Challenging Impact: FMS Monterey Applies a Critical Lens to the Evolving Impact Investing Space


Should impact investors be allowed to accept returns on investment that exceeds the economic benefit delivered to community stakeholders who are impacted by their transactions? Is this relationship mutually beneficial, or purely extractive? These questions were posed by Morgan Simon during her recent Profiling Ventures for Impact Investing session at the January FMS session. Leveraging her deep knowledge of social justice issues to challenge existing paradigms in the impact investing landscape, Simon addressed several key challenges, these included: a lack of consistency and transparency among impact investors on stakeholder engagement, defining the role of the state vs. private sector models, and building strong methodologies around the identification and collection of key impact performance data.


When defining “impact” Simon provided a definition from the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary, “to impinge upon, especially forcefully.” She did not mince her words when discussing the nature of transparency in the deal structuring process; enumerating unintended consequences that have resulted from well-meaning interventions crafted by social entrepreneurs and impact investors (that often occur with little-to-no community stakeholder engagement). Morgan asked of the cohort, “what can help ensure that impact investment and social enterprises empower people in need, rather than impinging upon them?” Her critique sought to more accurately channel the intentionality of investors and entrepreneurs towards livelihood challenges as they are defined by the communities themselves.


The FMS cohort in Monterey was engaged in a critical analysis of failures of the state, philanthropic and international development models (by utilizing an examination of public vs. private school debates in Kenya and the US). Participants were asked to discuss the nature of essential services and rural infrastructure; the conversation highlighted the contentious nature of defining roles and responsibilities for the public sector. Private sector service delivery models were introduced as a potential solution to the state’s failure to hold up its end of the bargain in providing adequate access to education, infrastructure, and healthcare. What ensued was a complex debate around the risks of supplanting public goods with a neo-liberal, profit-centric, model targeting the world’s poorest consumers.


The longstanding business axiom “what gets measured, gets managed” was also subject to revision over the course of the two day session. While engaging in group work, the cohort was encouraged to debate the relative merits of various environmental and livelihood indicators. Morgan noted that measurement did not necessarily lead to impact outcomes in the absence of effectively aligned management and incentive structures. Of particular note was Morgan’s call for enhanced transparency around the auditing of impact metrics and stakeholder engagement methodologies.

Simon’s session, taken in the context of the entire two week Monterey training session, highlighted the dynamic nature of the impact investing space; as a nascent industry, the landscape appears to be in a state of near constant flux. Her perspectives on social justice brought the emergence of segmentation in the market among investors (and LPs) into sharp relief, with perspectives that run the gamut from Pi Investments to Goldman Sachs. Increasingly, impact investors are coalescing around specific investment and social/environmental impact theses (i.e., African agriculture, conservation, financial inclusion, empowering women, etc.) In the search to create a common language around impact metrics, measurement, and reporting the daunting challenge will be to negotiate the tremendous diversity of market players, geographies, and deal structures for investments that can vary from $50,000 by an asset manager with $15 million (AUM) to $200+ million by institutional investors with $300 billion (AUM).

-Alexander Wilbanks


 2c9045dAbout Morgan Simon:

Morgan has spent the last decade engaged in impact investment, emphasizing community empowerment, leadership and ownership. She co-leads Pi Investments as Managing Director, building a 100% impact portfolio with an emphasis on community empowerment and environmental sufficiency. In that capacity, she evaluates investments across asset classes, including direct investments. Morgan is also a co-founder of Toniic, where she served as founding CEO from 2010-2013. Toniic is a global network of early-stage social investors looking to move $4.5B into impact. She is on the investment committee for The Working World, a fund for stakeholder-owned businesses in the US, Argentina and Nicaragua, and co-chair of the board of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United, a worker center supporting 10,000 restaurant workers nationwide. Previously, as the founding Executive Director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, Morgan brought together 100 colleges and universities, helping to move their $200 billion in endowment dollars towards impact investment. Morgan has also worked with grassroots organizations and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Mexico, Honduras and Sierra Leone, and in domestic microfinance with Women’s Initiative for Self Employment (WI). She received a B.A with High Honors in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College.

New Center for Social Impact Learning Graduate Assistant Positions

We are hiring for the spring 2016 semester: 

CSIL Graduate Assistants. Learn more about our work:
CSIL Graduate Assistants. Learn more about our work:

Salinas Microfinance Fund Coordinator (10 hours/week)
Primary Responsibilities: Perform research, assist with mobilizing wide ranging community support, and help design and develop the organization of a Microfinance Fund in order to make loans to low income people in Salinas to start their own business enterprise.

How to Apply

Send your resume and statement of interest via email (Subject Line: Microfinance Fund Coordinator) to:

Jerry Hildebrand (

Special Projects Assistant to CSIL Director (10 hours/week) 

Primary Responsibilities:  Assist CSIL Director with research, development, and documentation of a wide-range of experiential learning projects for MIIS students in Social Entrepreneurship.

How to Apply

Send your resume and statement of interest via email (Subject Line: Special Projects Assistant) to:

Jerry Hildebrand (

NEW Impact Accounting and Management Course


MIIS Students,

Professor Olsen is offering a three credit course, MBAG 8616 Emerging Discipline of Impact Accounting and Management, and has modified the schedule. Below is information about the content, structure, and optional certificate- great for your resumes!

