Looks like 2011 will be a breakthrough year for impact investments. A recent report by J.P. Morgan/Rockefeller Foundation and Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investment as “investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial return”. In other words, investments intended to; improve or provide access to energy, water, education, health, housing, and financial services for the poor, create jobs or mitigate climate change while also providing a financial return.
The term “impact investments” only surfaced less than 3 years ago and now thanks to the impressive efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation and GIIN it is emerging as an asset class. It is capturing the attention of investors in all segments from philanthropic foundations, high net worth individuals, financial institutions and governments as they all seek to make more efficient use of their capital, achieve better returns (social, environmental and financial) and help solve the world’s social problems. Estimates on potential market size (investment capital) over the next 5 to 10 years range from USD 400bn to USD 1 trillion. Major efforts have been made also in developing standardized metrics with Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) and more recently on ratings the Global Impact Investment Reporting Standards (GIIRS) is testing its rating methodology with 25 pioneer funds. Impact investments has been featured in conferences such as Skoll World Forum, Clinton Global Initiative and SOCAP last year and certainly this year it will take center stage.
Impact Investments- An emerging asset class (J.P.Morgan, The Rockefeller Foundation, GIIN)
Impact Investing: A Framework for Policy Design and Analysis (Pacific Community Ventures, Harvard University)
Money for Good (Hope Consulting)
Investing for Social and Environmental Impact (Monitor Institute)
related blog What is impact investment?
My favourite books this year may seem a bit biased geographically as all authors are living in California.
-Switch-How to change things when change is hard- by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
-The Dragonfly Effect -quick, effective and powerful ways to use social media to drive social change by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith
-the Mesh -why the future of business is sharing- by Lisa Gansky
I was very fortunate to have been able to attend the lectures of Chip Heath and Jennifer Aaker when I participated this summer in the Stanford GBS Executive Program in Social Entrepreneurship (EPSE). Both are remarkable lecturers and their books are fun, effective, full of amazing examples and inspiring. Switch is about how we can effect transformative changes by understanding the two competing systems; the rational mind and the emotional mind. The Dragonfly Effect is a how to guide on driving social change (by using social media). I picked up Lisa Gansky’s book, the Mesh, while attending SOCAP10 in autumn. The Mesh explains one of the “big ideas” or one of the most important trends that is shaping new businesses logic providing products and services through sharing.
SOCAP 2010 took place in San Francisco on Oct 4-6. Over 1200 participants. Energetic, lively, sharing, innovative. Impact investments took center stage.Watch these amazing videos of Jacqueline Novogratz (Acumen Fund) Matt Flannery (Kiva) and many more http://video.socialcapitalmarkets.net/live-video-stream/ The first SOCAP Europe will take place in Amsterdam May 31-June 2, 2011.
Kiva.org, the world’s first microlending website announced today its entry into the education field by offering a pilot for student microloans in 3 countries. So beginning today anyone can make a loan starting at USD 25 to students that are selected by Kiva’s first 3 education field partners; Fundacion Paraguaya (Paraguay) IMPRO (Bolivia) and Ameen s.a.l. (Lebanon). Kiva.org an innovative social enterprise created a movement to connect people around the world through lending to alleviate poverty. In only 5 years, Kiva.org has provided over USD 160 mn in loans to 415,000 microentrepreneurs around the world and these loans (which are as little as USD 25) have come from close to half a million lenders spread in 206 countries!
“The pilot was born as a natural extension of Kiva’s mission to connect people, through lending, to alleviate poverty. Kiva Student Microloans give recipients the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skills through higher education or vocational training. As a result, these individuals will be better positioned to find jobs, support their families and grow their communities — and ultimately make a real difference in the relief of global poverty.” (source: Kivablog)
This year’s title (theme) of the Skoll World Forum was “Catalysing Collaboration” and I believe it fully lived up to it. The program reflected and encouraged much more interaction than in previous years. No doubt the OxfordJam programmes running parallel to the forum and the fact that many of us got stranded due to the volcano eruption resulted in further discussions and collaboration. There are many videos and podcasts for anyone who would like to see or hear some sessions. One of the most inspiring speeches was from Caroline Casey delivered at the closing plenary. Blog discussions after the Forum (see socialedge ) are also very interesting to follow. There seems to be an amazing energy and momentum which is expanding the sphere of social entrepreneurship from a “small club of unreasonable people” to mainstream. Perhaps the definition of “social entrepreneur” might not be enough to accomodate the many people that are joining the movement. Call them changemakers (as Bill Drayton refers to them) or maybe a new word like social interpreneurship (see Peter Deitz’s blog): what matters is that with more people trying to make a difference and with more interaction and collaboration there is renewed hope to tackle the enormous problems that society faces today.
