Panel + Q&A (*Maximum 4 Panelists)

Impact Investors Build Resilience in Indigenous Communities Impacted by COVID-19

You voted for this

Indigenous Peoples are among the groups hardest hit by the spread of COVID-19. Given the lack of access to health facilities and basic supplies, the virus is already having a particularly dire impact on some of the more remote Indigenous Peoples. Poverty, remoteness and marginalization are part of why many Indigenous communities are experiencing the brunt of the virus, as are colonial legacies and institutionalized racism.

In many places, Indigenous Peoples are stewards of natural resources representing critical biodiversity that needs to be preserved to combat climate change. The impact of COVID-19 and ensuing economic crisis are weakening the capacity of Indigenous communities to protect their local environment, further threatening to accelerate climate change. 

This panel will explore the responses from impact investors to address the repercussions of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities and how impact investors can build resilience in the indigenous space. Panelists will draw from experiences and examples in North America, South America, and Southeast Asia. 

Topics will include the impact of the crisis on livelihoods and basic services, self-determination responses, strategies that impact investors use to pivot and maintain their support, as well as recommendations for strengthening the Indigenous economy ecosystem. 

The panel will also explore the role of storytelling to share the stories and strengthen the voices of Indigenous communities during this time of crisis.


Confirmed Panelists

Loïc Comolli: Loïc is Co-CEO of NESsT, which invests in enterprises providing quality jobs to empower communities and sustain the planet. Loïc has twenty years of experience spanning the private and nonprofit sectors. He has worked in 30 emerging market countries, providing consulting and financing to 1,000 social entrepreneurs. He launched new NESsT programs in Brazil, Poland and Romania, and set up the organization’s first U.S. office. He oversees the NESsT Enterprise Fund, an impact investing fund deploying capital into high-impact enterprises. He also oversees the Amazon Incubator, a new program investing in conservation enterprises preserving tropical forests and generating livelihoods for indigenous communities. Loïc has strong expertise in the design of corporate programs and partnerships with leading businesses such as Nike, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and Accenture. Before NESsT, he was Consultant at AES Consulting, an economic litigation consulting firm located in San Francisco. Prior to that, he worked in the Palo Alto, CA office of Charles River Associates, a global consulting group. He is a frequent speaker on the topic of impact investing, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy, and impact management. Loïc co-authored 11 publications on the social enterprise and impact investing ecosystems around the world. Loïc has an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley Haas School of Business. He speaks fluent English, Spanish and French.


Crystal Echohawk: Crystal Echo Hawk (Pawnee) is founder and CEO of IllumiNative. Throughout Crystal’s career, she has been a respected, passionate and successful advocate for the rights of Native Americans with a special emphasis on Native children and educating philanthropy and different sectors of the American public to help transform public perceptions of tribes and Native peoples. Through her company, Echo Hawk Consulting, she and her team have worked to create new platforms, narratives, strategies and investment that can help to catalyze transformational change for and by Native Americans. Crystal was recently recognized by the National Center for American Indian Economic Development as its 2018 “Native American Woman Business Owner of the Year.” Crystal recently designed and co-led the 2-year, $3.2 million research and strategy setting initiative Reclaiming Native Truth Project. The project was completed in June 2018 with the national release of the research findings that have been widely recognized as groundbreaking. Through the vehicle of IllumiNative, Crystal will work with a respected team of Native artists and thought leaders in pop culture, media and social justice to advance new narratives for Indian Country in partnership with Native communities and allies that can transform hearts and minds and dismantle the invisibility, erasure and toxic narratives that impact Native peoples today.


Jeff Cyr: For nearly 20 years, Jeffrey Cyr has provided strategic leadership for Indigenous, not-for-profit and government organizations. He is Metis and from the traditional territory of the Metis Homeland in the Red River Valley in Manitoba, Canada and a proud husband and father of five. He is currently a Managing Partner of Raven Capital Partners, CEO of the Raven Indigenous Impact Foundation; Managing Director of Lacerte and Cyr Indigenous Solutions (Indigenous management consultancy firm), Chair of the Indigenous Innovation Council for the Indigenous Innovation Initiative at Grand Challenges Canada and a guest lecturer at Oxford Univerity’s SAID Business School in Social Finance. Recently, he was Vice-President of the Indigenous Innovation Initiative at Grand Challenges Canada and sessional lecturer at Carleton University in Public Policy and still acts as a Senior Director of Partnerships for the Moose Hide Campaign, a grassroots campaign to end violence against women and children. Mr. Cyr has been active in supporting Indigenous social innovation and building Indigenous social finance mechanisms in Canada. He is the former Chair of the Institute Advisory Board for Indigenous Peoples Health at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Prior to establishing Raven Capital, he was the Executive Director of the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC) and spent over a decade working in the Government of Canada in key leadership roles. A graduate of the University of Manitoba, Mr. Cyr holds a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Languages and Politics and Masters of Arts (with distinction) in Political Studies/International Relations.

David Rothschild: David Rothschild brings 25 years’ experience in philanthropy and working with Indigenous Peoples to his work at Nia Tero. Prior to Nia Tero, David held program leadership roles with the Fossil Foundation and the Skoll Foundation. Before turning to philanthropy, David worked alongside Indigenous Peoples in the Amazon from positions at the Inter-American Development Bank, the Field Museum, and the Amazon Alliance for Indigenous and Traditional Peoples.

Share this session idea


  1. This is a very interesting topic considering the efforts and trend to promote sustainability amongst indigenous communities through social businesses development in the tourism industry, and the fact that this industry has been severly hit by the pandemia: what are the strategies that impact investors are using to support the communities while protecting their investments? How will future investments in this particular sector assess risk and adjust for that?

  2. Would be curious to see how COVID-19 is changing the demand of the products — are these businesses getting more national or international demand, especially as essential businesses providing food and ag products? Will this make superfoods more accessible to the local economy?

  3. This discussion is very interesting and complex. As a society, we need to be aware of what the indigenous community is going through, and how impact investing can accomplish significant changes in their quality of life. Taking into account that this global pandemic is affecting these human groups more seriously due to their lack of health resources, exposure to climate change and in many cases little government assistance; this will be an important topic to cover.

  4. The Amazon region is full of superlatives for its scale, complexity and opportunity; this is a great chance to know how impact investors can support indigenous communities´ businesses and resilience. I am specially interested about the experiences shared across regions.

Leave a Reply to Christiane von Koeller Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *