Marcy Murninghan

Co-Founder, Editor and Writer

Marcy Murninghan is a systems design thinker, scholar, author, educator, and entrepreneur. Her career has been devoted to channeling knowledge and ethics into systems of self-governance, thus advancing a culture conducive to human dignity, pluralist democracy, responsible markets, and wise statecraft. Since 1983 she has promoted the interrelated concepts of “equity culture,” “civic stewardship,” and “moral multi-capitalism” — that is, the integration of civic moral principles, ethics, and values into public policy, institutional governance and operations, and the media via ongoing organizational learning and proximate leadership. Her special emphasis is on corporations and capital markets, situated within a wider frame of public governance, policy, and accountability.

Her current work extends this concept further, through the formation of a demonstration project called the Equity Culture / Civic Fiduciary Action Labs (EECF AL), rooted in three American cities: Boston and Watertown, Massachusetts, and Lansing Michigan. Its aim: make financial capital more accountable and productive, in service to shifting yet timeless public interest priorities and diverse yet timeless interpretations of the common good — that is, its “common wealth,” rooted in civic virtue. Its focus: place-based wealthy tax-exempt institutions, and how they might align their multi-asset management policies and practices with a range of public interest priorities. Through both citizen and trustee-based “communities of inquiry and practice,” ECCF seeks to generate new knowledge and understanding about the management of human, economic, social, natural, built environment, and even spiritual assets during a time of tectonic shifts in our sociopolitical, economic, and climate ecosystems.

Marcy has worked in these realms for almost 50 years, concentrating on complex organizations, politics, and the integration of broadly-embraced civic moral values into the particularities of corporate, investor, and philanthropic governance, operations, and accountability. Her sensibilities were forged as a politician’s and journalist’s daughter in Lansing, Michigan, where family and community ties taught her that civic virtue could be lived every day, despite disagreements over style and substance.

To make the rhetoric real, from late 2019 through late 2021 Marcy helped usher the idea of “civic fiduciary obligation” to life via a new, voter-approved, Home Rule Charter for Watertown, Massachusetts. She is the primary author of the revised Charter’s new Preamble, which presents an “Ethic of Civic and Environmental Stewardship”, along with a set of Guiding Principles and aspirational outcomes.

While nonbinding, the Preamble can be used as a “civic covenant” or “moral compass” that helps guide, assess, and align decisions about the fair allocation of multi-capital public resources, in service to a more just society.

Saving democracy from within: Increasingly, constitutional scholars view preambles as important ethical frameworks for guiding, assessing, and aligning “wise statecraft” with governance behavior, outcomes, and impacts. As a statement of aspiration, belief, and commitment, preambles can be useful tools within a context of renewed questions about the future of multicultural democracy, values in public life, and how best to celebrate the nation’s 250th birthday in 2026. A preamble can serve as a stimulant to greater civic fiduciary competence and capacity regarding the ways a systems approach to “value creation” — that is, via total portfolio / multi-asset, multi-capital, and multi-investor activation — can bridge moral, social, political, and economic equity gaps. In other words, preambles can point the way toward strengthening multicultural democracy by making the money power serve the public interest, not the other way around.


Throughout the 1970s, Marcy developed programs to advance women’s opportunity and power, particularly affecting low-income women; in the mid-1970s, she worked with Rosabeth Moss Kanter on women’s issues in corporations, including an action research project that became the basis of Kanter’s landmark book, Men and Women of the Corporation. Because of this work, in 1978 she was asked by then-Superintendent Robert C. Wood to assume responsibilities for the administrative reorganization of the Boston Public Schools. The objective: bring it into compliance with Federal District Court-ordered desegregation goals regarding staff diversity, equity, and inclusion.

After doing this and graduating with a doctorate from Harvard in 1983 on school desegregation and institutional reform, Marcy moved into the corporate / investor responsibility realm, concentrating on social justice and South Africa. As president of social investment services at Mitchell Investment Management Company, Marcy also concentrated on the range of social policy topics — fair labor practices (including Northern Ireland), consumer quality, environmental stewardship, community involvement, international human rights —  throughout the 1980s.

At that time, her clients ranged from anti-apartheid groups to institutional investors and corporations. She also was widely quoted in the mainstream media for this work. In the 1980s and ’90s, she was a pioneer in linking the corporate governance movement with those engaged in corporate social responsibility / ethical investing.

To learn more about the roots of public pronouncements on “values,” Marcy was accepted to conduct post-doctoral work at Harvard Divinity School in the late 1980s. Her focus: exploring the “source code” of civic virtue and moral obligation. Her animating question: By what authority do we claim certain virtues, values, and principles as important — and how do we bring them to life in the real world of competing claims? At HDS, she examined the world’s great religious and philosophical traditions, and how their teachings might apply to capital markets, corporate governance and management, and public life. She discovered an etymological gold mine of material rooted in law, theology, medicine, and politics.

