adapt as technology changes and new skills become key to success.

The future is specialized. The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is affecting the professional job market in much the same way automation and robotics impacted production and service jobs over the past decade. The current turmoil in the global economy may temporarily slow the pace of change, but could trigger accelerated adoption of AI as economies recover and companies seek to reduce reliance on personnel. The question remains: As technology advances and the required workforce skills change, will there be enough skilled workers to fill those future jobs? How can workers acquire the skills needed in the new paradigm?

Rethinking education and training. The U.S. employment market pre-pandemic was characterized by millions of unfilled jobs along with a pool of underemployed or “discouraged unemployed” who had given up seeking work. When economic activity resumes, this dynamic will still exist and may in fact be exacerbated by ongoing social distancing and companies’ ramping up focus on technological solutions to business challenges.

What can investors do to help close the growing skills gap? Reskilling and upskilling may provide the answer to the current and future employment skills gap. We have identified a series of funds that invest in practical solutions to help train, reskill and upskill the workforce of today and the future. Some of the funds focus on improving the skills of young people just entering the workforce, and some provide lifelong learning needed to adapt to the rapidly changing economy.

In this report, we address the widening workforce skills gap and identify the socio-demographic groups that may be most exposed to changing technology such as automation and robotics. We identify specific investments which may help close the widening skills gap. We also share case studies of innovative training and skill-building programs.

Download Investing in the Future of Work 

We are pleased to invite you to a webinar to discuss the Future of Work with experts in the field on Tuesday, June 9, at 2 pm ET. The discussion will focus on investment opportunities that promote practical solutions to help train, reskill and upskill the workforce of today and the future. Register here.

Cornerstone Capital Group Founder and CEO Erika Karp addresses the state of impact investing, offering a clear distinction between impact investing, ESG analysis, and sustainability. No matter what labels are used, someday this will all simply be called “investing.” Note: This video originally appeared on cornerstonecapitalfunds.com

SDG 4: Quality Education seeks to not only increase the number of children in school but to enhance the quality of education and boost learning outcomes. A good education is pivotal for successful lives and strong communities, but over 250 million school-aged youth around the world are not in school, and disparities in access to educational resources and outcomes remain strong.1 Without renewed efforts to address these challenges, many children will be left behind without the knowledge and skills to adapt to a rapidly changing world. SDG 4 is further refined by targets that can be more readily translated into actions. These targets highlight the interconnected nature of the goals: For example, strategies to support Quality Education complement those that support SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality). Below are a series of synergies that can come from providing access to products, services and systems that work toward providing Quality Education.

Access to Fair Treatment and Equal Opportunity

Discrimination and unequal opportunity prevent students worldwide from engaging in school or accessing quality education. Inequalities are well documented in the U.S., where schools of majority-black students tend to have less-experienced teaching staff and offer fewer advanced courses than other schools.2 Globally, gender-based harassment and lack of adequate sanitation facilities cause female students to avoid school or drop out entirely.3 Discrimination and prohibitive infrastructure are also serious problems for students with disabilities, about 90% of whom are out of school, even in developed countries.4 Clearing a path to quality education for all will require equal access to opportunities and resources, and the end of unfair treatment.

Learn More About Investing in Solutions for Quality Education

Access to Telecommunication Systems

Access to communication technology opens up a wide array of potential for schools and independent learners. The ability of a teacher to employ the internet as a classroom tool increases the variety of online content available to supplement curricula and is linked to better learning outcomes.5 Proficiency in computer and internet use is also an increasingly important skill for success in the global workplace, and incorporation of these technologies in educational settings ensures that students will be better prepared for life after school.6 Beyond these benefits, promoting better access to communication technology in schools will reinforce the push within SDG 4 for inclusive and equitable education. This is due to the persistent “digital divide” evidenced by disparities in internet access and digital literacy on a global scale and within countries like the U.S.7,8