Content: The course is open with no pre-requisites, and will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00-9:00pm throughout the entire term, starting next Wednesday February 10th.

The course will provide students with an overall framework within which to understand the social/environmental impact of any enterprise, and will then equip students with a practical toolkit they can apply to any entity to gauge its impact, and to manage impact as a strategic asset and/or risk factor.

Students will also explore the following: measuring general corporate responsibility versus specific impact, the difference between change, “impact” and value; the proper engagement of stakeholders in measurement; how to determine materiality; the landscape of data sources and collection/management tools; and emerging standards and their use within the social capital marketplace.

Any students interested in social impact, social investing, stakeholder assessment, environmental impact/assessment, etc, would be well served by this course taught by a leading professional in this field.

In addition to other topics, Professor Olsen will be covering content that will prepare you to sit for an optional professional certification in Introduction to Analysis of Social Impact, awarded by Social Value International (SVI). Please see below for details for this optional credential.

Structure: Typically the Certificate would be awarded based upon completion of a one-day workshop with materials to review before and after, and successful passing of the exam. However SVI-US is proposing that due to the similar content offered in the MIIS course “MBAG 8616A Emerging Discipline of Impact Accounting and Management,” students who take this course would qualify to take the exam.

Exam Cost: $100 for students

Skills: Students successfully completing this course will be able to:

  • understand the different purposes of, and the different principles and terminology used in analysis of social impact;· understand several frameworks currently used to analyse social impact;

    ·             describe and explain the fundamental components of a basic assessment of the estimated social impacts of a given organization, project or venture;

    ·             recognize and apply good practices in assessing social impact;

    ·             critically evaluate social impact reports; and

  • understand the role of engaging stakeholders as part of a robust analysis of social impact.


Please sign up if interested!



B Corps Panel Highlight: David Payne

david payne

David Payne is a sustainability consultant and instructor at University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business. In addition to teaching about B Corps in his Business Sustainability and Ethics courses, he has worked closely with B Lab’s Colorado office and is the faculty advisor to UC Boulder’s Net Impact Chapter. As an instructor, consultant and mentor, David reminds us that there are many different ways to be involved with and positively contribute to the impact space. We asked him to briefly share his journey and hope that it encourages others to find ways to make their mark in this space as well. David recounts:


After working in the dot com industry and selling my company, I took time off to sail on my boat and read as much as I could. In 1999 an article called the Roadmap for Natural Capitalism was published which lead me to the book Natural Capitalism by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawkins. Even today, I would highly recommend it (download it here!) because the core theory still holds and I’ll never forget the impact it had on my worldview.

During that time, I was also volunteering and attending conferences, where I made a point of asking bold questions. A defining moment in my life happened at a CERES conference, when I raised my hand and flat out asked the members of the panel if I could get a job with them. Fortunately for me, it worked! Amory Lovins gave me his business card on the way out and ten days later I was on my way to Colorado as the newest employee of his think tank, Rocky Mountain Institute.

My experiences there challenged me to think more about all that was written in Natural Capitalism. The phrase “do more, better, with less, for longer” adequately sums up the theories and the book encourages cradle to cradle thinking as well as investing in human and natural capital as if we were managing any other asset. It just makes sense. With any other asset, you make it pay off in the long run by living off of the interest without consuming the capital. If you start consuming the capital, you begin to diminish the business itself. Taking those concepts and applying it to human and natural capital resonated with me. To help others understand, I phrase it as “unsalable product” instead of “waste”. It actually isn’t good business to be making things that you aren’t getting paid for, which would be this waste or unsalable product.

The mission of B Corps resonates deeply with me as well and I make a point of weaving them into final assessment projects for my students. In teaching the class on sustainable business at the Leeds school, I’ve been able to introduce them to the B Corps movement and we use the B Impact Assessment regularly. It is a perfect way to show students how the topics in ethics that we discuss can manifest in the business world. As part of the class, my students create their coat of arms, list their top four values and use those values to make decisions that develop better solutions to key issues. We do temperament and strengths assessments and I require them to define their theory of change so that we can tease out how better business can help them achieve that change.



Chatting with David was exhilarating and it was refreshing to hear the utter passion he has for the work he does and his efforts to inspire the next generation of socially responsible leaders. David also has his own sustainability consulting company, Point 380, which was named for the level of CO2 in the atmosphere when the firm was founded. He reminds us with heavy disappointment that CO2 levels are well over 400 today and that it is our duty to make decisions with the health of our planet in mind.


Connect with David:  Website   LinkedIn



Fellow Feature: FMS Fellow Kate Hanford

Kate Hanford1

Kate Hanford, FMS 2015 Alumna, began working with Unreasonable East Africa in Uganda through an FMS Fellowship. She is now their Chief Operating Officer (COO) and making big moves! We are proud to share her feature as we gear up for the new cohort of amazing FMS Fellows in the coming two months.


Tell us a little about your position and your daily activities.

My position is split between an internal facing side and external facing side. Internally I build processes and systems for Unreasonable East Africa so our team runs smoothly. Externally I am the primary focal point for our entrepreneurs. I work to make sure we understand, and are addressing their key challenges.

What has been the most exciting part about working with Unreasonable East Africa and professional life in the impact space?

