How Do We Erase the Lines of Divide? Hearing from Aaron Walker of Camelback Ventures

Aaron Walker at Fuqua

This post was written by Kylie Johnston, CASE Fellow, Co-President of the Net Impact Club, and Candidate for MBA, in May 2017.

I am an Australian from a middle-income nuclear family of six. I went to a good Australian public high school, a great public university and have worked since I was fourteen and a half years old. I am a white heterosexual, married with no children and a faith-filled Christian. I use the pronouns he and she and identify as female.

These facts about me define how I experience the world and the lens through which I observe the experiences of others. Resoundingly these facts tell me I am privileged.

Aaron Walker at Fuqua

The system of privilege influenced my life’s story in an unearned and undeserved fashion. As Aaron Walker, founder and CEO of Camelback Ventures, discussed at the recent CASE Executive Speaker series, “The line between opportunity and lack thereof is as thin as the line dividing neighborhoods.”

It’s not just and it’s not right; we all have a responsibility to erase privileged systems. We should all ask the question, “How do I erase the lines of divide?”

For Aaron Walker, erasing the lines of divide means enabling every family to:

  1. Send their child to a high quality, local school
  2. Reside in a prosperous and livable community

Aaron and his team at Camelback Ventures work towards this by equipping social entrepreneurs that have promising solutions to education challenges with the capital, coaching and connections they need to launch their social venture and erase the lines of divide in the U.S. school system.

Using a fellowship structured program, Camelback Ventures has to date worked with 33 ventures, with 95% and 60% respectively led by entrepreneurs identifying as people of color and women. These diversity stats are not reflective of ‘typical’ demographics of entrepreneurship in the U.S. (dominated by people identifying as Caucasian and male), yet another way Aaron Walker and his team are erasing the lines of divide and creating change towards prosperous communities. Because diversity is much more than a public relations stunt, it is also a “strategy for change.”

In order to affect real social change, the movement of social entrepreneurship needs to leverage the insights and wisdom of people who have lived the problems we’re trying to solve. This goes beyond welcoming impact beneficiaries to the conversation; it requires us to make room for, and empower, the pipeline of talented minority entrepreneurs who, as Aaron Walker proclaims, are “creatively maladjusted” and who are fired up with the “urgency” of the problem. The problem is urgent and in my privilege I had no idea how much so. Some facts shared by Aaron are startling:

  • In the context of entrepreneurship, approximately $60 billion of friends and family investing occurs in the US. Only 2 – 4% of that goes to minority entrepreneurs.
  • It will take 228 years for an average family of color to earn the same as a white family.

Aaron Walker called it out so poignantly, “Racism is the most effective investment thesis ever.”

As current and future leaders in the field of social entrepreneurship, and simply as humans who believe that all people are equal, we have a responsibility to figure out what our privileges are and then help the unprivileged. We need to listen to, and be led by, the people across the line of divide to learn what to do, which way to go, and which way not to go in addressing community challenges. We have a call to action, from leaders like the entrepreneurs of Camelback Ventures, to effect meaningful change and erase the lines of divide.

Kylie Johnston (MBA 2017) is a CASE Fellow and Co-President of the Fuqua Net Impact Club. Before coming to the Fuqua School of Business, Kylie worked with the Queensland Farmers’ Federation in Brisbane, Australia. Read more about Kylie here.