On Thursday, April 23rd, Cynthia Muller from Arabella Advisors came to MIIS to speak on the impact investment sector from the lens of working with Foundations in investing their money in impact. Cynthia started off her presentation talking about the history of the impact investment sector and then launched into the role of Foundations in impacting investing. “In practice this sector (impact investing) has been around for the past 45 years.” But recently there has been a shift in how Foundations in particular have been starting to put more attention towards impact investing. Cynthia explained that a lot of people recently have started to co-opt the term ‘impact investor’ but without really understanding what it means – so with Foundations Arabella Advisors really focuses on explaining what impact investment really is and how Foundations can play a part.
“People are starting to really move into this space and figure things out – and that’s kind of the big question mark: how do you do this in an efficient way? How do you do this in a way where all of your consultants and advisors are on board? And I think that’s been the most challenging aspect of doing this work.” This obstacle of having financial advisors that are willing to try impact investing with a foundation’s money is not a minor one – according to Cynthia, a lot to foundations lean heavily on the advice that their financial advisors give them and, especially for smaller foundations, they can be very cautious and nervous when it comes to impact investing. But with more and more organizations like Arabella Advisors coming in to coach foundations on how to best use their money for impact, we should be seeing more players in the sector in the next few years.
On Thursday, April 16th CSIL and MIIS welcomed Robert Rubinstein, founder of Triple Bottom Line Investing, from Amsterdam to speak on the topic of impact investment. Robert presented an engaging talk on the sector as well as gave advice to the audience on how we can improve and move the sector forward. He argued that getting people into the impact investment sector “isn’t about proof, it’s about belief” meaning that companies, foundations, and or individuals who are looking to invest respond better to being shown what their own self-interest is. “If you don’t align the self- interest, you’re not going to get anywhere (with investors)…as well as seeing (them being able to see) the money flows.” He also commented on the argument that a lot of investors use: “sustainable investing is risky” – when in reality, especially in economic crises, impact investing can be more secure than the risks that big banks and corporations take, especially when the payouts can be as much as $250 billion.
Robert finally ended with “SRI was not a niche market but a big party and we (impact investors) just arrived early.” The financial herd is forming and interest in impact investment in the financial sector is growing. But, he cautioned, we need to move away from “the world according to Bloomberg, to (Indiana Jones style) grabbing the machete, and going out into the jungle, getting out of your ghetto, and actually seeing something that you don’t already know.” “Impact investing is investing with a story…investing with a soul.”
On Thursday, April 9th, MIIS and CSIL welcomed Sonal Shah, the Executive Director of Georgetown’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation as well as Amit Sharma, founder of Empowerment Capital. Sonal, with Amit as the moderator for the lecture, came to speak with students and community members about the policy framework of impact investment as well as debate with millennials about the role of impact investment in the future.
Sonal challenged millennials to think about how money today in invested, especially in the world of philanthropy and in the creation of foundations. Millennials need to start questioning where the money of high net worth individuals and companies is being spent – “If we don’t start asking those questions why should they care?”
Amit ended the conversation speaking about his belief that every player in the development field has a role to play in ending poverty by engaging people at the bottom of the pyramid – “its an amazing lucrative space…and I mean lucrative in every sense of the word”…. But, he cautions, that we need to shift they way in which we think about development and the impact space – “We think about (development) as ‘how can we solve their problems’ instead of making capital available to people so that they can solve their own problems.”
On Thursday, April 2nd, MIIS and CSIL were proud to welcome CEO of Toniic Stephanie Rupp to campus as part of the Spring 2015 Colloquium: Commercializing Impact Investment. Stephanie was invited to speak on impact investment as an emerging market sector along with how Toniic is contributing to impact investment globally. During her presentation Stephanie Rupp noted: “(Impact investment) is not so much about what consumers want….people are seeking more meaning, as investors or as consumers, it doesn’t matter…as a result (the sector) has changed.” When speaking about the new millennial generation, Stephanie imparted that “there’s an identity crisis. People are seeking meaning…people value experience with meaning, whether that’s Peace Corps, or something else. This new (millennial) generation wants to make a difference.
For more on Stephanie Rupp:
Stephanie has over a decade of experience in global impact investing, impact fund design and implementation, microfinance, and more recently in crowd funding. Stephanie served as an executive team member of Razoo, a crowd funding platform where she led business development. She spent five years with Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm, managing investments in debt, equity, LoC and grants for US, South Asia, West Africa and Latin America enterprises focused on property rights and microfinance.
Follow Stephanie on twitter: @StephCohnRupp
For more on Toniic: http://www.toniic.com
For more on the Colloquium: Commercializing Impact Investment: http://www.miis.edu/academics/programs/gsipm/colloquium