Getting to work directly with companies that are changing people’s lives for the better, and seeing these companies grow! For example, one of our companies from this past year has really struggled to raise money because they are based in South Sudan, which is quite an unstable environment for investment. A funder that we connected them with in July just agreed to give them a $50,000 grant. This company works to train doctors in a country where currently only 60 new health professionals enter the workforce annually. That means only ⅕ of a doctor per person in a country whose population is growing the 3rd fastest in the world, and where the maternal mortality rate is 1st in the world. It’s an amazing feeling to see a company like that grow faster through our work!

Why did you decide to join the FMS program and what were you hoping to get out of the experience?

Starting in high school, I had a goal of working with companies in developing countries. After living in DC for several years, I was ready for the next stage in my career, and was considering going back to grad school for an MBA, or going to do something in a foreign country. I decided that getting more international experience was more time-sensitive than going back to school, so I applied to the FMS program to help me find positions internationally. I expected to work abroad for 6 months somewhere in the world. I hoped to gain a better understanding of a foreign culture, and to build my understanding of the social enterprise world.

Were there any surprises or unforeseen benefits that emerged?

Well, I’ve been here for almost 2 years, so yes! Including:

-Motivation/inspiration from being surrounded by like-minded people during the training
 (some of which I’m still friends with)

-Getting a placement that was so aligned with what I wanted
(I didn’t necessarily expect this would be possible)

-Getting so into the work I’m doing that I would commit to being in Uganda for 2 years

-Being inspired by the entrepreneurs I’m surrounded by, both within Unreasonable East Africa and with the companies we work with. Coming into this role, I was very much a “big organization” type person, and really enjoyed structure and working within big systems. While structured approaches will always be a part of my thinking, I have come to really enjoy the sometimes crazy but exhilarating lack of structure, and the resulting increase in opportunities that comes with entrepreneurship.

What were some of your biggest obstacles during the experience – professional or personal?

-Adjusting to living in a different culture long-term. There are so many different layers of culture to understand! It’s fascinating, and working to understand it is one of my favorite things about being here, but it’s also hard to feel like you don’t understand the nuances of what is going on. I still feel like I learn new things regularly, and like I said, I’ve been here for almost 2 years!

-Adjusting from being part of a large organization to now being part of a tiny start-up team. Before I moved, I was working for a large NGO in Washington D.C. that had about 400 people at its headquarters, and about 2,000 staff internationally. Now I work on a team with 6 people. This means changes in the way I communicate, the way I work in teams, the roles people play – almost everything!

How would you describe FMS to a stranger?Kate Hanford

FMS is a fellowship program that gives you 2 weeks of training on social entrepreneurship and impact investing, and then matches you with relevant job positions around the world. The program is a chance to strengthen your knowledge about the impact space, and connect with relevant people therein (both classmates and instructors).

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges in growing the impact-driven economy?

I think the first challenge is how you define the “impact-driven economy”. 77% of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and 83% of people in that age bracket don’t have jobs. 83%!!!! That means that creating any business that creates jobs for locals is creating a positive social impact, regardless of what kind of business it is. The complicated part comes when you consider the details – is that business paying living wages; are they harming the environment; what impact do they have beyond employment? A second challenge in an emerging economy context is finding the right people to work for impact organizations. Especially when they are starting up, impact organizations are generally looking for people who are motivated by passion for the cause more than salary. This is easier to find in countries like the US, where people have more job options, and tend to self-select for these type of roles. In a place where some job, any job is hard to come by, people that are not necessarily passionate about the cause will still apply for jobs at impact companies. This makes it hard to tease out if a potential employee will be cause/values aligned over the long-term or not.

What are your top three tips for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

1. Have a clear idea of what your goals are, even if they are very broad. If you’re not sure, keep talking to as many people as possible about it! When I joined FMS, I knew I wanted to work with companies directly, and that I ideally wanted to work with a broad range of companies to get an understanding of the social impact space, rather than the understanding of a specific industry in more depth. Be honest with yourself about what is most important to you, and explain that to people you talk to about your career.

2. Be patient in looking for what you want to do. There can be a lot of pressure to find a job and jump into things, but if it’s not a good match with your skill set and passions it likely won’t be worth it.

3. Remember that there is no one “right choice”. This applies to any career path, but it’s important to remember that there is only so much you can do to predict what will make you happy and successful in the future. Make a decision on your next step based off the information you have now and some thoughtful self-reflection, and keep in mind that if it doesn’t end up being the thing for you, you can always change!

What’s next for you? 

It’s time for me to go back to school! I’m currently in the process of applying to MBA programs, and will start next fall. (Fall 2016) I plan on continuing to work on operations for big, game-changing ideas!

Check out Kate’s post about Unreasonable’s learnings in East Africa, entitled “What Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know About Working in East Africa”

Follow Kate:  Twitter  LinkedIn

Follow Unreasonable East Africa: Facebook     Twitter     Website




B Lab and the B Corps Movement Visit CSIL!



Here at the Center for Social Impact Learning, the student group M Force recently hosted panelists to give fellow students, community business leaders and interested individuals the opportunity to learn more about B Lab, where the B Corps Movement is heading, and most importantly how to get involved. We had the pleasure of sitting down one-on-one with the panelists and are happy to introduce the first, Craig Dalen, here.


