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In celebration of Indigenous People’s Month, we had a special guest on the recent episode of The Finance Cafe Podcast: Sage Lacerte, the founder of Sage Initiative, a national Indigenous women’s impact investing collective. Sage Initiative empowers Indigenous women impact leaders through a trauma-informed learning curriculum, focusing on Indigenous concepts of wealth and commerce. In this episode, Sage shares her journey and the vision behind Sage Initiative, aiming to create a circular economy and make capital accessible to Indigenous-owned, social-purpose businesses. 


The Power of Impact Investing

Sage clarifies the concept of impact investing, emphasizing its positive effects on Indigenous people, the environment, and fiscal returns. While fiscal returns are important, she highlights the value of sacrificing some of those returns to achieve significant social impact. Impact investments are long-term commitments, often spanning ten to fifteen years, allowing capital to create lasting change. Sage shares her journey of discovery and the heartfelt responses from community leaders who expressed their desire for a safe place to learn financial literacy skills and competencies.


Empowering Indigenous Entrepreneurs

Sage Initiative not only aims to attract investors but also supports Indigenous entrepreneurs by facilitating access to capital. Indigenous businesses often face a lack of funding, hindering their growth and potential. By creating a circular economy within Indigenous communities, Sage Initiative ensures that the flow of capital remains within the community, fostering sustainable and impactful ventures. Indigenous women have demonstrated their ability to utilize capital effectively, resulting in greater sustainability, social impact, and consideration for the environment.


The Importance of Indigenous-Owned Social Purpose Businesses

Sage emphasizes the significance of investing exclusively in Indigenous-owned social purpose businesses. Research shows that Indigenous women’s entrepreneurship has a more sustainable and impactful effect compared to other groups. By aligning their personal investment thesis with entrepreneurs who share a similar vision, Sage Initiative aims to achieve prosperity and health for Indigenous people. Furthermore, Sage’s focus on sustainable energy projects underscores the urgent need to address environmental concerns alongside social impact.


“Even when you hear ‘no,’  it might just mean that you’re coming across someone who might not have the same theory of change as you, who might not have the same vision as you, and that’s okay.” Sage Lacerte


A Different Path: Designing the Sage Initiative

Sage’s personal journey and academic background in gender policy shaped the design of the Sage Initiative. Instead of perpetuating the Western-centric approach prevalent in mainstream finance education, Sage recognized the importance of honoring Indigenous epistemology and creating a curriculum rooted in Indigenous concepts of commerce. Growing up in a community that valued the gift economy, Sage drew inspiration from the potlatch, a traditional Indigenous ceremony centered around sharing and reciprocity. By incorporating the principles of the gift economy into the curriculum, the Sage Initiative aims to foster inclusive and communal financial practices.


Nonlinear and Relational Learning

Acknowledging the limitations of siloed and linear learning, the Sage Initiative embraces the nonlinear and relational nature of Indigenous knowledge. While covering essential investment skills like risk assessment and due diligence, the initiative goes beyond technical competencies. It fosters a larger network of mentors, often referred to as aunties, uncles, and cousins, who provide ongoing support and guidance. This approach ensures that the learning experience extends beyond the six-month cohort model, nurturing participants’ personal growth and resilience.


Capital Beyond Finance

The Sage Initiative recognizes that financial capital alone is insufficient. It emphasizes the importance of social capital, community connections, and entrepreneurial mindset. By facilitating access to financial resources, social networks, and mentorship, the initiative aims to empower Indigenous women and gender nonbinary individuals. It seeks to transcend the boundaries of traditional community structures, allowing participants to tap into broader networks that can provide valuable insights and opportunities.


Money as Medicine

Sage’s perspective on money is deeply influenced by the concept of “money as medicine.” Inspired by Edgar Villanueva’s writings, particularly “Decolonizing Wealth” and “Money as Medicine: The Journal,” Sage embarked on a personal journey of self-reflection and healing in relation to money. Growing up with a scarcity mindset, Sage realized the transformative power of shifting the narrative to view money as a tool for creating positive change. Money, when approached with intention and in alignment with Indigenous values, can enable individuals to pursue their passions, contribute to their communities, and cultivate generative economies.


Intellectual Intimacy and Overcoming Failure

Within the Sage Initiative circles, the topic of money often elicits discussions around opportunity and failure. Participants frequently associate failure with a lack of self-worth and fear the potential consequences of pursuing their ideas. Sage encourages indigenous women to embrace intellectual intimacy, creating safe spaces for sharing ideas and receiving support from their communities. She believes that even when faced with rejection, understanding that different visions and theories of change exist fosters healthy dialogue and helps individuals find like-minded collaborators.


In conclusion, the Sage Initiative represents a groundbreaking effort to build a national ecosystem of Indigenous womxn impact investors. With a trauma-informed learning curriculum rooted in Indigenous concepts of wealth and commerce, the initiative empowers Indigenous women impact leaders and supports Indigenous entrepreneurs in accessing capital. Ultimately, the Sage Initiative stands as a beacon of hope and empowerment, paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future for Indigenous communities.

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