Last November, I attended an inspiring presentation by Acumen where I heard for the first time about their Lean Data Initiative for impact measurement. The main advantages of this approach are: collecting meaningful data through lean surveys in less time and with less cost by using low cost mobile technology. In addition, it can be used as an interactive tool, to not only measure, but manage impact as key data is collected efficiently providing a fast and clear insight of the social performance achieved. This is quite a revolution from the traditional impact measurement that was designed primarily for the use of donors and investors. This puts the customer/beneficiary first and it becomes a management tool for the service/product providers to improve their ongoing operations in order to deliver even higher social impact. Another pioneering organization that has been developing new tools and methodologies leveraging technology for measuring social and environmental impact is Root Capital. Root Capital is an agricultural impact investor that grows rural prosperity in Africa and Latin America by providing loans and training to agricultural enterprises that are reaching small-scale farmers. Root Capital’s Client-Centric Mobile Measurement aims to generate the data needed about impact on small-scale farmers, while creating value both for the farmers and for the agricultural enterprises. These innovations are significant as it will improve and increase positive social and environmental impact and also accelerate and increase investments for impact. Learn more.
Firdaus contacted me that he was in Zurich so we had a spontaneous lunch this week (27.6.2017). He was in Italy shortly before and was planning to travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) but this trip was cancelled due to the unfavorable security situation. He recently completed three animated shorts to combat violence in DRC and Ecuador (tensions rising at the border as 600,000 Colombians have moved to Ecuador). If this is successful, it can be again replicated for use in other countries.
Firdaus founded Chocolate Moose Media in 1995 to produce animation, documentaries, videos and television series designed to educate, entertain, and change societal and individual behavior. The themes and campaigns range from HIV&AIDS prevention (The Three Amigos campaign), protection against malaria (Buzz and Bite), Ebola prevention, Zika virus, domestic violence (No Excuses), refugees, human rights, solar energy, and dementia. Over 3,500 animated videos in 188 language versions are available online at vimeo FOR FREE!
This is an immense rich resource available for governments, businesses, social enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, schools and individuals to use it to sensitize, educate or raise awareness on all these relevant issues. Needless to say, a short animated film or a short video that can communicate the core message of a complex issue is very effective and powerful. He mentioned the renewed interest in refugees, a topic very close to his heart, as prior to his media career, he worked for the Canadian government dealing with immigration and refugee policy.
We met 7 years ago as we both attended the Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford Graduate School of Business and we have kept in touch. It was the third time we met in Zurich. Everytime I am impressed of the positive impact he is creating. Thank you, my friend. I certainly hope that more people and organizations make a lot more use of his powerful videos.
On June 22, 2017 Kiva announced that their life-changing loans had reached 1 billion mark, an amazing accomplishment! Congratulations to the Kiva team especially Matt, Jessica and Premal! In this journal we covered Kiva 4 times since 2006. Soon after they started operation, when they reached 100 million, when they had growing pains and when they started student loans. It has been great to use Kiva in the classrooms to teach microfinance and to give Kiva cards to friends and family to discover their different interests and passions. Thank you Kiva and keep up the great work!
The 14th Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship took place on April 4-7. This year’s theme was Fault Lines: Creating Common Ground. As boldly described in their welcome message;
Globally, rifts are emerging along cultural, class, and political lines as globalization and the digital revolution have benefited some, and left some behind. The divide grows in how people perceive-and experience-the world which represents a threat to a peaceful and prosperous future. Can we design a world where our common humanity outshines our ideological, cultural, and political differences? Together we’ll rise to new ideas, new perspectives, and ultimately, new relationships built on trust and a mutual desire for human progress. We’ll highlight innovators around the world creating common ground through their drive, creativity and leadership.
It was not only an inspiring forum but a very rich and powerful gathering with bold and innovative ideas and exchanges happening, one of the best that I have attended in the past 11 years.
Highly recommended videos to watch… and if you would like to see more here is the entire playlist.
-Jeff Skoll talks with Jim Kim, President of World Bank Group (29min)
-Jess Search talks to Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani (22min)
-A chilling and fascinating analysis by Michael Porter of HBS on what is the problem in the USA: Porter on Populism (90min)
Meet the Skoll Awardees of 2017 (link includes a 5 min intro to all 4 Awardees)
-Kola Masha: Babban Gona is an investor-owned social enterprise serving networks of smallholder farmers in Nigeria with a model created specifically to attract youth. The first for-profit company to receive the Skoll Award
-Elizabeth Hauser: Build Change trains homeowners, local builders, engineers, and government officials to construct or retrofit disaster-resistant houses and schools in emerging nations vulnerable to earthquakes and typhoons.
-Rajesh Panjabi: Last Mile Health partners with government to deploy, support, and manage networks of community health professionals and to integrate them into the public health system. Working in Liberia.
-Bradley Myles: Polaris systematically disrupts human trafficking networks and restores freedom to survivors. With experience and expertise from direct victim services such as hotlines and resource centers, to policy advocacy, Polaris provides a data backbone for the sector.
A big thanks to Jeff Skoll, Sally Osberg, Stephan Chambers, the Skoll team and the Saiid Business School for their awesome work.
The 2nd Impact Investing Congress organized by seif took place in Zurich on Jan 24th.
Some takeaways and highlights
-The space continues to grow rapidly and somewhat chaotically as new players from all segments with different aspirations and products enter and push for mainstreaming impact investment. Growth is great and as a result you can’t avoid some growing pains. Some big banks such as BBVA and Barclays are becoming more active in this field.