Access to Education

On average, one in five school-aged children are out of school — a figure that is higher in regions such as southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.9 Even for those in school, not all have access to quality education, leading to substandard learning outcomes and a lack of proficiency in critical skills like reading.10 Poverty, distance, displacement and discriminatory environments are well-known barriers to education access, but underinvestment in the education system in the world’s poorest countries also acts to limit opportunities.11 Beyond K-12 education, job training enables those in the workforce to build the skills necessary for career advancement and adaptation to shifting trends. However, not all businesses prioritize employee training equally, leaving room for improvement in enhancing access to this important form of education.12

Learn More About Investing in Solutions for Quality Education

Access to Affordable, Sustainable and Modern Energy

Modern energy and electricity act as catalysts for education. Electric lighting in schools allows classes to be taught early in the morning and late at night, and lighting in the home means extended potential study hours for students.13 Electricity can also bring access to the internet, an increasingly important teaching tool, and enables the use of computers and digital media. Along with lighting, the presence of these electricity-based resources has been shown to boost enrollment, learning, and even teacher retention.14,15 Despite recent progress, 188 million children worldwide still go to schools that lack electricity; for sub-Saharan Africa, this represents about 90% of primary-school-aged students.16 Bringing modern energy to underserved areas can greatly enhance learning environments for current and future generations.

Access to CleanWater, Sanitation and Hygiene

Illnesses attributed to unsafe drinking water account for the loss of 272 million school days each year, especially in developing countries.17 Absences and dropouts are also common when poor household water access causes children, especially girls, to spend more time collecting water and less time at school.18 Girls are even less likely to attend school if sanitation facilities are not private, not safe, or simply not available.19 Furthermore, recent research points to negative cognitive effects of dehydration and water-borne infestations that can limit students’ ability to learn.20,21 Globally, about half of all schools have basic hygiene services and 30% lack safe water supply,22 but efforts to address the problem have been powerful — attendance rates have risen dramatically in schools after the addition of clean water or adequate sanitation facilities.23

Learn More About Investing in Solutions for Quality Education

SDG 4: References

1 Education Data Release: One in Every Five Children, Adolescents and Youth is Out of School. UNESCO. http://uis.unesco.org/en/news/education-data-release-one-every-five-children-adolescents-and-youth-out-school
2 https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2019/01/15/equal-opportunity-in-american-education/
3 Global education monitoring report gender review 2018: Meeting our commitments to gender equality in education. UNESCO. 2017.
3 https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/10-barriers-to-education-around-the-world-2/
4 ovacool, B. K., & Ryan, S. E. (2016). The geography of energy and education. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 58, 107–123.
6 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Transforming education: the power of ICT policies (Paris: UNESCO, 2011)
7 https://learningportal.iiep.unesco.org/en/issue-briefs/improve-learning/curriculum-and-materials/information-and-communication-technology-ict
8 https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/R1698-digital-divide-2018-08.pdf
9 Education Data Release: One in Every Five Children, Adolescents and Youth is Out of School. UNESCO Institute for Statistics
10 http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/sdg4-digest-data-nurture-learning-exec-summary-2018-en.pdf
11 https://educateachild.org/explore/barriers-to-education
12 https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2018/02/22/447115/better-training-better-jobs/
13 Electricity and education, UNDESA. 2014
14 Sovacool, B. K., & Ryan, S. E. (2016). The geography of energy and education. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 58, 107–123. 15 World Bank Development Indicators Database, December 2014
16 Electricity and education, UNDESA. 2014
17 Raising Clean Hands: Advancing Learning, Health and Participation through WASH in schools. 2010. https://www.unicef.org/media/files/raisingcleanhands_2010.pdf
18 Water Hauling and Girls’ School Attendance: Some New Evidence from Ghana. Céline Nauges & Jon Strand. World Bank. 2013.
19 Raising Clean Hands: Advancing Learning, Health and Participation through WASH in schools. 2010
20 Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, Williams SCR, Calvert GA, Hampshire A, et al. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Human Brain Mapping. 2011;32:71–79
21 Edmonds CJ, Jeffes B. Does having a drink help you think? Appetite. 2009;53:469–472
22 Drinking Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene in Schools. Global Baseline Report 2018. WHO
23 UNICEF, Advancing WASH in Schools Monitoring, 2015.

