Meet Michael Stone, ME to WE Board of Directors
Michael Stone is a globally-recognized leader in the field of investment—overseeing the deployment of billions of dollars of equity capital and investing in start-ups and enterprises in almost every major sector of the economy.
Michael is also one of the leading minds behind the RISE Fund. Launched in 2017 by Jeff Skoll, Bono and Bill McGlashan, RISE is a pioneering global initiative to create measureable social and environmental impacts through evidence-based investments.
The Michael and Karen Stone Family Foundation supports children’s causes and tackles poverty around the world.
We talked to Michael about his journey from ME to WE, and the power of social enterprise and the importance of measurement.
Question and answer
What was your WE moment, when you started thinking about how you want to have a more positive impact on the world?
There was a visceral realization 20 years ago that my work was going to leave me with a lot more wealth than I was going to need. It provoked a question: what am I going to do with it? I could leave a million to a fancy institution, or I could begin to really and profoundly change the lives of other human beings.
A ME to WE trip to Kenya in 2011 with my oldest daughter and extended family was a seminal moment. It changed my perspective on giving. Then came a realization that the highest impact might be creating change in sustainable way through a business model.
What do you bring to the table at ME to WE?
The primary way I try to add value is by looking at the 30 years and thousands of companies and projects I’ve engaged with and invested in, and bring to bear the most useful lessons and experiences. Using that experience, for example, in knowing the market and helping determine what products with what distribution strategies are going to allow ME to WE to have the most impact.
As a pioneer in impact investing, what are you seeing with the growth of social enterprise?
I think we’re in the first or second inning of what is nothing short of a revolution. The old model of business is a playbook that’s getting torn up—where a professional tries to make as much money as they can, and then takes some of the leftovers and puts it into a giving program. What is so magnificent is that professionals entering the market today no longer compartmentalize making money from giving back. They’re integrating both goals. And because of it, we’re making huge headway on these major sustainable development goals.
Why is it important for social enterprises to measure their impact?
We all have an intuitive sense of what might be a positive impact opportunity. It might be in education, or in health care. But the reality is that intuition may be correct directionally, but it’s very hard to have an intuitive sense of the magnitude—how great an impact you’re really having.
At RISE, we want to be working off rigorous third-party research that tells us precisely how much carbon will be sequestered by this project; how many years will be added to a life by this health care innovation. What is the sum total impact when you consider not just the positives, but all the other factors like the carbon footprint that will be generated by the project itself?
What I think is great about ME to WE is there is a dedication to the data, and to be tuned into the measurement opportunities around the impact it wants to deliver.