-Rod Schwarz, CEO of ClearlySo introduced the recently launched ClearlySo Atlas, an impact assessment solution for private equity investors and venture capital investors. Atlas asseses the impact of portfolio holdings enabling investors to map, track and report on their impact and sustainability. What is great about this tool is that it targets the mainstream investments managers/portfolios (not only the impact investments) to improve on its impact. This goes along with Rod’s and ClearlySo’s belief that we are moving from the two dimensional investment criteria (return vs risk) towards a three dimensional one adding impact as a feature to all investments.
-Antoni Ballabriga , Global Head of Responsible Business at BBVA made an impressive presentation on how this large bank has recently gone through a transformation involving 28,000 of their employees around the globe to (re)define their purpose. The bank’s purpose is now “To bring the age of opportunity to everyone” and thus their new tagline is “Creating Opportunities”. With the WHY being cleared, the WHAT and HOW follows. These opportunities will be offered through: financial products that meet individual customer needs; financial education programs; transparent, clear and responsible communication; commitment with the environment; support to entrepreneurship; and promotion of culture and science, among other initiatives in favor of society. Let’s see how the initiatives of another large financial player reshape the universe – for the time being let’s give them the benefit of doubt.
-Phyllis Costanza, CEO of UBS Optimus Foundation updated us on the positive results so far of their first Development Impact Bond, an innovative instrument which brings in new money and cross sector partnerships for development. They are working on a new DIB and hopefully many other DIBs would be launched by other institutions in the future.
-The closing was a very interesting panel that debated on the now and future of impact investments in Switzerland which gave us much hope but equally cautions as the industry grows and mainstreams with differing views on the extent of the impact (improving some things vs solving the real problems) that the organizations would like to create.
Thanks seif for organizing this productive Congress.
Acumen started operations in 2001 with a pioneering concept, a non-profit venture capital for the poor, using philanthropic (patient) capital to invest in entrepreneurs that would be capable to create sustainable solutions to big problems in poverty. For the past 15 years, they have been helping to build companies, developing leaders and sharing ideas. Their impact to date: $103m invested in 96 companies, 200 million lives impacted, 310 leaders developed, 17 Acumen Chapters, and 320,000 people have signed up to the Acumen leadership courses. Impressive figures! However, why Acumen continues to be one of the leaders/innovators in this field is because they can’t be content on just seeing these figures. They go deeper in trying to understand the real impact (qualitatively) by developing impact measurement/metrics.
Our Impact Framework: We work to understand impact from the moment we begin due diligence on a company throughout the lifetime of the investment. Working closely with our companies, we generate, analyze and use data that enables them to understand and improve their social performance. Our aim is to unlock their full potential and achieve the greatest social change for the customers they serve. (source Acumen)
As Acumen defines its success as how well their investments are enabling the poor to improve their own lives for the long term, they measure the social performance across 3 dimensions: 1) the focus on the poor 2) the breadth (the number reached) 3) depth (improvements). So they look at impact from all these fronts. They use lean data which has made it much more efficient, faster and cost efficient to understand their impact. Another great contribution of Acumen is how they share their ideas and findings. +Acumen which comprises online free leadership courses and is rapidly becoming “the world’s school of social change”.
The ninth SOCAP, the conference at the intersection of money and meaning took place Sept 13-16 with 2500 attendants, 10 tracks and 12 parallel meetings. It looked overwhelming how this conference has grown but judging from the plenaries and sessions, it has grown in breadth and depth in a solid remarkable way and whilst expanding keeping its feet on the ground. The Opening Plenary discussions and talks made us reflect that the “why” is as important as the “how” on impact investments was a great way to set the tone for the conference. The sessions on impact evaluation and measurement, mapping the impact investment landscape with collaborative data, gender lens investing, a total portfolio approach on fossil investing and B Corps, show the richness and evolution of this movement. Congratulations to Rosa Lee Harden, Kevin Jones, and Lindsay Smalling for the tremendous work!
There are many talks and sessions you can find of SOCAP16 in youtube. Some of my favourites were:
Jed Emerson, Blended Value
Impact at Scale
Shifting Culture Towards Equity
Also the following three sessions were very interesting but it requires a bit more time to watch. The Transformative Edge of Impact Navigating Impact Investing: the Pursuit of Clarity and Simplicity Evolving Impact Measurement over the next decade
On July 10th, Prime Minister Modi of India interacted with 40 Solar Mamas trained by Barefoot College in Tanzania. PM Modi took great interest in all the vocational and entrepreneurial activities that the Solar mamas are conducting such as solar electrification, tailoring, bee keeping and honey making. In fact he was very happy to take home some of the products like robes and honey which are now sold commercially in Zanzibar.
Barefoot College has trained solar mamas in 74 of the least developed countries. This project is done in collaboration with the Indian government. The founder Bunker Roy has lead this organization for 42 years and recently handed over the operational responsibilities to Meagan Fallone, CEO of Barefoot College International. In the last 2 years BCI has started to scale the vocational training activities by building training centers outside of India. The first such training center was launched last year in Zanzibar. 5 more training centers will be launched in Africa and a few in Latin America, Asia and South Pacific.
Congratulations Bunker, Meagan, and the whole Barefoot College team!
(disclaimer: the author is a board member of Barefoot College International)
The European B Corp Summit, a celebration for People Using Business as a Force for Good, took place in Rome on June30 & July1. Two energetic days of learning, sharing, networking amongst the rapidly expanding global B Corp community (currently 1809 companies in 50 countries). The focus was on brainstorming and action planning on how can we continue to accelerate this movement. Powerful messages through numerous inspiring speakers including: Pedro Tarak of Sistema B, Lorna Davis of Danone, Thomas Van Craen of Triodos Bank, Bryan Welch of B the Change Media, Mirella Zuidgeest of thermaflex, Corey Lien of DOMI, Pablo Sepulveda & Eloisa Silva of Birus, and Christoph Barman of Loyco. Thanks to the B Lab Europe team and Nativa for organizing such an impactful event!