On May 20, we hosted a video webinar with Cornerstone’s Katherine Pease and Craig Metrick, who provided an overview of our new impact measurement framework, the Access Impact Framework.  Katherine and Craig provided background on why Cornerstone created the framework, our rationale for basing our framework on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and described our methodology.

This article originally appeared in Investment News on December 13, 2018. 

Sustainable and impact investors are set to intensify their decades-long support for action on climate change on the heels of a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Fourth National Climate Assessment, issued by the U.S. government.

The U.S. government notes that unless urgent action is taken, climate change could shrink the U.S. economy by hundreds of billions of dollars every year in direct costs. Consistent with these findings, the IPCC’s alarming (and unsurprising) conclusions are that urgent global economic transformation is needed to head off catastrophic damage to ecosystems, communities and economies beginning within a quarter century.

Many investors now understand that climate change is not merely an environmental issue but a material economic risk for long-term portfolios. However, investors should avoid a single-minded focus on climate change that ignores the relationship between ecosystems and human development.

The IPCC report stresses that an effective fight against climate change must include efforts to achieve sustainable development goals such as gender equality, the eradication of poverty, and food security.

In other words, how we fight climate change matters. Even the most optimistic scenarios will require substantial human adaptation to changed ecosystems, which will be especially challenging for poor or marginalized communities. Achieving sustainable development goals will strengthen the ability of poor communities to adapt to inevitable change and complement more direct efforts to mitigate climate change. However, these climate mitigation efforts by themselves may either help or hinder progress towards the sustainable development goals.

For example, mitigation strategies such as reforestation or biofuel development may reduce the land available for agriculture at a time when crop yields are already declining because of rising temperatures and water stress. The resulting increases in food prices have the effect of reducing buying power and possibly destabilizing civic and political cultures in developing countries.

Conversely, sustainable agricultural strategies, conducted with attention to social equity, can increase food security and counteract some of the negative effects of climate change on drinking water, biodiversity and income inequality, while reducing greenhouse gases associated with intensive farming practices.

The empowerment of women can also support and reinforce both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Improving the quality of cookstoves available to poor women has the direct effect of reducing fuel use and deforestation. It also reduces asthma rates, which improves educational outcomes, and empowers women by freeing them from the labor-intensive “drudgery” of traditional cooking methods.

Numerous studies have also shown that as women gain education and empowerment, they earn more income and often choose to have fewer children, which is associated with reduced poverty and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

The introduction of modern technologies such as cookstoves into poor households would have an undeniably positive effect on quality of life for the poor and the resilience of their communities. However, the resulting increase in the demand for energy could undermine the intended climate benefits unless these strategies are accompanied by investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency — both of which come with additional benefits for income and energy access.

These and many other examples demonstrate the need for a holistic understanding of the connection between issues of climate and human development. Yet much of the financial capital flowing into climate mitigation today is motivated solely by opportunities for financial return arising from new public policies and the dramatic improvement in renewable energy technology.

These flows are important for achieving global scale for environmental solutions. However, a lack of attention to the social dimension of investment decisions may create a blind spot for unintended consequences that counteract environmental benefits.

The insights of sustainable and impact investment offer an essential complement to mainstream financial analysis. Integrating environmental, social and economic concerns into investment analyses can yield a more nuanced understanding of the complex interactions between climate and society. As part of this analysis, a commitment to stakeholder engagement will help investors incorporate the perspectives of local communities who will be impacted by investment decisions — because, as the IPCC report notes, climate change will impact people differently depending on geography, income and culture.

So what can investors who are concerned about climate change do? First, their investment policy statements should explicitly incorporate both climate change and key related social issues, such as gender equity, poverty, food security, and health. Second, the evaluation of investments or investment strategies intended to address climate change should integrate an analysis of their impact on broader sustainable development goals. Third, investors should use their voice to ask companies, governments and financial markets how climate change and sustainable development is incorporated into policy, planning and performance measurement.