(Disclosure: the author is in the management team and in charge of social investment management at Socential)
Socential, a Swiss start-up has launched an online platform to connect social investors to social entrepreneurs projects aiming to empower system changing solutions to the world’s social problems. The platform was launched as a pilot in January this year featuring Swiss social entrepreneur’s projects and the latest release this April has featured projects from the internationally acclaimed social entrepreneur Bunker Roy from Barefoot College.
Room to Read (RtR), a social enterprise that has been providing educational opportunities in a sustainable way in the developing world has been selected as the Financial Times seasonal appeal for 2009-2010. This is not about microfinance but RtR is an amazing organization that I have followed and featured in January 2007. Last year thanks to the sponsorship of many of my friends we supported RtR to build a school in Laos. We were impressed by the management lead by John Wood who designed a scalable and sustainable model (by partnering with the local communities) to provide education to the world’s poor children by building schools and libraries, girls’ education programs (10 year scholarships) and local language publishing programs. In less than a decade since inception RtR has built 832 schools, 7526 libraries, awarded 8786 girls scholarships, published 334 local language books and distributed 6 million books, benefitting 3.1 miliion children. John initiated RtR with a vision to provide educational access and opportunity to 10 million children in the developing world. Looks like he will reach his goal earlier than he thought. FT carried a full page article in today’s edition describing the achievements and goals of RtR. Congratulations to John and the whole team of RtR !
Today’s NY Times article on Kiva describes the recent online debate started a month ago by David Roodman’s blog titled “Kiva Is Not Quite What It Seems” which criticized Kiva’s misleading marketing on person-to-person microlending. Matt Flannery, Co-Founder of Kiva responded and reacted (by updating and improving on how Kiva explains itself to its user) to David’s blog and to the NY Times article in an admirable way. As a supporter, promoter and lender to Kiva I believe that these online debates are healthy as it promotes transparency and makes innovative enterprises like Kiva an even stronger organization. Kiva has been a poster child for social entrepreneurship and in only 4 years have been able to create a platform that facilitates individuals (over 580,000) of all ages to participate in alleviating poverty with USD 25 (just recently crossed the USD 100 million mark). The phenomenal growth and its success also attracts attention. Constructive criticism is healthy, bad PR is harmful. I believe and trust that Kiva will emerge stronger from these controversies.
On Oct 31st, Kiva lender loans surpassed the USD 100 million mark! Congratulations to the Kiva team especially Matt and Premal for achieving this milestone. That is a lot of 25 dollar bits. I went back to check my first entry on Kiva when I congratulated them on getting their 501(c) status which was in Sept 2006 . Kiva has achieved so much in 4 years inspiring more than half a miilion people in the world to get engaged to empower people in developing countries.
Jacqueline Novogratz is founder and CEO of Acumen Fund a very successful and fast growing nonprofit venture capital firm for the poor that invests in sustainable enterprises bringing healthcare, safe water, alternative energy, and housing to low income people in the developing world. She founded Acumen Fund in 2001 and by the end of 2008 this firm had approved more than $40 million on investments in 40 enterprises serving the poor, creating through these enterprises 23,000 jobs providing basic services like water and life saving malaria bed nets to millions of low income people around the world. Her book The Blue Sweater -Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World-is an inspiring memoir of a woman who left a career in international banking to spend her life on a quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. Many important lessons can be learned just by following her heartbreaking and hilarious stories of starting a microfinance institution and a bakery in Rwanda. Also the book is packed with examples that teach us humility and that good intentions alone are not enough as described through some failed programs of traditional charity that have left the poor people in the same or worse conditions. One also learns about the Rwandan genocide through the stories of the survivors that Novogratz had worked with. The book is inspiring, educational, entertaining and a must read for everyone and especially for those who aspire to make a difference.