Craig Dalen is a Senior Fellow in B Lab’s inaugural cohort of B Corps Fellows. Over 400 applicants applied for 12 final spots as fellows, divided into six young professionals and six senior professionals. Ten of the fellows are currently focusing on the Best for NYC partnership between New York’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and B Lab, which challenges local businesses to take the B Impact Assessment, maps the impact created and highlights the top achievers.

Craig, himself, is based in Pennsylvania at B Lab’s Main Office and, along with another fellow Jasmine Jones, focuses on the B Corps on Campus initiative. He and the team are crafting a strategic path forward to engage education meaningfully and effectively as part of the B Corps movement. They are finding ways to support extracurricular experiences, such as ways to engage members of our CSIL student group, M Force, or student chapters of Net Impact across the country. Furthermore, they are deciding how best to support faculty members with curriculum development. Craig elaborates in the interview below.

Tell us about yourself and how you became involved with B Corps

Most recently I was the Director of Sustainability at Messiah College and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to launch the Messiah’s Office of Sustainability. This project largely came from listening to students who drove the effort by pushing the college to take into account its environmental footprint across the campus. I was so happy with what we were able to achieve through the Office and have enjoyed seeing the efforts continued as I transition to new positions.

As an educator at Messiah College, I taught about B Corps in my classes and we often discussed the role of the private sector in finding the solution for current world issues. As I looked forward in my career, I was interested in moving into the private sector and knew I would like to be involved in positive ways such as part of the B Corps movement. Professional fellowships that are salaried and allow you to use your experience are few and far between, so the B Corps Fellowship was already compelling in that way, but I was simultaneously asking myself to what degree I can be of most service and what it takes to lead a meaningful life. Inspired by B Lab harnessing the power of business to cultivate the right solutions to current problems, I am so happy to be part of the inaugural cohort of fellows. In general, being involved with B Lab and its community has been simply amazing; I’ve learned so much from colleagues and from business leaders. I recently joined the B Lab Champions Retreat in Portland Oregon and it was an invigorating experience. These relationships are where I find the most value.

What does B Corps on Campus hope to achieve?

The ultimate goal is to help support efforts that inspire the next generation to use business as a force for good. B Lab is currently inspiring companies to do business differently and to be oriented towards their “best for the world” achievement, but we also want to focus more on bridge-building to formally connect our movement to the interests and activities that already exist on campuses and in communities. We are always looking to collaborate with students and faculty who have insight or suggestions on ways we can support campus activities and I encourage them to reach out because they are the people that we want to learn from directly. Ideally we can use the resources and structures that B Lab and these schools currently have in place. We want to know how students and faculty are already integrating social enterprise and impact assessment education on various campuses and then find ways that we can enhance the experience or effectiveness through cooperation with what B Lab already has to offer.

What does impact mean to you?

I’ll answer this with a story. While studying business as an undergraduate student, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Latin America and spent six week on a coffee farm in Guatemala. I was there to learn about the business but I spent my time with the farmers. I lived where they lived, shopped where they shopped and was paid the same wages as them. I was able to immerse myself in a profound way and quickly understood how little they are paid and how difficult it is to stretch that money given the cost of living.

At the time, over fifteen years ago, there was no language to explain what I was experiencing, but it was the first time I was able to feel the difference between shareholder benefits and stakeholder benefits. The shareholders were benefiting very well and they were happy. The stakeholders on the other hand, were not benefiting as they should have and I understood them because I was experiencing their experiences. It was then that I knew the system was wrong and I know now that B Lab’s vision of creating a “shared and durable prosperity for all” is language I was searching for fifteen years ago during my experience on the coffee farm in Guatemala. Impact is taking into consideration stakeholders; it is valuing humanity and our interconnections and how small our world has become to realize that we are no longer separate and we can no longer neglect the experiences of certain stakeholders.

The reality is, business is the most powerful human made system on the earth, and harnessing it for good is a must. We know today that profit and purpose can co-exist. B Lab is building the infrastructure to hold those two intentions in concert together and they are creating universal standards so that performance is evaluated and held transparent. It’s an act of solidarity to be part of this experience and I am confident that I’ve found my tribe at B Lab.

Invitation to Students

B Lab welcomes student input regarding the B Corps on Campus initiative. B Lab wants to know how they can be of service to students. They want to know what students themselves want from B Lab and to find a path to work together as part of the B Corps movement.



Connect with Craig   Linkedin  Email

Follow B Lab: @bcorporation #bestfornyc

Inspired? Interested in becoming a B Corps Fellow?

B Lab will begin recruiting this month, so keep an eye out!

Friends of CSIL Feature: Cara Hagan

Cara profile

Cara Hagan, MBA ’15 and one of CSIL’s brightest stars, connected with us about her new position in Quito, Ecuador and we can’t help but share our excitement. Cara is an inspiration to fellow MIIS students who hope to follow in her footsteps working in the international impact space.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately.

I completed my MBA at MIIS with a specialization in sustainable supply chain management. After MIIS, I joined MUJUS as a production manager in Quito, Ecuador. MUJUS is a social enterprise that produces contemporary artisan jewelry under fair trade practices.  In this position, I have learned how to manage an efficient supply chain while maximizing the social impact.

Then, like any start-up employee, I had to exercise my versatility. These days I am temporarily working for MUJUS in New York to help with the busy holiday markets.  Working with sales and distribution on the US front has allowed me to see all sides of this social enterprise. It is amazing to understand and be a part of the entire value chain, from sourcing raw materials in Ecuador to placing the product in a customer’s hand in New York. Although I am loving the lively environment in NY, I look forward to returning to Ecuador and our incredible artisan partners in a few weeks.