An effective response to climate change will require the mobilization of every resource available to society, including governments, business, and civil society. Given the unique power of financial markets, investors can contribute to a long-term solution or exacerbate existing problems. Sustainable and impact investors have an opportunity to influence the outcome, if they choose to take it.

“Creativity and innovation are the keys to developing the potential of individuals, organizations, and nations.”

— World Economic Forum, 1999 Annual Meeting, Davos, Switzerland

For the past 40 years, I’ve been absorbed in many exciting “ArtScience Adventures” that directly connect to impact investing in the creative economy. Most of my adventures aim to better understand the nature of creativity and innovation, in order to help realize humanity’s creative potential.

A few months ago, a friend engaged me in a conversation about impact investing in the creative economy. Pondering our conversation, it occurred to me that I’ve been doing impact investing ever since I moved to Denver in 1993 and founded Think Like a Genius® with my brother Eric Siler and Scott Perlman. Although we never categorized the business model we created and invested in for 20 years as impact investing, indeed that’s what we were doing as we creatively used the arts to positively impact communities in the Denver-Metro area, as well as nationally and internationally.

The overarching challenge in cultivating innovation rests with how we educate ourselves and prepare our minds for chance discoveries, to paraphrase Louis Pasteur. As a student, Pasteur was so exceptional at drawing, which he favored over academics, that he might have become a professional visual artist if it weren’t for the encouragement of his school’s headmaster. His prepared mind combined artistic imagination and scientific experimentation to produce a series of revolutionary discoveries and innovations, which included the “germ theory” of infectious diseases, the study of viruses and microbiology, and “pasteurization.” As it turned out, the same powers of observation Pasteur exercised as an artist were essential to his pioneering work in the science lab.

On a similar note, Thomas Friedman hit the mark when he stated in a New York Times op-ed, “Worried About India’s and China’s Booms? So Are They”[1]: “Innovation is often a synthesis of art and science, and the best innovators often combine the two.” To build on Friedman’s observation: In the Smithsonian Oral History Interview with Steve Jobs (April 20, 1995), Jobs states: “The things I’m most proud about at Apple [are] where the technical and the humanistic came together…I actually think there’s…very little distinction between an artist and a scientist or engineer of the highest caliber. I’ve never had a distinction in my mind between those two types of people. They’ve just been to me people who pursue different paths but basically kind of headed to the same goal, which is to express something of what they perceive to be the truth around them so that others can benefit by it.”

Frankly, fostering innovators in all fields without the aid of the arts is just wishful thinking.

Today, we’ve expanded and blurred our definitions and examples of exceptional art-making and we find ourselves connecting the arts to everything! And why not? Art, like Imagination, goes with anything! Just as A.I. enables anything to go with innovation![2]

Innovation –> Application

Truth be told, “best practices” in both the arts and sciences rely on the creative process of connection-discovery-invention, or innovation-application. Consider how neurologists study a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) brain scan searching for anomalies in the shapes, sizes and architecture of the human brain. In effect, they’re using all kinds of aesthetic descriptors and cues to communicate to one another the essence of a possible pathology or lesion (Siler 2015, 2012).

Unfortunately, formal education has become so compartmentalized that even brilliant practitioners sometimes overlook the fact that in unpacking the mysteries of nature they are making as much use of arts knowledge as science; that, in fact, at the highest levels of creative inquiry these ways of knowing cannot be separated.[3]

My art-making, research and exploratory ArtScience work on human creativity over decades has led me to conclude that, although we’re racing to become the most technologically connected society in human history, we remain conceptually disconnected in ways that dangerously deepen our divisions culturally, socially, intellectually and economically. In effect, our compartmentalized ways of seeing, understanding and experiencing the whole of life continue to fragment us and our collective future.

