Marius, what is your story and motivation behind founding a non-profit organization “Silver Line”?
Asked by Justas Janauskas
@justas asked me to share my story what were the reasons to start Sidabrine linija. So, here it is (a long read).
I'm an investor. I have been trading capital markets - stocks, commodities, fx - for the last 20 years. It took 24 hours a day for me and... one day I just got tired. Or excausted. Or maybe more matured as an investor. Maturity came not from years spent doing this or that in investing (advising clients, trading my own capital, always searching and researching new ideas, products, instruments, you name it) or capital earned (and lost) during the process but rather from the change in a mindset that extra dollar in your clients' (or even in your own) pocket will not make you more happy.
On a personal life there was also a big trigger: our daughter was born premature. The life has changed upside-down almost overnight and we were not ready for such dramatic changes. The first three months of hers life was marked by our three times a day visits to the hospital and spending as much time there as possible, following hers fight for the life every single day.
Approximately two thousand preterm babies are born in Lithuania every year. Their
lives essentially depend on intensive care facilities. 95 percent of these babies
survive and grow up. However, even the survivors may never be fully able to breath,
see or think. Intensive medical care in the first weeks of their life is impossible
without modern means, enabling even a 0.5 kg newborn baby to grow up a healthy
As we almost lived in a hospital we had "insider" view on health care and treatment methods and technology. Some were very old schoolish... Although we can say only the best words on professionalism of the staff, the lack of modern and innovative technology was clearly seen. So we decided to "thank you" not only with flowers or pics of our happy daughter but also asked what do they need from a technology side that would help them in their daily work fighting for the life of premature babies.
That is how our family foundation was started in 2014. Combining the dilemmas of extra dollar in professional life with events in personal one we decided not just to make a single monetary donation but rather institutionalize our charity initiatives to make an impact as big as possible to help as many kids as possible. In order to improve the nursing conditions for those who cannot take care of themselves, we purchased in Australia (with a prior approval of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Children’s Hospital) and endowed the hospital with an ultrasonic cardiac output monitor USCOM 1A. It is one of the most modern devices in the world for critically ill patients. It allows a non-invasive assessment of heart work and blood circulation using the ultrasound-based technology and enables a real time monitoring of over 20 heart function parameters. In Lithuania, the USCOM cardiac work and blood circulation assessment technology has not been applied for the newborns yet, thus it was a new qualitative step in improving the quality of the smallest patients’ treatment and increasing their survival chances. Few years later we were informed on the number of saved newborn lives because of USCOM and it was in double digits.
As it was quick and efficient process and we ourselves were as much happy as the hospital staff we asked for more: do you need anything else? That is how our new project emerged and in late 2015 we granted a human milk analyser Miris HMA to premature babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Children’s Hospital. This innovative technology created in Sweden helps to measure the macronutrient composition of human milk contributing to a better outcome for the baby, the family and the clinic. By then Miris HMA analyser was the only such device in Lithuania (not sure on the current situation). With the minimum time and fuss, the analyser gives energy, fat, carbohydrate, and protein content in human milk. This allows hospital staff to focus on the necessary intervention and supervision. The fact that Lithuania was one of the rare examples within European Union not yet using such technology in its hospitals, was the main reason why we decided to buy the device and fill the gap. Later it become the cornerstone of the newly established donor mother milk bank.
We as a family were newcomers to the charity and social sector having no any prior experience, knowledge or understanding. During 2015 when both projects were done we realized how much kids get attention from many parties involved, charitable giving including. We do understand that for many years to come it won't be "too much" of that attention to fill all the gaps, however, we started to look for new areas or niches receiving a lot less and needing a lot more.
At present, Lithuania has more than half a million of population aged 60 or over and our population has been aging at the fastest pace in the whole European Union. It's estimated that in 10 years’ time 65+ aged people will make 1/3 of the total population in Lithuania. Based on the latest Global AgeWatch index data Lithuania ranks only 63rd out of 96 countries in terms of living conditions and welfare for the elderly people. The main problems a person faces with at the twilight of hers life are social isolation, poverty and health issues related to old age. Loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
We picked ageing as a theme and elderly people as a "clientele"; since then one of the main focus areas of our foundation is to improve the quality of life for the elderly people. We aim Lithuania to become an age friendly country where old age people are an integral and important part of the society, where everyone fosters appropriate respect for seniors and seeks old age people to live a dignified, purposeful, active and healthy life.
We have started with social action #Prisiliesk (#Touch, bit.ly/prisiliesk), then our flagship be-friending and support helpline Sidabrine linija (sidabrinelinija.lt) was born in 2016, later, in 2017-2018, to celebrate the centennial of the restoration of the independence of Lithuania we have implemented a project 100 metu kartu (100metukartu.lt) - it is a project of artistic visualizations that feature memoirs, experiences and life stories of the contemporaries of the Republic of Lithuania and their families, through photographs and documentary films (you can still buy the album for an absurdly low price of €10).
