Category Archives: innovative partnerships

Paradigm shift? From shareholder primacy towards commitment to all stakeholders

1080x360_BcorpOn August 19th, 2019 the Business Roundtable (the association of CEOs of America’s leading companies) released a new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation. This new statement was signed by 181 CEOs who commit to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders-customers, employees, suppliers, communities and stakeholders. This is a significant move away from their stance since 1978 as principles issued until now endorsed shareholder primacy (that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders).
The long-awaited paradigm shift! Or shall we be sceptical that these changes will be implemented?
In the days following this announcement, we have seen debates shaping and many cautionary but constructive articles being published. There was an immediate critical response announced by the Council of Institutional Investors raising outdated concerns that the statement undercuts notions of managerial accountability to shareholders. The B Corporation movement founders, who have been in the forefront of redefining the role of businesses into one that delivers value to all stakeholders, published an excellent article “Don’t Believe the Business Roundtable has changed until the CEOs’ action match their words” This title sounds a bit harsh but it is important to hold the CEOs accountable and a full-page ad “Let’s get to work” was posted in the Sunday New York Times urging them to get to work (together).
In addition to the B Corporation movement, there has been in the past few years some signs of this impending paradigm shift as witnessed by the letters to the CEOs written by Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock “linking purpose and profits”. Another powerful movement that is growing is lead by Singularity University which is shaping leaders and organizations by using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build a better future for all. This latest statement by the Business Roundtable is a gigantic step forward and although it might take some time until their action matches their words, slowly but surely we are getting aligned and moving in the right direction. No turning back.

Schroders acquire majority stake in BlueOrchard Finance

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A milestone and another example of the mainstreaming of impact investing.
BlueOrchard Finance is a pioneer in microfinance and impact investing. Founded in 2001, the company launched the world’s first commercial microfinance debt investments. As of May 2019, the company had circa USD 3.5bn in assets under management.
From their news release:

Schroders’ partnership with BlueOrchard supports the expansion of its sustainability capabilities. This will help to better serve clients who are increasingly seeking investments which have a beneficial impact on society and the environment, as well as generating positive financial returns. It also accelerates the growth of Schroders in private debt and private equity investments in emerging markets.
Partnering with Schroders enables BlueOrchard to further drive innovation and growth and increase its impact across emerging and frontier markets. Schroders’ stable ownership structure and heritage is aligned with BlueOrchard’s longterm investment philosophy. Sharing values and the desire to generate substantial impact together, Schroders is BlueOrchard’s preferred strategic partner.
There will be no changes to the management team, processes or strategies that BlueOrchard manage

Science Fiction Design Intelligence workshop “The Future of Learning” at Singularity University

IMG_3411 (002)The Future of Learning was an exhilarating two-day workshop (Feb 28-March 1) at Singularity University (SU) that I was fortunate to be part of. The methodology SciFi-DI developed by SU is a compelling unique approach to innovation. It is used to design future visions by leveraging science fiction to look 15 years into the future and then retrocast to redefine what we could build today. See here a great example of a SciFi-DI workshop that SU conducted in the past “The Future of Home”

We were a very diverse group of 50 including a number of SU faculty and staff as well as talented artists and storytellers. The workshop started with “deep immersion” to exponential thinking and technologies and how these would affect the future. Then we worked in groups of 3-5 using 7-8 worksheets.
1) Frame the problem, a potential solution, define what issues must be addressed, the challenges in each area (Societal, Technological, Environmental, Economic, Political or in short STEEP)
2) Select from a list of predictions which ones we think will become true by 2034 (STEEP Framework)
3) Retrocast by working backwards from 2034 noting key activities, partnerships and milestones required to develop this solution using STEEP segments
4) Character development: create a person/robot through whom we would be illustrating the problem and the solution
5) Brainstorm: the worst and best ideas to solve this problem
6) Develop a key concept worksheet
7) Write a scenario/storyline using the character (setting the scene, normal day… until one day, solution and result) At this point we got help from the artists.

All 12 groups presented their problems/solutions. We all got 4 votes each to cast on the favourite story/solution. The winner was the story of Nuni, an AI empathy and an educational bot and Yabi a 9 year-old kid living in Chad. Nuni checks Yabi’s individualized educational plans, creates digital content and most importantly, facilitates interaction with other children (real and virtual) by directing Yabi to interactive collaboration spaces. It also interacts with other Nuni’s to create a happy, healthy and safe learning environment. So using technology to increase human interaction.

The beauty is that SU will make a comic book out of this and will be distributed to the public for free!
Thank you SU team!

Takeaways from The GIIN Forum 2018

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Over 1300 delegates attended the GIIN Forum 2018 which took place in Paris on Oct 30-31st. A strong opening message from Amit Bouri, Co-founder and CEO of the GIIN;

We need a new financial system that is accountable for its effects on people and the planet. I believe that impact investing presents a real alternative to the status quo….. 3 priorities for impact investments: mobilize more capital, ensure impact integrity and build the movement…..I hope that every one of you views this movement not just as an opportunity but as a responsibility to lead, to change expectations, & to build a just and sustainable world where everyone uses the full power of their investment capital as a force for good!