More to the point: In the mid-1980s I was researching the use of symbolism in art and architecture in southern India on a Fulbright Fellowship. It’s worth noting that I embarked on this adventure before the advent of the World Wide Web “Gold Rush”. However, I could see so clearly—even at that time—there seemed to be less regard for the great art and philosophy that help shape India’s astonishing culture than for acquiring the coveted tools of telecommunications. The pressure to “westernize” blinded many to what their symbolic artforms and metaphorical philosophies already privileged them to know—namely, that all open “creative” systems, such as human beings, live far from equilibrium. That term, equilibrium, is more readily associated with the physics of thermodynamics and not Hindu philosophy. However, as one probes the latter—for example, the Maitrayani Upanishad, an ancient document that illuminates the relationship between matter and spirit (or energy) — one discovers numerous insights into physical reality and nature’s innovation engine: the evolutionary process.

But you don’t have to a Nobel laureate or an Indic scholar to see how creative critical thinking is so naturally entwined in both the arts and sciences. To miss this reality or dismiss it is to be ignorant of the history of these two complementary worlds of applied knowledge and creativity.

Integrating Arts and Science in Education

Many of our American public schools still don’t see this bigger picture. Nor have they figured out how to remedy the situation by integrating the arts and sciences in teaching the National Standards-based curriculum. In the rush to exhibit competencies in science and math, many schools forget that students are more than the sum of their skills. When district, state or federal initiatives reveal that students are performing deplorably in science and math, they often jettison the arts—leaving students even further behind as teachers scramble to meet the “No Child Left Behind” test score mandate and School Report Card. There’s simply no time to “play” with the arts and humanities. Consequently, the human imagination is marginalized, trivialized or sacrificed like so much fresh air at recess.

To compete more effectively in today’s globalized world, our educational systems need to call on the arts and sciences to create informal learning experiences that inspire innovative thinking and practical innovations. These adventurous experiences tend to propel integrative thinkers to advance new concepts by empirical tests, bold thought experiments, and basic common sense.

The Think Like a Genius® Metaphorming workshops—which I’ve been conducting in various forms and functions for the past 40 years—make use of some proven, arts-based learning methods and tools for catalyzing and cultivating innovative thinking. This all-purpose process of creativity and communication provides a “global common language” for people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures to freely express their ideas and solutions for important challenges, in ways that are personally meaningful and purposeful to them and to others. The facilitator ensures that the process of exploring and sharing these models is done in non-judgmental, non-confrontational and non-contentious ways.

Using everyday crafting and building materials, participants are guided to freely create a personal, multi-dimensional, symbolic model, or “metaphorm,” that enables them to visualize and give form to their thoughts, feelings, emotions, ideas, knowledge, views, and opinions. Since 1993, when my brother Eric Siler, Scott Perlman and I started working together in Denver on our company, we have applied the Think Like a Genius® Metaphorming Workshops on various innovation-oriented projects for schools, businesses, cultural centers, and communities. Eric has continued to apply these workshops in the organization he founded and currently heads as CEO, the Think Like a Genius® Foundation (TLGF)[4], a Denver-based non-profit that helps young people realize their creative potential by collaboratively meeting various challenges in practical ways, as well as through goal-setting and achievement. TLGF is “challenging young people to find ways to solve community issues that affect children and youth, and [we’re] providing the means and incentives to do so.”

Furthermore, they’ve been used successfully for many years as part of the “Art of Science Learning” (AoSL) Initiative[5], which was founded by Harvey Seifter, Principal Investigator, and funded by the National Science Foundation.

If anyone doubts why or how impact investing in the creative economy helps “make a better world,” simply remind them of all the avoidable human catastrophes since 2000 that may have cost us our future—which is a whole lot more overwhelming than the trillions of dollars we have wasted while critically destabilizing our sense of civil society. Sadly, many of these human-made catastrophes could have been prevented or curtailed had we wisely invested in the creative economy, which supports nothing but the positive “things” that unite and strengthen our sense of humanity, such as tackling the most urgent “15 Global Challenges facing humanity”. Why not make more financial resources available to address these challenges with viable solutions instead of adding to them? That makes real common sense!

This is an excerpt from Cornerstone Capital’s report Creativity & The Arts: An Emerging Impact Investing Theme.

[1] The New York Times, March 24, 2006.

