Other Group

Just Economy Institute (JEI)

Website:

justeconomyinstitute.org

Type:

Fiscally-Sponsored Group

Director:

Deb Nelson

The Just Economy Institute (JEI) is an advocacy group which pushes for wealth and resource redistribution towards left-of-center political, social, and environmental causes through both government policies and private-sector initiatives.

The JEI describes itself as a collective of “financial activists” working to change to “purpose of wealth” in American society, and one of the institute’s primary projects is a fellowship program which trains such activists and assists them with networking. Through this program, prospective activists are taught to target multiple policy and finance spheres, from economic regulations to business practices to investment strategies, for transformation in line with the institute’s principles. In particular, the JEI promotes “social justice giving & investing”—an approach similar to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) activism, which pressures corporations and investors to direct funds towards left-of-center causes and adopt left-of-center business practices. 1

Background

The Just Economy Institute was founded as the Integrated Capital Institute by activist entrepreneur Deb Nelson as an initiative of the investment firm RSF Social Finance, which openly states that it selects projects to fund based on their compliance with left-wing race, gender, and identity ideology. RSF also sets its internal hiring policies in a way that favors minority groups and monitors its employees for signs of alleged “unconscious bias.” The institute announced its rebranding from Integrated Capital Institute to JEI in October 2021. 2 3

Following the rebrand, it transitioned into a fiscally sponsored project of Possibility Labs, a corporate management training and therapy provider. 4 Possibility Management, the parent organization, claims to help clients express their “uniqueness” and “true calling” by freeing themselves of the alleged “patriarchal empire” of the modern world. 5

Activities

The flagship initiative of the Just Economy Institute is its nine-month fellowship program for left-of-center activism-oriented entrepreneurs, investors, and influencers. The program includes instruction on a wide range of topics, from the perceived destructive effects of capitalism, to alleged ways to mitigate them through wealth and resource redistribution, to investment strategies for maximizing support for left-wing political and social projects. The institute also provides support for graduates of the program by providing networking opportunities and helping direct activists towards prospective causes. 6

Impact

The Just Economy Institute fellowship program trains an average of 28 activists per nine-month term. As of May 2023, the institute claimed to be actively supporting and working with more than 150 fellows and alumni. 7 Participants in the JEI fellowship program have included entrepreneurs, prominent industry influencers, and high-level nonprofit sector employees. 8

Alumni Initiatives

Just Economy Institute 2019 graduate Wendy Cooper went on to launch Dragonfly Ventures, an investing and philanthropic institution with an environmentalist and general left-of-center activist focus. Cooper describes Dragonfly as relying on “feminine approaches” such as “nurture” and “emotion” which she contrasts with “masculine” entrepreneurship strategies such as “logic and independence.” Dragonfly distributed $1 million each in 2020 and 2021 to support its favored organizations though the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to its regular investing. 9

JEI 2023 alumni Daisha Versaw and Christopher Williams have become involved with Bank Black USA, a project which promotes Black-owned financial institutions and businesses by pressuring the public to deposit and invest money with them. 10 11

JEI alumni Yichen Feng and Sabrina Wu went on to work on the Lunar Project, an initiative aimed at connecting left-wing activists from Asian, Black, and other racial minority backgrounds. The Lunar Project claims to have at least $20 million available to invest in its favored causes. 12

Leadership

Deb Nelson is the founder and director of the Just Economy Institute, which she launched as the Integrated Capital Institute with the support of the activist investing firm RSF Social Finance, where she was the vice president of client and community engagement. She was also previously the executive director of the Social Venture Network, a collective for activist corporate leaders. The network went on to rebrand as the Social Venture Circle in 2018 and merge with the similar American Sustainable Business Council in 2022 with the goal of becoming a left-of-center competitor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 13

Tina Beck oversees the development of new programs at the JEI. Like the institute’s founder Deb Nelson, Beck previously worked for the Social Venture Network. 14 15

Funding

Funders of the Just Economy Institute include the Kataly Foundation, which primarily backs racial minority activist groups, and the Heron Foundation. 16 The Kataly Foundation granted the institute a total of $600,000 in 2021 and $250,000 in 2022. 17

References

  1. “JEI Overview.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/about/jei-overview/
  2. [1]“New Just Economy Institute Accelerates Growth and Impact for 125+ Strong Network of Financial Activists.” Just Economy Institute. October 12, 2021. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/2021/10/12/new-just-economy-institute-accelerates-growth-and-impact-for-125-strong-network-of-financial-activists/
  3. “About Us.” RSF Finance. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://rsfsocialfinance.org/vision/how-we-work/
  4. “Supporters.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/supporters/
  5. [1]Possibility Management. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://possibilitymanagement.org/
  6. “About Our Fellowships.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/about-our-fellowships/
  7. JEI Overview.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/about/jei-overview/
  8. “About Our Fellowships.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/about-our-fellowships/
  9. “Leading with and Celebrating Feminine Values.” Just Economy Institute. October 28, 2021. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/2021/10/28/leading-with-and-celebrating-feminine-values/
  10. “Make Them Endure, Give Them Space.” Just Economy Institute. April 11, 2023. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/2023/04/11/make-them-endure-give-them-space/
  11. Bank Black USA. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://bankblackusa.org/
  12. [1]“The Lunar Project.” Just Economy Institute. July 14, 2021. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/2021/07/14/the-lunar-project/
  13. [1]“Deb Nelson.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/team/deb-nelson/
  14. “Tina Beck.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/team/tina-beck/
  15. “Deb Nelson.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/team/deb-nelson/
  16. “Supporters.” Just Economy Institute. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://justeconomyinstitute.org/supporters/
  17. Grantees – Just Economy Institute.” Kataly Foundation. Accessed May 4, 2023. https://www.katalyfoundation.org/grantee/?_sf_s=just%20economy%20institute
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