As the movement grows and starts mainstreaming there are different forces at play. As my colleague quite cleverly pointed out, there are a few camps looking at impact investment from different perspectives: impact fundamentalists, risk mitigators and impact washers. Thanks to GIIN members, and the thought leaders like Jed Emerson and Sir Roland Cohen there is a strong push to ensure impact integrity.

Sir Cohen commented on “the steps to reach the impact tipping point 2020″ that
1) we should start seeing by 2020 the equivalent of impact accounts under GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) so that companies can publish alongside their financial accounts their impact financial accounts and 2) Measurable means dependable, not 100% accountable… if 20% of companies measure their impact, that’s a paradigm shift and the rest will follow.

“We need to have a conversation about what value we really want to create. We will stay where we are if we just stay focused on making money with money.” were strong words by Jed Emerson who has recently published “The Purpose of Capital” (the book is free to download!), a very important literature that reminds us to stop and reflect as we are thinking and talking too much about the “how” and getting blurred on the “why”.

Dq1ALNEWsAAdjqP (3)Omydiar Network presented the outstanding series “Beyond Trade-offs” covering perspectives of leading investors who have moved beyond the trade-off debate to invest across the returns continuum.
“We need to move beyond the binary debate of commercial returns vs concessionary – in reality, it’s a continuum.” Roopa Kudva, Partner Omydiar Network

A topic which is appearing more is the role of Blockchain in impact. There were two presentations both moderated by Shaun Conway, President of ixoFoundation. ixo is building the Blockchain for Impact, transforming all measurable changes that have an impact into Verified Impact Data with crypto-economic Proof of Impact. A lot of exciting learnings to come from this area!

ixo: The Blockchain for Impact from ixo foundation on Vimeo.

Digesting and expanding on the learnings from Singularity U. We are just getting started….

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8 weeks have passed since the intense week at Singularity U, where 92 curious and fun minds were exposed to and learned from the awesome experts in the field of exponential technologies as well as from each other.
Some of the phrases that stuck and continue to sink in:

-unlearn, be bold
-be adaptable
-the biggest risk is not thinking big enough
-make a note to my future self
-ask good questions
-data integrity… screen for the truth
-machine learning, cloud robotics
-blockchain, a new way to consider trust
-abundance: rising income, lifespan, food and water availability
-massive cost reduction: energy, VR, human genome sequencing, in-vitro meat, 3D printing
-digital manufacturing in space
-XR (extended reality) will accelerate dematerialization (spaces & experience)
-inclusive abundance: imperative for human survival (is it possible?)
-longevity escape velocity
-nanobots in our brains in 2030?
-quantum/blockchain/solar/AI supremacy converging in 2025?
-reframe strategy: zoom in (6-12m) zoom out (10-20 years)
-technology will allow us to do everything… exciting and a bit scary if used badly
-importance of ethics and moral enhancement

We did learn a lot then, but now it feels that the executive program was just the beginning. We are sharing great stories and news, asking better questions, so we continue to accelerate our learning journey. We are also connecting people from our networks and aiming to scale the positive impact that we can create while finding solutions to the great challenges. How exciting it is imagining what we can achieve collectively over time! Thank you SU and SU colleagues!

Orb Media, a new kind of journalism that we truly need

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OjY19iZt_400x400On June 26th, I was fortunate to attend an exclusive event where Molly Bingham, the founder of Orb Media, philanthropist, filmmaker, photographer and journalist, shared with us her amazing journey. This event was organized by Women and Philanthropy (thank you Kecia Barkawi!).

Molly is Founder and CEO of Orb Media, which produces a new kind of journalism that challenges the way we see our world and brings us together around the things we share. At a time when we most need to see the full picture of our planet, today’s journalism is showing us only fragments of it. As people, we have our differences, but we share a core that profoundly outweighs them.
Orb Media is a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on issues that matter to billions of people around the globe. Fusing original research, data analysis, on the ground reporting, and an engaged public, Orb Media produces agenda-setting stories about the challenges we face together as one world.
Rather than bombarding the public with breaking news while providing little in the way of context, Orb practices proactive journalism. Orb asks how events may (or may not) fit into a meaningful, global trend by covering 8 topics (linked to the UN Sustainable Development Goals) that affect each of us every day: Food, Water, Energy, Health, Education, Environment, Trade and Governance. Orb produces professional and fact-based journalism exploring these topics that touch billions of people across national, cultural and linguistic differences. Orb delivers each story in four versions – text, audio, multimedia and data – in the world’s most widely spoken languages. The stories are designed to be accessible on any internet connected phone, tablet or computer. The stories are distributed through The Orb Media Network (OMN) which is composed of agenda-setting media brands from around the world who simultaneously publish stories researched and reported by Orb in order to present their audiences with fact-based, quality information on global issues. By working in this way Orb and the OMN catalyze global dialogue on critical issues, focusing the attention of government, industry, researchers, civil society, and the public. (source: orbmedia.org)

Some of their recent stories include Invisibles- The plastic inside us, a story revealing how plastic fibers have contaminated tap water around the world, this was followed by the alarming story Plus Plastic – Microplastics found in global bottled water and the most recent one is Age Well – attitudes matter in a graying world. All these stories are important to all of us in the interconnected world. Orb is remaking journalism to one that the world truly needs.