Why did you choose to work in the social impact space?

Prior to my MBA, I worked from an activist/NGO standpoint to fight social and environmental injustices that businesses commit in their supply chains. I then transitioned to researching and working with these issues from the business angle, as more opportunities were arising in the wave of responsible and sustainable business.

Then while at MIIS, I learned about social enterprise and impact investing as a new approach to international development.  This is what sparked my interest in working for a social enterprise.  I also wanted to gain experience in supply chain management. The production manager position at MUJUS was the perfect fit.

How did your experiences with CSIL impact your current path?

While working for CSIL, I worked closely with the Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) program.  During the FMS trainings, I learned the motives behind the fellows wanting to work for social enterprises and impact investing firms. In my work and in attending conferences, I built an extensive network in the impact space, from FMS fellows to employees and founders of social enterprises and impact investing firms. This network was very useful when I was applying for jobs post-graduation. The individuals in this space are passionate and connected.

In fact, my network continues to prove extremely useful in my current job. For example, I have reached out to FMS fellows in the field working for impact investing firms such as Pomona Impact, and to fellows Cara Post2who work for similar social enterprises in order to find raw materials in the Andean region.

Above all, CSIL was helpful to me because I learned valuable lessons from the amazing CSIL directors and staff. I learned that 1) You can learn from every single experience in life, and 2) It is worth it to work hard, make sacrifices and do absolutely everything in your power to have an impact career.

These lessons have proved very useful in my current job. Working for a start-up and social enterprise has been both challenging and rewarding. My team and I learn as we go. We are part of an exciting journey of growth. I have learned not to be afraid to make mistakes, and that we are all in a process of self-improvement and self-growth, even the most experienced professionals.

Social entrepreneurs are driven, hard-working individuals. Working in a social enterprise is thrilling. From managing artisans in Quito to managing salespeople in Manhattan holiday markets, I Iove seeing the connections between production and sales, between success and social impact.


Connect with Cara: LinkedIn  Email    Connect with MUJUS: Website  Facebook  Twitter



Fellow Feature: FMS Alumna Ellen Halle

FullSizeRender (4)We had the pleasure of checking in with Ellen Halle, Middlebury College and FMS Alumna, who is currently an Associate at I-DEV International. She talks to us with passion about the work she is doing and how FMS helped her get there:

Tell us a little about yourself and your current position

I currently work for I-DEV International and am based in the Nairobi office. I was connected to the organization through FMS when I participated in the FMS Training in Amsterdam; the CEO of I-DEV was one of the FMS professors. I have a background in global health; during undergrad, the vast majority of my work was in the NGO world in the context of field work, public health research & NGO programming. After graduating from Middlebury, I wanted to gain more experience in the private sector in the context of healthcare; healthcare was my bridge to the private sector. I spent about 2 years I working for a firm called Oxeon Partners in New York, concentrating on early stage venture and private equity-backed health care companies. I learned a ton about growth-stage business strategy and the dynamism of venture capital. However, all of Oxeon’s portfolio companies were focused domestically, and I was really missing the international exposure. Therefore, I wanted a role that would bridge my experience in global health and international development with the work I enjoyed in high-growth, for-profit businesses. FMS was the perfect next step to find that opportunity.

Why I-DEV International?

I-DEV is a strategy consulting & financial advisory firm focused on growing and scaling small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets. We work with SMEs themselves but also impact funds, commercial investors, multinational corporations with SMEs in their supply chain, and NGOs/multilaterals increasing their focus on enterprise development. We do this across two groups: Insight & Strategy and Financial Advisory. I work as a generalist across both groups, but tend to work more on the Insight & Strategy side.

Ellen leading a strategy workshop in Uganda
Ellen leading a strategy workshop in Uganda

I-DEV felt like a natural fit, given my goal of combining my depth of international field experience (in Uganda, Costa Rica & Nicaragua) with my growth-stage business acumen. The work we do is varied and highly dynamic and we get to spend a lot of time in the field. Because we work with such a diverse array of stakeholders (from the NGOs to the MNCs) I get to think from many different angles throughout every project and frankly, throughout every day. I really agree with I-DEV’s approach to advising and improving businesses; we take into account the views of the entire value chain—from the CEO of the business to the investors to the producers of raw material—smallholder farmers in agribusiness, etc. Creating alignment between stakeholders—and creating alignment between impact and shareholder value—is something I really believe in. For example, some of our work with a multinational apparel company has included the development of what I-DEV calls a “secondary benefits program” for their producer co-ops. Secondary Benefits really just refers to the provision of technical assistance, advance payments, low-interest loans, input discounts, and other benefits to farmers in the MNC supply chain. Companies can offer these benefits to farmers provided they reach certain quality provisions, sell a certain percentage of their crop to the MNC and attend a certain amount of trainings to increase quality. In this way, the MNC aligns impact with shareholder value—improving livelihoods at the BoP while increasing supply consistency, production capacity and product quality.

I-DEV’s goal is to help create businesses that are investable and scalable in terms of both revenue & impact; I think both the impact sector and the East African VC space will really benefit as these companies continue to scale, attract capital and ultimately exit.

