Rukaiyah Adams on catalyzing change through community investment - Kathy Varol
rukaiyah adams
December 7, 2023   |   Episode #: 070

Rukaiyah Adams on catalyzing change through community investment

Show Notes:

Since 2023, Rukaiyah Adams has served as CEO of the 1803 Fund, an innovative firm that seeks to grow shared prosperity through the alignment of financial investments and investments in community-based organizations. It is not a conventional investment firm, and it is not traditional philanthropy—its work includes aspects of both and is ultimately about ‘investing for the people’.

Rukaiyah has been a pioneer in socially responsible investing, establishing key frameworks in the field. Previously she was CIO at Meyer Memorial Trust, where she spent 8 years growing the foundation’s assets under management to more than $1 billion. Rukaiyah has also managed a $6.5 billion fund at The Standard and chaired the Oregon Investment Council, the board that manages approximately $100 billion of public pension and other assets for the State of Oregon. During her time as chair, the Oregon state pension fund was among the top-performing public pension funds in the United States.

Rukaiyah holds a BA from Carleton College, a JD from Stanford Law, and an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In this episode we discuss:
✅ A need to move away from putting bandaids on broken systems and move toward building new systems with awareness and intention
✅ The problem inherent in reacting versus responding
✅ The gifts of awareness that 2020 brought


3 episode takeaways (listen to the full episode for a lot more gems!): 

1️⃣ The legacy of African Americans serving as the “original capital” in America is a deep stain on our history. It’s a narrative that’s still being wrestled with today. Rukaiyah explained it well: Imagine moving from being an object in the economic system to being a subject in control of it. Moving from being chess pieces to becoming the players.

With the lens of being players in control, let’s look at the term “capitalism”. The word “capital” isn’t just about dollars; it encapsulates the value and benefits you bring to the table through your skills, energy, and time. Think of it as the ink in your personal narrative. The “ism” suffix? It converts the noun “capital” into action, practice, and process.

No matter who you are, or what narrative society has tried to force on you, it’s worth asking yourself: what story do you want to help write with your ink?  How do you want to use your inherent capital to contribute to—or reshape—existing narratives? What practices do you want to support, and where can you build something better than we ever imagined possible?

2️⃣ Language isn’t just a collection of words and grammar; it’s the very framework that shapes our perceptions and dreams. If your aspirations are so grand that no existing term captures their magnitude, then it’s time to create new language.

Once that new language is in place, it acts like a bridge, facilitating collaboration and sparking movements. With this new language, we can evaluate the systems that support this new dream and identify those that act as roadblocks. Language shapes the way we think and defines the boundaries of our dreams; it’s a tool for both reflection and revolution.
* * *

3️⃣ Discomfort is a precursor to growth. Much like a toddler learning to walk, stepping into unfamiliar territory is bound to involve stumbles and moments of frustration. But it’s within this discomfort and uncertainty that expansion takes root.

When you stretch beyond your current boundaries, knowledge, and capabilities, you’re essentially investing in your future. And the currency? It’s your newfound growth and abilities. Discomfort always precedes expansion; it’s the gritty, less Instagrammable side of personal development. Yet, it’s precisely in navigating this discomfort that your new capabilities evolve and eventually become as natural as walking.


Site Design Rebecca Pollock
Site Development North Star Sites