We had the good fortune of connecting with Alix Lebec and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alix, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?\
2020 was a wake-up call. We’re living in this unique and yet turbulent moment in time, where it’s crucial for all of us to do everything we can to get our planet, society—and really, all of humanity—on a better trajectory. I found myself reading Jacqueline Novogratz’s new book—Manifesto for a Moral Revolution—every night at 2 a.m. last year, nodding in agreement that we absolutely need to “rebuild our systems in a way that puts our shared humanity and the earth” at the center of everything we do—as opposed to just profit. How do we get this to really drive the agenda for the global corporate and financial industries—where a majority of financial resources and influence resides? How can this—alongside business plans to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050—become the priority in Larry Fink’s letter to the business community each year, and at the World Economic Forum in Davos? We need massive transformation across the board. We need action. From the Black Lives Matter movement to women’s empowerment—we must address the major setbacks women are facing due to the pandemic, and the rampant and rising inequality in the world today.
Reflecting on my 16 years of experience in sustainability and social entrepreneurship, and my passion for creativity and dance—I knew it was time to launch Lebec Consulting. Bringing my entrepreneurial and creative superpowers together, I really wanted to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I wanted to rise to this moment and create transformational change. As I continue to support two great social entrepreneurial organizations focused on solving the global water crisis (Water.org and WaterEquity) —I launched Lebec Consulting to advise the broader philanthropic and impact investing community on the urgent need to be in the business of systems change. This includes championing and supporting solutions that address the root causes of inequality.
For more than a decade now, mainstream philanthropy has continued to stay (for the large part) conservative and cautious, developing and micromanaging an endless list of key performance indicators, and funding large organizations perceived to be the only ones that can absorb significant sums of funding to produce impact. While accountability—and ensuring philanthropy is strategic and impactful—is very important, our progress is stagnant. Meanwhile, the world around us is literally on fire—in dire need of systemic, transformational change. And as the concentration of wealth continues to skyrocket, we’re not seeing this trickle down in ways where we can realistically achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and ensure our planet will survive. Meanwhile, a highly effective ecosystem of social entrepreneurs, enterprises, and innovative non-profits demonstrating large scale impact are still not getting the funding they need to scale their work and impact. But there is reason to be optimistic, if we just have the courage and commitment to change this.
The global business and financial industries are slowly coming to terms with the fact that capitalism, as we know it, has run its course. They are working with trillions of dollars in capital to advance a global agenda that includes more priorities focused on the well-being of our planet. However, while there is more focus on climate change—and ensuring that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria are met—it remains unclear how this realistically translates to transformational change for the two billion people in the world today who don’t have access to safe drinking water for instance. The bridge between the world’s largest capital resources and systems change is still not fully there. We’ve talked about this for decades, but the change is simply not happening. As a result, thriving social entrepreneurial organizations who have gone through decades of due diligence—and demonstrated viable ways to unleash systems change—are not getting funded. They are unable to reach their full potential—limiting the immense value they can create for the world. Foundations across the board are still mired with conservative mindsets, endless and costly strategy development, and decision-making processes—with too many cooks in the kitchen, bureaucratic processes, and overly divided issue-area priorities.