What has been the most exciting part about professional life in the impact space? 

I’ve been in Nairobi since March and two things stand out specifically. The first is how amazing it has been to experience such a dynamic…and nebulous…space. The so-called “impact space” brings together players with such different backgrounds: the venture capitalists, the local entrepreneurs, the development banking professionals. The intersectoral collaboration—or lack thereof—in the impact space can be confusing, but bringing together different perspectives is the only way that change has ever been achieved.

From a personal perspective, it’s been such a joy to travel throughout East and West Africa for my role at I-DEV. The opportunity to visit all of the places that I spent my academic career studying and reading about is amazing; realizing that as a young professional I’m able to add value here working small enterprises is even better. Additionally, working with a multi-cultural team has been refreshing and energizing.

With regard to Nairobi, it’s really not that different than New York. Bear with me…I know that sounds crazy. But there’s actually a lot of overlay…they are two crazy busy places, there’s always a lot going on. Nairobi is much more cosmopolitan than people in the US tend to think; something that speaks to its attractiveness to investors as well, I think.

FullSizeRender (5)
Ellen during a field assessment of a fair-trade macadamia business in Kenya

How are you directly applying the skills learned through FMS?

FMS formalized my interests by providing additional support and coursework in a structured framework. It also brings together people from a great array of different backgrounds– in that way it prepared me for the impact space…some people are more financially oriented, some are more impact oriented, and FMS mirrored that. Also, I had worked with medium sized VC-backed businesses ($500k+ revenues), but felt that FMS better prepared me for working with very early stage businesses and providing training for young entrepreneurs themselves.

Increasingly my colleagues and classmates who have been working in traditional finance jobs reach out to me to learn about the work I’m now doing and with great interest in FMS. They all have strong business backgrounds and have the desire to do social good but aren’t sure how to channel it. FMS is one of the only programs out there that can harness that type of aspiration and that’s the coolest thing about the program. People do come from different backgrounds, and it’s one of the only programs that can help people coming from the top tier institutions and the traditional experience to apply the skills they have but towards the social impact sector. Other programs target specific people and backgrounds but tend to keep them on the same track, whereas FMS really encourages us to think deeply about change and to go forward and make strong impact.

What are your top three tips for someone looking to start a purpose-driven career?

  1. There is real power in networking and connecting. Do not be hesitant to reach out. It’s the number one way that people can get involved. People like being able to help others, so always feel confident in reaching out and learning more about the spaces that you are interested in. Paying it forward is a good thing.
  2. Think about where you can add value. This is kind of the ultimate catch 22, because in order to add value you need experience, and in order to have experience you probably have one or two experiences where your value-add is minimal. That said, think about the skills that you have and how you can use them to best help a growing enterprise, an impact fund or another entity—maybe its financial analysis, maybe it’s relationship management, but know your skillset and think appropriately about what opportunities fit you best.
  3. Jump in. I think there’s a lot of reticence to move from a traditional finance career to something more nontraditional and risky. Sometimes the best thing to do is just take the leap and make the change you’ve been thinking about.

Reach out to Ellen:  Twitter  Linkedin                          Follow I Dev: Website  Twitter

This is the last week to apply to FMS D.C. Training! Launch your new career, apply today:

CSIL SOCAP15 Recap and Takeaways


CSIL attended Social Capital Markets’ SOCAP15 conference, and WE LOVED IT!  

SOCAP is a the perfect event opportunity to reconnect with great minds! Above, Slater Matzke, FMS Partner Engagement Associate at CSIL reunites with recent MIIS graduates and CSIL stars, Sarah Sterling and Donna Sinar (left to right) while at SOCAP.

CSIL Staff and MIIS graduate student attendees are excited to share their impressions with you in this special edition of testimonials and takeaways.



The next generation of impact investing isn’t about being fund managers allocating capital as a removed, third-party. Rather, its about democratizing investment decisions within the community.

Ben Grimmig, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Strategic Initiatives Assistant at CSIL

The session on ‘Human Capital Solutions for the Future of Impact Investing’ led by some great Tanous Headshotpractitioners, including Sal Giambanco of Omidyar Network and Paul Breloff of Accion Venture Lab, really hit home with its emphasis on talent. The panel spoke about questions of how to find qualified talent, about employee engagement in social enterprise and of course the widely-discussed compensation. Hearing from leaders in the world of impact investing about the importance of universities and programs like Frontier Market Scouts and Ambassador Corps drove home the impact of the activities of CSIL.

Hunter Tanous, Strategic Initiatives Associate



Impact investing portfolios are outperforming traditional portfolios. This gives us confidence in the work we are doing and the causes we believe in.

Annie Makela, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives




1. Some significant, challenging, introspection is required around the following questions: Is the social enterprise and impact investing space a well-functioning market? Do impact investors need to delineateAlex Headshot between “bridging the frontier gap” and “market distortion”? (i.e., When, where, and how do traditional grant money and LPs willing to accept concessionary returns serve to help impact entrepreneurs scale their businesses and become profitable in nascent, undercapitalized, markets/industries? When, where, and how might they create perverse incentives?)