Sidabrine linija (the Silver Line) – a free of charge befriending and support line providing information, friendship and advise to old age people. It offers regular befriending calls; combats loneliness and supports isolated elderly people; protects, supports and empowers those who are suffering abuse and neglect; offers information, friendship and advice; clears the air for the good mood and a better health; empowers elderly people to overcome difficulties.
The number of registered users of Sidabrine linija“ has already exceeded 3 200 – so many people were managed to find a new friend to talk to, and thanks to a growing crowd of 500 volunteers and a number of donors they all felt interested and important and needed to someone again. All together they have already had and enjoyed almost 60 000 befriending and emotional support calls lasting more 1 200 000 minutes. That creates a huge social impact diminishing loneliness and isolation and enjoying the countless hours of better, happier, healthier and longer lives.
Loneliness is agony and we need to protect our elderly people from being abandoned and too ashamed to admit it. Sidabrine linija is a brilliant and effective way of doing that. They just can’t wait any longer.
In addition, we set ourselves an ambitious goal to bring Lithuania into the community of age-friendly countries nurtured by the World Health Organization (after three years of work, the city of Vilnius was the first in the Baltic States to be admitted to this community in January 2019, and the most significant real change in Vilnius was the establishment of Senjorų avilys (Seniors' Hive)).
For me personally, this is a radically new stage in life. Unfamiliar until then, but impacted so much that I no longer want to go back. In terms of their dynamics, that fascinating uncertainty, their daily challenges, the two stages of life are hardly different, but in terms of the impact they create on the “serviced” audience and the real change in their daily lives, they are two completely different worlds. It’s much more sensitive, much stronger, much more affected. That's why I don't want to go back. Dear funds, bonds, stocks and financial markets, please forgive me, although I loved you so much, my new passion captivated me even more. At our foundation we want to remind and keep repeating that old age is not a disease we need to treat or a problem that needs to be addressed. It is a natural and inevitable stage in every person’s life. Older people are here, next to us, so let’s look back, notice, hear, bring them back to a full life.
Now let's get back to the beginning of the story. I'm an investor. And will also be. Just changed my investment mindset from being for-profit investor to for-social-impact investor. Or at least a combination of the two. That wakes me up each morning for the last five years already and I don't see any reasons for changes in the foreseeable future.
What is the Spectrum of Impact Investing Approaches?
Given the field’s growth and increased number of actors, the last ten years have also seen a proliferation of definitions and terminology related to impact investing. In fact, strong opinions prevail regarding whether or not the term “impact investing” is the best to capture this field. While some prefer mission-related investing or sustainable/responsible investing, still impact investing is most commonly used.
Rather than arguing about the terms, let's discuss three approaches and one overarching strategy to describe impact investor practices. Depending on who you are—and your goals and capacity—you may have the resources and willingness for some but not all of these approaches. See the image of the home as a good metaphor for describing these approaches to managing and being accountable for your assets.
Clean Up: This approach reflects the belief that your assets should align with your values, and by holding or divesting specific assets you can increase that alignment and express your values. For example: Clean and remove toxins.
Renovate: In this approach, you select assets based on specific investment criteria that define eligible and ineligible investments with the goal of incorporating the positive and negative externalities into your investment decision. For example: Paint your house.
Add a Room: By picking a specific theme, you are using your capital to drive the generation of a specific environmental or social impact. For example: Add a new addition to your house.
Manage and Measure: This overarching strategy is to continuously measure and manage the positive and negative impact of your assets and respond to new data and events. You will track the emergence of new environmental and social movements, as they become impact investment products. For example: Maintain and repair your roof.
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors yesterday published its handbook for impact investors, a refresh of a guide they first published ten years ago, a lifetime ago in impact investing. It is a comprehensive (182 pages) guide to the nuts and bolts of impact investing, with some help from a 45-year old avatar investor named Sophia.
With so many people now trying to get themselves oriented in investing their money for social and environmental impact, it is excellent to have a fully updated primer for beginners, and a reference book for the more experienced.
The Handbook is available (for free) at: https://lnkd.in/dH8qK7U
Impact investing is becoming an increasing panacea among investors. I don't rule out that this will soon become not only an exclusive privilege for the "big boys", but will spread to retail investors, regardless of their portfolio size. After all, today you can invest with or for the social impact having just a few hundreds on hand.
I spent a good hour listening to UK social impact start-ups pitches to investors. Some turned out to be quite interesting, others a little too far ideologically or even geographically (yes, it still influences). But without exception, everyone's conclusion was one you want to write in capital letters:
GIVING * IS A NEW MARKETING.
* In the broadest context of this word: from the implementation of social responsibility strategies through the support of selected social initiatives to direct investment with or for social impact with or without financial return.
Fun fact: this year, the fingers of one hand are not enough to count the requests received by M. Čiuželio labdaros ir paramos fondas (M. Ciuzelis Charity Foundation) from various business entities for publicity in exchange for the support provided. Do you feel the difference? Not us who go and ask for the support, but vice versa. This is a direct reflection of the conclusion in capital letters.