Nonetheless, away from the headlines, there is a small number of venture and forward-thinking philanthropists—both women and men—creating an exciting level of change, and rising to this moment. They are operating quickly, with very lean teams, focused on global priorities, and investing big on organizations—not projects. They are in the business of building partnerships with their grantees, and focused on systems change. Lebec Consulting wants to help build a bridge and create this type of transformation in philanthropy. We want to normalize what mainstream philanthropy should look like today: venture, innovative, and largely unrestricted. We should fund organizations – not projects. For instance, in a world where US billionaire wealth went up by $1 trillion during the pandemic alone, why can’t the average philanthropic grant be $50M, unrestricted, and visionary? From creative story-telling, to venture philanthropy and impact investing, we want to help our clients—foundations, corporations, high-net-worth individuals, non-profits, and social entrepreneurs—achieve their greatest impact through bold philanthropy, impact investing, and systems change.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We are living through a great awakening. The global pandemic has brought the world to a halt, and exposed the insufficiencies of our current systems and the consequences of unbridled capitalism. Never before in our lifetime has systemic change been more relevant and vital. As we enter a new era where global pandemics, climate change, the global water crisis, systemic racism, and gender and income inequality continue to hinder our progress and the sustainability of our planet—we have an urgent responsibility to rebuild our systems and walk the talk. There is an entire network of successful social enterprises and organizations who have proven their ability to generate unprecedented impact and progress toward these global challenges—who are ready for philanthropic support that matches the scale of these issues and solutions. We need bold, transformational leadership to support these great changemakers—and we need it now.
Building on my experience at Water.org and WaterEquity—raising capital to bring visionary ideas to life, and changing mindsets among philanthropists and impact investors—I created Lebec Consulting to respond to this vital need, and shake things up in the philanthropic community.
Was it easy getting here? No. But it has been such a journey. One that has required humility, more listening, creativity, perseverance, and courage. I’m also excited to see the role women philanthropists, leaders, and creatives are going to play here to change the game—and frankly, many are already doing so. From MacKenzie Scott to Kristen Venick (Director of Giving at Niagara Bottling), Reese Witherspoon (with Hello Sunshine), Stacey Abrams, Sallie Krawcheck, and Kamala Harris—the number of women changing the narrative is growing, and the path forward is happening. Contributing to this momentum and playing my part is a huge piece of “my why”. If we can show that there is a new way of doing philanthropy and impact investing that is not mired in egos, doing the bare minimum, and endless bureaucratic decision-making processes—but that is truly about empowerment and systems change—then nothing is impossible.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We’d start by going to the local Cuban bakery in my neighborhood—Little Havana—where they have the best coffee and pastries in town. We’d then take a stroll through a community called The Roads, and walk toward the beach close to Biscayne Bay. Once we enjoy the sun and beautiful walk, I’d take her to Brickell city center to have the best vegan ice cream in town and check out the new shops, maybe get our hair done at the local Drybar—and then head to a park where I love to train and practice. I’m a big fan of house music, dance, and culture—so ideally if there was no pandemic, we would dance with some of my friends who love house music as well. We’d have dinner at a place I love in Miami Beach, called NaiYaRa.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are many mentors and people who have inspired, supported, and helped my journey. I would not be here without a key mentor—Gary White, who is the CEO and Co-Founder of Water.org and WaterEquity. Gary alongside my time at the Clinton Global Initiative introduced me to the world of social entrepreneurship, alongside strategic philanthropy and impact investing. Gary opened the door to many incredible opportunities for me to develop and contribute one of my superpowers: developing a strategic roadmap and raising capital, at the intersection of building something new and generating significant social impact. In 2020, it was Jacqueline Novogratz’s new book, and her journey, that really inspired me to persevere and dig deep in terms of how I could further use my network, skills, and resources to make a difference in the world. Jacqueline’s leadership and words reinforced something that deeply resonated with me: capitalism as we know it has run its course. She writes, “One of the things the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement make clear to all of us is that we need a new operating system. We need to rebuild our systems in a way that places our shared humanity and the sustainability of the earth at the core—instead of just profit. We need a radically different definition of what success is.” Additionally, reading Elaine Welteroth’s book—More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)—and following her journey deeply inspired me to get past my fears and work toward my dreams. Elaine writes, “If we aren’t vigilant, we can move through our entire lives feeling smaller than we actually are—by playing it safe, by unconsciously giving away our power, by dimming our radiance, by not recognizing there is always so much more waiting for us on the other side of fear. But when we are brave enough—to go there, to grab what we want, to tap into who we are—damn, it feels so good.”
Photos by Unmuted Brand