2. There seem to be some lingering, unanswered, questions surrounding environmental and social impact metrics: What do investors want measured? Among different types of investors and asset classes, are there a varying appetites for rigor when it comes to impact metrics? If so, how do impact asset managers best adapt to tailoring varying levels of reporting required by different LPs? How do asset managers propose to collect data? What is the burden for data collection on social entrepreneurs? What are the challenges and costs associated with remote data collection in emerging markets? How do you establish a baseline? How is monitoring and evaluation conducted over the lifetime of an investment? Over what time intervals should asset managers report? Should there be an expectation that this data becomes public?

3. The ideas and investment vehicles coming out of the natural resource conservation space are among the most exciting financial innovations in the US economy. Some revolutionary propositions around:

Market-based methods to combat drought and forest fire (panel: Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Zach Knight @BlueForestConservation, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, David Groves @PrivateCapitalForPublicGood, Louise Bedsworth @OfficeofJerryBrown)

Land conservation (Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Susan Phinney @David&Lucille Packard Foundation, Peter Stein @LymeTimber)

Water conservation (Joe Whitworth @FreshwaterTrust, Eric Hallstein @TheNatureConservancy, Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital)

Established vs. emerging market opportunities in real asset conservation (Ricardo Bayon @EncourageCapital, Justina Lai @WetherbyAssetManagement, Chris Larson @NewIslandCapital, Jerome Ryan @ConservationForestryPartners)

Environmental investments generating social outcomes (Taryn Goodman @NatureVest/TNC, Debra Schwartz @JohnDandCatherineTMacArthurFoundation, Bettina von Hagen @EcotrustForestMgmt, Craig Wichner @FarmlandLP)

Alex Wilbanks, Operations and Marketing Associate


1. Social responsibility in supply chains (impact sourcing) opens a new door for advertising/marketing

2. As social entrepreneurs working in innovative spaces, why are we using the same models to function as those not in our space (wages and other compensation)? Is it possible to generate new motivations for the work of social innovators so as to encourage more creativity as opposed to confining them to the same parameters as every-day business people?

3. Although not a new idea, I think this one needs to be emphasized! Every person that makes up an org brings their own opinions and biases that stem from their worldview/experiences. These collective opinions and biases end up forming the work culture, suggesting that people should take full responsibility for how they personally improve or worsen the workplace dynamic, and individuals should have more agency to confront personal issues, if not only to better themselves, but also to improve the efficiency and morale of their employer.

Danny Pavitt, Graduate Candidate Middlebury Institute of International Studies

CSIL’s Operations and Marketing Associate, Alex Wilbanks, has compiled a list of great reads as a follow up to SOCAP15. We are particularly proud to highlight “Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries“, a publication which Alex contributed to as a consultant for Encourage Capital. Well done, Alex!

“Introducing the Impact Investing Benchmark” Exciting data on the performance of impact asset managers
“Liquid Assets: Investing for Impact in the Colorado River Basin” Walton Family funded research exploring innovative financial approaches to massive natural resource management challenges surrounding water use in the Colorado River Basin
“Investing for Sustainable Global Fisheries” Funded through a collaboration between Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Vibrant Oceans Initiative and The Rockefeller Foundation, this report proposes several investment blueprints that promote enhanced fisheries management for artisanal and mid-scale fisheries in The Philippines, Chile and Brazil.
“ImpactAssets Releases Annual IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Showcase” “ImpactAssets has released its 2015 impact investing showcase, the ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50), a free online resource for investors and financial advisors. The fifth annual guide features fund managers representing private debt and equity investments that deliver social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. “
“Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface” “The GIIN, in partnership with the Carsey School of Public Policy, published Scaling U.S. Community Investing: The Investor-Product Interface, an in-depth landscape study of the U.S. Community Investing (USCI) field. The full report includes a detailed analysis of the major types of USCI products, parameters that different investors use to evaluate investment opportunities, and the barriers and opportunities to increasing investment.”

Upcoming Events:

Frontier Market Scouts (FMS) : It’s your last chance to apply to our D.C. Training! Applications close this Friday, October 30th. Apply:

CSIL will be hosting our SOCAP RECAP event tomorrow!
On Tuesday, October 27th from 12 to 1:30 in our offices, SOCAP attendees will share their biggest takeaways from SOCAP15 and group discussions will be held on key topics. Bring your lunch, snack on CSIL goodies and let’s talk impact! Looking forward to seeing you there.

1st Millennial Impact Speakers Series Event: “B Corps;Business as a Force for Good.”
 ​ Four B Corp rockstars such as Marcello Palazzi (co founder of B Corps Europe) and Vincent Suich (founder of Monterey’s first B Certified Benefit Corporation, Sox Box) will present for us. Join us to answer these burning questions:  What is a B Corp?  Why do B Corps Matter? How can MIIS help local businesses become Certified B Corps?​ This special event will take place on Monday, Nov. 2nd in McGowan 102 from 6-7pm with free food, wine, prizes, and reception to follow. Please contact for more info. We’ll see you there!

Partner Feature: African Entrepreneur Collective, Inkomoko

AEC Sara Julienne“One of our main beliefs is that every problem on the continent already has a solution on the continent.”

We are excited to share our first FMS Partner Feature. Our partner organizations are extremely important to us because their work is at the core of what drives our program and our fellows. In a recent conversation with Sara Leedom, co-founder and COO of African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC), she tells us about AEC, how the Frontier Market Scout fellows have impacted their organization and what we can look forward to in the future (including an open job position!).

