Agents of Impact | June 11, 2021

Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson

Dennis Price
ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

ImpactAlpha, June 11 – Early leaders face a choice as movements grow: Fade away or adapt their game.

In the decade since Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson co-authored the 2011 book, Impact Investing, the investment approach has seen tremendous growth in impact assets under management, the maturation of impact measurement and management, the birth of new firms and the conversion of legacy institutions.

In the book, they cite Robert Kennedy: “Even tiny ripples, when they are multiplied and brought together, can become a powerful current that sweeps aside the established order.” That was the backdrop to the job changes the two early movers announced, separately, this week.

South African-born Bugg-Levine worked for the country’s human rights commission and the African National Congress. He helped lead TechnoServe in Nairobi and then the impact investing program at Rockefeller Foundation, where he helped found the Global Impact Investing Network and other field infrastructure. As CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund for the past decade, Bugg-Levine quintupled lending and secured an additional $43 million of unrestricted assets. He shared that he’s stepping down to make way for a (yet unnamed) “visionary, community-centered leader with lived expertise of the issues we work on.” Bugg-Levine hasn’t committed to his next gig, but says he will continue “to build better funding systems that advance justice and equity.” 

Early in his career, Emerson played central roles at Larkin Street Services, Roberts Enterprise Development Fund, Pacific Community Ventures and Generation Investment Management. As his Twitter handle reminds, he developed “blended value” and other early impact investing concepts. More recently, he has advised funds and family offices including Annie Chen’s RS Group Asia. This week, he announced his full-time move to Tiedemann Advisors, which manages more than $25 billion in client assets, but only $3.5 billion with an impact focus. “This is a chance for me, having spent a lot of time on the outside as an advisor and provocateur, to come inside and put some of my rhetoric to practice,” Emerson told ImpactAlpha.

As impact investing grows up to meet the moment, Emerson and Bugg-Levine will be among the many who help write its next chapter. “I’ve been preaching to the choir,” Emerson says. “It’s time to preach to the pew.”