Throughout the 1990s while at HDS, Marcy taught courses on “Money and Morality,” “Wealth, Power, and the Public Interest,” and “Money, Media, and Morality.” As a research fellow at HDS’s Center for the Study of Values in Public Life, she also conceived and carried out a research project on the spiritual values of prominent CEOs on Wall Street, within Hollywood, and in journalism. The goal: examine how powerful people affecting flows of information, ideas, and financial capital integrate their spiritual beliefs and ethical commitments into their professional practice and public lives.

During this time, Marcy also collaborated with the late Greg Dees on the early stages of Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Initiative, and the early development of the Kennedy School’s Hauser Institute for Civil Society. At Babson College, from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s Marcy taught courses on voluntarism, philanthropy, and nonprofit management (before it was called “social innovation”) to undergraduate business majors. At both Harvard and Babson, through project-based service learning, the goal was the same: cultivate civic moral literacy and agency concerning the management of wealth, power, and the public interest, whatever the institutional form.

Marcy is founding president of The Lighthouse Investment Group (1987), which consults on values-based fiduciary duty, stewardship, and social responsibility issues. In 2007 through 2008 she was an INSPIRE fellow at the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University, where she explored ways in which CSR could be linked to disaster resilience and recovery. In 2009-2010 she served as a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative. While there she researched and co-wrote (with Bill BaueThe Accountability Web, a report on the intersection of Web 2.0 and corporate accountability, republished in two parts in The Journal of Corporate Citizenship. In 2009, she worked with Bob Massie in founding of the Consultation on Sustainability and Transparency in the U.S. (COST US), a nationwide network of leaders in the sustainability movement. She also has collaborated with the Harvard Islamic Finance Project on pathways between Islam, corporate responsibility, and financial stewardship.

In the world of practice, over the past 30+ years she has advised the Global Reporting Initiative, Ceres, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), KLD Research & Analytics (now part of MSCI), the Council on Foundations (on civic moral values in philanthropy), Ford Foundation (on equity ownership for South African trade unions), The Boston Foundation (on the nation’s first community foundation responsible ownership policy), the New York State Comptroller (on implementing the MacBride Principles), and numerous other organizations, including corporations. From 2011 to 2013 she also was a senior research fellow at AccountAbility, where she wrote monthly trend reports and other thought pieces.

Since 2012, Marcy has consulted with and advised the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB, now folded into London-based IFRS Foundation as a precursor to international sustainability standards); Boston’s Bay State Banner, an urban newspaper founded in 1965; and Boston Common Asset Management. Since 2015 she has served as a contributing writer and analyst for the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2) on organized efforts to influence corporate behavior on social, environmental, and governance issues. In July 2019 Marcy became a strategic advisor on ESG issues to Skysail Advisors, a Boston-based maritime, transportation, and logistics startup. In September 2022, she was appointed a Senior Advisor, Outreach and Engagement, to the Interim Dean at the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.

In 2018, the New England Journal of Public Policy, a publication of UMass Boston, devoted an entire issue to a selection of her writings, its theme being “Wealth, Power, and the Public Interest: Building Equity Culture and Civic Stewardship.”

Within academe, Marcy has held teaching and research appointments on “money, media, and morality”, philanthropy, responsible ownership and governance, and CSR and disaster response at Harvard, Babson, UNH, UMass Boston, and Tufts University. In 2009 and 2010, she audited courses at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on the use of interactive digital technology to advance professional learning, civic engagement, institutional accountability, and social change.

Within public life, she continues to work with former Governor Michael S. Dukakis and a team of public transportation advocates  on building the North South Rail Link as a critical piece of first-class regional rail. Along with human rights and climate, infrastructure is a social justice issue that could be strengthened by greater participation on the part of tax-exempt institutional investors. Taxpayers and grantmakers shouldn’t be the only parties that pay for public interest priorities.

Formative Influences

A direct descendant of four who fought in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, Marcy hails from a family of public servants and progressive Republicans. Her father, Max E. Murninghan, was a Purple Heart Marine in WWII, then a city councilor and mayor of Lansing, Michigan, during the 1950s and 1960s; her mother Patricia P. Murninghan was a journalist with The Kansas City Star and International News Service, later serving as an active volunteer and board member of many nonprofit organizations. Marcy’s grandfather, Joseph W. Planck, was an attorney, Michigan’s first Supreme Court Commissioner, onetime president of the State Bar of Michigan and Lansing Board of Education, and, earlier in his career, Lansing’s City Attorney. Marcy’s great-great grandfather Dr. Edgar A. Planck was a Michigan State Senator and committee chair as well as a doctor in southwestern Michigan / northern Indiana at the turn of the 20th century. Both system thinkers and scientists, Dr. Planck and physicist Max Planck were second cousins.

A fierce art lover, in her spare time Marcy enjoys museums, street art, perusing old graphics, fonts, and “ghost signs” on brick buildings, as well as swimming at Blodgett Pool, reading  nonfiction, watching good TV, and staying in touch with friends.