[2] Geoffrey Ozin and Todd Siler, Catalyst: New Materials Discovery: Machine-Enhanced Human Creativity, Chem 4, 1183–1190, June 14, 2018, Elsevier Inc

[3] Jacob Bronowski, Science and Human Values (New York: Harper & Row, 1956); Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein 2000, 2008; https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/attachments/1035/arts-foster-scientific-success.pdf; Seifter et al. 2016; http://www.artofsciencelearning.orghttp://bif.is/summit/video/harvey-seifter-fluid-relationship-between-art-and-science#.WBEWoRSsmV8

[4] www.thinklikeageniusfoundation.org

[5] http://www.artofsciencelearning.org/metaphorming/


“Creativity & The Arts” is a relatively new theme for impact investors to consider, despite being embedded in every cultural and technological advancement that has occurred since the dawn of civilization. As illustrated in this report, many impact-focused development initiatives integrate arts and creative endeavors, even when not defined as such. This highlights the importance of establishing common frameworks of understanding when considering impact investing.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), though not originally designed for investment or philanthropic applications, have become an important frame of reference for sustainable and impact investors. We at Cornerstone Capital Group have been developing our own framework for supporting investors to incorporate SDGs into their investment process. Our efforts have focused on:

One challenge we face in considering the SDGs in an investment context is their interrelated nature. Performance or improvement in any one SDG will likely be highly correlated with performance across a range of SDGs. Similarly, one can make a case that “arts and creativity” are intertwined with almost every SDG.

Of particular relevance to this report are SDG 5: Gender Equality and SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities. Several of our contributors specifically reference the ways in which artists and creatives who are women and/or people of color and/or LGBTQ can be nourished and supported through affordable live/work art spaces. These are tangible examples of how art and creativity can be considered in the context of the SDGs – and specific investment opportunities.

As an example of the interrelated nature of the SDGs, affordable housing in a broader sense is responsive to SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. One can target SDG 11 as a matter of personal interest, while simultaneously considering SDG 5 and SDG 10, using art and creativity to connect the three.

In addition to creative culture serving to connect various impact investment goals—and more important—it is a bridge-builder between and among cultures. The arts can help communicate shared human experience in ways that transcend language and other societal structures and social norms. The arts offer amazing ingenuity, fresh and unique perspectives, and uses of media and tools from across every corner of the globe and every culture.

With this report, we hope to convey the numerous ways in which a focus on the arts and creativity can reveal meaningful and impactful investment opportunities. We can readily identify opportunities not only to support artists and creatives themselves, but also the spaces in which they live and work, the positive effects that they can bring to the communities in which their work is made and shown, shared experiences and bridging of cultures and communities, and improvements in the overall human condition.

At Cornerstone, we think of impact investment in a total portfolio context. This report shares perspectives from asset owners who are interested to find a fiduciary-level investment perspective on this issue. We hear from entrepreneurs using art and creativity as a driver of value in their business models. We also feature several managers currently offering diversified managed investment strategies in the private equity and fixed income asset classes, as examples of the creative thinking occurring in the finance arena. As the landscape of such opportunities continues to develop, Cornerstone will thoughtfully review the investment and impact goals of all such strategies.

Creativity and the arts are critical elements to finding the solutions to the systemic challenges that we face today. For those ready to participate in creating a better world through impact investing, we welcome the inclusion of arts and creativity as guideposts to our investment process, and an important new tool to creating the more sustainable world we want to build.

According to Professor Boaz Golany of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, collaborations must be SMART: Sustainable, Mutually Attractive, with Reliable, Transparent partners. This is the guiding principle of the Technion’s venture with Cornell University to form the Jacobs Technion – Cornell Institute, a blossoming technology hub on New York City’s Roosevelt Island.

On January 6, Cornerstone  had the pleasure of hosting Professor Golany  for a provocative lunch conversation facilitated by Dr. Derek Yach, Chief Health Officer of the Vitality Group, also a member of the Board of Cornerstone Capital Group.  Professor Golany shared with us the remarkable story of the birth of the Technion – Cornell partnership, which is already becoming a vibrant and innovative addition to the applied research engine of New York.

The conversation touched on these questions and more: