Nexus: Millennials on a Mission
By Brian Weinberg, Nexus
Aron Ping D’Souza, a young philanthropist and Australian native, first attended a Nexus Summit in London in 2012. There, he was exposed to Sir Ronald Cohen’s work on impact investing and social impact bonds. The idea that for-profit investing could be a vehicle for social impact was new and powerful to him. It ignited his imagination on how he could bring these new relationships and extraordinary ideas back to his home country in the name of good.
A little more than a year later, he launched Good Super, Australia’s first social impact retirement fund at the first Nexus Summit in Australia, which he chaired. Good Super is aiming to reach USD $1 billion in assets by the end of 2014, supporting countless companies taking on major issues, ranging from clean energy to extreme poverty.
The leadership of the Alana Institute, of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Marcos Nisti and Ana Lucia Villela (a member of the prominent Itau banking family) attended the inaugural Nexus Global Youth Summit in 2011. There, in a flash of inspiration, they conceived of a new business strategy to help tackle hunger issues globally. They started Satisfeito, a network of Brazilian restaurants that provide customers the option for a 2/3 portion of a given meal, at the same price, in order to contribute to Satisfeito. The money the restaurants save by serving the Satisfeito portion is then transferred to organizations that combat child hunger. Together, this program has sparked a funding mechanism that has provided over 44,000 meals for people in need.
How did this happen? What is Nexus?
At its core, Nexus is a movement. Practically speaking, it is a leading convener of young wealth holders and social entrepreneurs on topics related to philanthropy, impact investing and global problem solving. Participating families range from the Rockefellers and the Saudi royal family, to those behind major corporations like 7-Eleven, Hilton Hotels and more. The network boasts over 2,000 members from 70 countries. People from all around the world come together as part of this movement dedicated to a better world.
Nexus began in July of 2011, when Jonah Wittkamper, Rachel Cohen Gerrol and a small group of committed young visionaries convened the first Nexus Global Youth Summit on Innovative Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship at the United Nations in New York City. Their goal was to address several unmet needs: 1) Educate young wealth holders about the possibility of investing in worthwhile causes; 2) Feature leading young social entrepreneurs in the movement for global transformation; 3) Develop an annual platform to set agendas, feature youth-led innovations, and move the needle on key youth issues; and 4) Unite young philanthropy support organizations to focus and collaborate on youth issues, form globally diverse networks, and bridge the communities of wealth and social entrepreneurship.
Since 2011 Nexus has hosted over 10 summits around the world, and 20 teams are now self-organizing in their respective countries to continue to build the movement locally. Recently, Private Wealth magazine featured Nexus’ co-founders in an in-depth interview titled “Millennial Investors Unite,” and The New York Times covered the White House Conference on Next Gen Philanthropy that Nexus partnered with the Office of Science & Technology to help organize (http://nyti.ms/1oqpZ2v ).
Zac Russell, board member of the Russell Family Foundation and Nexus Advisor, says that Nexus’ value stems from the fact that “there is no agenda pushed onto me; it’s natural and real.” The conference itself begins with Nexus’ co-founder, Jonah Wittkamper, asking everyone to close their eyes. “Imagine for a second that in this one moment, everyone in the room will support you for the rest of your life,” he says. “This is an invitation to become a member of a different kind of community.”
It is a different kind of community. Some people describe philanthropy events as transactional, with participants solicited by a flurry of shiny auction items and expensive dinners. Many conferences are highly political and ideological, creating a polarizing experience for attendees.
Nexus is neither. It is relational. It creates a curated, safe space for authentic connection between members to both discover and build upon what excites them most. Whereas most programs that educate young wealth-holders about investing and philanthropy have historically prioritized questions of institutional credibility and academic expertise, this new model calls for hands-on experiences and peer-to-peer education. Nexus empowers young wealth holders to see their peers as leaders of social change and business innovation, thereby opening up new possibilities and planting seeds for more conscious investing and generosity. Organizing the young wealth education sector to be “for and by youth” is a new idea, and an unmet need.
In addition to mobilizing young wealth holders and social entrepreneurs, Nexus empowers financial service companies to get involved. More than 10 different financial service companies have chosen to send delegations of young people from their top client families to the 4th Annual Nexus Global Youth Summit. The firms are looking for new ways to better serve their younger clients’ changing needs, and organizing delegations help these firms build stronger relationships to better understand them. This is especially relevant given that more than 90 percent of inheritors switch to new advisors after they inherit.
And perhaps the major power behind Nexus is the fact that it is igniting one of the most important populations on the planet today: millennials.
Born between 1978 and 2000, millennials are unlike any generation that has come before. They are:
• the largest population cohort (95 million strong in the U.S. alone)
• more college educated than any other generation (63 percent with Bachelor’s Degree)
• highly technologically connected (84 percent sleep with their cell phone)
Their opinions matter and their passions run deep. Businesses asleep at the wheel will fail. Nations will be overturned. From Blockbuster Video to the Arab Spring, this changing power dynamic is already happening.
They are the future – and are at the forefront of massive amounts of wealth. A whopping USD $59 trillion in wealth will be inherited before 2061 in the U.S. alone. In 2018, millennials will also overtake the baby boomers in terms of having the largest spending power of any generation (USD $2.75 Trillion). Nexus represents an unprecedented opportunity to shape the future of young wealth holder education and global philanthropy.
Survey results speak for themselves. Of participants surveyed from the 2013 Global Summit:
• 82 percent reported that they are more likely to engage in philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, or impact investing as a result of their experience
• 89 percent reported “a change in the way they see themselves and their role in addressing global problems”
• 86 percent reported that they were planning to support the projects of other Nexus members
• 95 percent wished to nominate young wealth-holders and social entrepreneurs for future Nexus events
As children of the information age, 84 percent of millennials believe making a positive difference is more important than professional recognition.
Read that again: 84 percent of millennials believe making a positive difference is more important than professional recognition.
We have a choice: To be fearful of the future and lament the youth of today as being ignorant, or uncaring, or both. Or to have faith in the next generation, this new generation, and support the spaces that will bring out their best and unleash their brilliant potential.
It has been said that this is the first generation with the opportunity to decide if it will be the last. The challenges we face are massive and imminent – but so, perhaps, are the solutions. Nexus seeks to enable these solutions, and invites anyone that can, to be a part of it.
This year’s Summit will take place at the United Nations in New York City from July 23-26, 2014. Details at- www.nexusyouthsummit.org/global2014
Article by Brian Weinberg, the Nexus’ Global Operations Coordinator. Previously, he served on the investment team at MicroVest investing over USD $40 million in debt/equity investments across seven countries in Latin America. Brian also likes to start things. He founded justgood.org a marketplace that delivers happiness on demand. Other ventures include Blendedprofit.com, Givingtuesdaylive.org, Recycle to Eradicate Poverty, and a real estate firm. This work has garnered press coverage from organizations ranging from NPR to a documentary hosted by Jeff Foxworthy to partners like Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods, Grameen Foundation, and the City of Dallas among others. Brian has been awarded a number of fellowships and awards, including the Ashoka Youth Venture Ambassadorship & Grantee, Clinton Global Initiative U Grantee, Starting Bloc Fellowship, Sandbox Fellowship, and the Opportunity Collaboration Cordes Fellowship. Brian also writes for the Huffington Post and CSRwire in addition to hosting GAMECHANGERS; a thought leader interview series designed to push a constructive dialogue forward on how to grow the good economy.
 Generation We, a 2008 book about youth.
 Anonymous quote