I was also hugely impressed and inspired by Molly, her courage, dedication, passion, and her journey. Molly comes from generations of pioneering journalists, in fact, she is the 4th generation. She is an award-winning journalist, photojournalist and filmmaker. In 1994 she started as a photographer traveling to Rwanda to cover events after the genocide she continued to cover war areas such as Burundi, Zaire, Chiapas, Russia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, the Gaza and Iraq. She has worked with Human Rights Watch for three projects and also worked as the official photographer of Vice President Al Gore at the White House. In 2003, she survived a 7-day captivity at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. As co-director of the documentary film “Meeting Resistance” she was awarded the “Golden Award” at the 2007 Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival. Her passion and commitment to journalism which was tested through her experience in the prison in Baghdad has lead her to remake journalism to catalyze global dialogue and create massive positive change. Thank you Molly! Watch her powerful TEDxtalk. Molly Bingham at TEDxSMU.

Impact Investment update: GIIN’s annual survey 2017

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The key highlights of the GIIN’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey are shown below;

• In aggregate, 205 respondents invested USD 22.1 billion into nearly 8,000 impact investments in 2016 and plan to increase capital invested by 17% to USD 25.9 billion in 2017.
• In total, 208 respondents currently manage USD 114 billion in impact investing assets.1
• Nearly universally, respondents measure their social and/or environmental performance, using a mix of proprietary metrics, qualitative information, and IRIS-aligned metrics.
• The overwhelming majority of respondents reported that their investments have either met or exceeded their expectations for both impact (98%) and financial performance (91%).
• While two out of three respondents principally target risk-adjusted, market rates of return, there is widespread acknowledgement of the important role played by below-market-rate-seeking capital in the market.

Barefoot College’s evolution and the launch of Bindi Solar, a commercial solar product line

25396224_10155848598355903_1266241389229821444_nBarefoot College (BC), a not for profit, social innovation organization announced in early November the launch of Bindi Solar, the first global line of solar home lighting products fabricated, distributed, sold, installed, maintained and repaired exclusively by women. Bindi Solar products include; low cost solar home lighting systems, portable lanterns, micro grids, DC TVs and fans as well as a range of handheld solar lighting devices. Starting in India, Bindi Solar will be distributed through BC’s ground breaking partnerships with Frontier Markets and GHE as well as the Barefoot Solar Mamas trained across 15 states. Development of the new products has been made possible through the CSR collaborations with Apple, Goldman Sachs, the Phillipps Foundation and working in partnership with The Frey Charitable Foundation and EROL Foundation.

Over the past 5 years there has been a powerful yet smooth transformation at this pioneering and innovative 45 year old organization that has been providing basic services and solutions to the challenges facing rural poor communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable, valuing and respecting the knowledge and wisdom they already possess. BC was founded in 1972 by Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, following the life and work style of Mahatma Gandhi. Today, BC boasts a diverse and inclusive team of dedicated individuals from both formally educated and grass roots communities, working side by side towards impact of the critical issues facing rural poor communities in access to energy, water, sanitation, education and sustainable livelihood development. It is an exceptional example of decentralized management philosophy, capacity building from within to deliver what has become know globally as the “Barefoot Approach” to community development.

11427797_10153349217930903_5741614938980520567_n BC has been committed to empowering women as change agents, entrepreneurs and environmental stewards. Believing that placing women at the heart of the development process is the most reliable and effective way to pass on the wisdom, knowledge and skills that all rural poor communities already possess and which are so often undervalued and under utilized. BC engages in building confidence and competence in individuals and entire communities bringing about large-scale shifts in values and sustainable quality of life enhancement. BC is one of the few Indian organizations that has successfully exported its models for development across the Global South through a unique and visionary partnership with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs ITEC program. This partnership has resulted in true “Made in India” technology by and for the rural poor reaching 78 countries in the developing world.

Over the past few years this successful organization embarked to scale exponentially its operations in both depth and breadth. This launch of Bindi Solar is only one such example. The powerful yet smooth transformation seen so far is thanks to the amazing team work of Meagan Fallone, CEO together with Bunker and the awesome team of Barefoot College. BC is embracing the latest technologies and ways to work with it, embracing diversity and inclusion while maintaining the core values.

Disclaimer: source of the content of this article: press release by barefootcollege.org, photos from barefootcollege facebook page
the author is a board member of Barefoot College International as well as The Frey Charitable Foundation

Innovations in impact measurement

innovations-in-impact-measurement-coverLast 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.

1 Billion in change: Kiva life-changing loans crosses the 1 billion mark!

kiva_logo_tag_greenOn 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!