Tell us about African Entrepreneur Collective

“We whole-heartedly believe in local entrepreneurs, local staff and local leadership!”

African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC) is a network of incubators and accelerators with the goal to create jobs across Africa. Young people across the Continent are more educated and connected than ever before, and yet as countries are seeing double-digit economic growth, young people are often left out of that economic prosperity. We believe that entrepreneurship is a strong solution to the challenge of job creation.

AEC works with young entrepreneurs who already have an idea and a tested model but who can benefit from technical assistance to overcome barriers to their growth. Our ideal client is someone who has worked at least six months on the business and is starting to understand the challenges. At that stage, we want to help support them through those challenges, keeping them in the driver’s seat, and on a healthy path towards success which in turns fosters job creation.

AEC Ent Collage
African Entrepreneur Collective Entrepreneurs

AEC launched in Rwanda, our pilot location, with several offerings: Inkomoko is our core accelerator program, then we launched Tigo’s THINK as the Tech Hub in Kigali to stimulate digital innovation.  We also have a student business plan competition, the African Innovation Prize, which allows us to work with entrepreneurs who are still at the idea stage and give them the opportunity to build a business from the ground up.  And finally, we’re the Rwanda implementer of SPRING, an incubator for companies serving women and girls.

Through these programs, AEC can really help African entrepreneurs because we have been exactly where they are: we’ve had to find investors, hire local staff, advertise here, etc. There is a lot that we have learned by going through the same exact steps that these business owners are experiencing.

Each of our accelerators have four program elements that we believe must exist simultaneously:

  1. Access to Capacity Building Services: practical trainings and workshops, classes on HR and Quickbooks, marketing and human centered design.
  2. Mentorship: each entrepreneur is paired with a mentor from across the globe.
  3. Technical Assistance: for the items that an entrepreneur doesn’t need to master themselves — lawyers on retainer, logo and website designer, tax accountants
  4. Access to Finance: through our Kiva-backed loan fund, we provide affordable and flexible in-house loans as well as transparent repayment plans.

This program model is our foundation as we expand to Tanzania in January 2016.

What drives AEC?

Spending time across the Continent, we have met hundreds of amazing young people who have great ideas and visions for their communities, but who didn’t have access to opportunities present in developed economies. We look to support what these youth have identified as needs in their own communities, rather than AEC bringing our own ideas to the community.

One of our main beliefs is that every problem on the continent already has a solution on the continent. Young people in Africa can create their own future and own businesses, creating their own income and adding to the wealth of their communities. Our job is to help weaken any barriers that may stand in their way.

 What does impact mean to AEC?

On a practical level, our impact is equipping people to have the skills to create jobs for themselves and others. Our target is that within 18 months of working with us, the entrepreneur will have created on average 10 jobs. When you add the multiplier effect, we are looking at long-term, large-scale impact for job creation across the Continent.

On a philosophical level, our impact is holding up our unwavering belief in young African entrepreneurs, so that investors and policy makers around the world see that African entrepreneurs can create the change that is needed on the continent. It’s about helping shift the dialogue so that it’s not only western investors investing in expats in social enterprise but that the young people who have the most to gain in their communities are the ones to direct the impact. We’re there to tell the stories, raise the profiles, and of course invest in young Africans ourselves.

AEC Fellows
Fellows Alberto and Aysha with Inkomoko Staff in Rwanda

Why did you choose to partner with FMS?

This is our first year as a partner with FMS. It’s been such a fantastic experience. We’ve also had the chance to meet with other people in the program and continue to be impressed with the skills and impact FMS fellows achieve. We had two scouts this year, one of which we hired full time, and one of whom we were able to bring back for a second contract with us.

Alberto Rodriguez, AEC Portfolio Manager, has a background with Deutschebank in Madrid and had done some work starting a school in Kenya. He is our portfolio manager for both funds and we have been incredibly impressed with his professionalism and ability to help strengthen our efforts.

Aysha Rajput. AEC Communications Fellow, produced our first annual report, facilitated client testimonials and published our newsletters. She’s now continuing on a consulting project with us to help us fundraise. We loved our fellows and are excited to continue working with them.

What’s on the horizon for AEC?

We’re expanding!  We will be launching in Western Tanzania in January 2016.

Rwanda was a great pilot program and we are so proud of the work we have been able to achieve. With a small population of 12 million, even if we reached everyone, we would still only access a small slice of what is happening on the continent. We are committed to continuing our efforts in Rwanda and as such, are currently hiring a new Managing Director for our Rwanda location. Applications are open now and we hope to find a great fit soon.

Now that we have tested our model in various formats, we want to be able to bring what we are doing to other communities as well.  The relative ease of doing business in Rwanda (low corruption, stable electricity, efficient government systems, etc), also encourages us to stress test our model and see if we can help as much in countries experiencing different complexities.  We want to test the model early enough in our development to see what works and what doesn’t and then advance confidently.  Our goal is 7 countries by 2022.

We’ve had such a beneficial partnership with FMS and we are excited to bring on more fellows in the future. FMS fellows have been incredibly useful in strengthening and supporting our work which is why we’ve been encouraging other organizations to look to FMS for talent. What’s fantastic is that FMS fellows come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it’s possible to find a fellow to help with anything from photography to financial modeling to due diligence to fundraising.

There is still time to apply for FMS Monterey! Apply now: FMS Application Winter 2016

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