ImpactAlpha Open: February’s impact funds raising capital + investing in refugees

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ImpactAlpha Editor

Dennis Price

Hi there, Agents of Impact! Welcome to the latest edition of ImpactAlpha Open, your weekly guide to news, trends and opportunities in the impact economy.

In this week’s newsletter:

  • February’s Liist of impact funds;
  • ESG in VC;
  • Investing in refugees; and
  • Alt-ownership tools.

Let’s get to it. – Dennis Price


Must-reads on ImpactAlpha

  • Seven impact funds raising capital. From India to Ecuador to the Appalachian region of the U.S., impact fund managers recognize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to plugging persistent capital gaps for inclusive, sustainable economies. Take a spin through Impactalpha’s February Liist of seven impact funds raising capital right now, in partnership with Realize Impact.

    • Separately, after a pandemic-related pause, institutional investors are again moving money into private impact funds in emerging markets. But only a small fraction of those funds are managed locally, according to the latest market snapshot from Swiss impact investing specialist Tameo, I reported.
  • Climate tipping points. Investors are riding the S-curves in the low-carbon transition, as technologies, like solar, wind and batteries benefit from declining costs as knowledge and expertise grow with scale, reports Amy Cortese.
  • Muni impact. The brutality in Memphis exposed legacy risks that have been hiding in plain sight, as Ryan Bowers explains in David Bank’s piece on Activest’s new fixed-income racial equity strategy. 
  • ESG in VC. Lax governance has long been brewing across startups and private markets (see, for example, FTX). That makes the “G” in ESG especially pertinent for VCs who find it hard to “get started” with ESG. “Installing boards, HR processes, grievance procedures and conflict-of-interest checks should always have been part of VC practice and due diligence,” write VentureESG’s Johannes Lenhard and Hannah Leach.
  • Scaling impact. Catalytic investors must be clear on the role of their capital, by identifying the appropriate source of the funding and the level of concessionality that’s required to make investments work, writes Ward Nusselder of Dutch development bank FMO, in the final installment of ImpactAlpha’s “Scaling Impact” series with C3, the Catalytic Capital Consortium.

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Agents of Impact

🌲 Andrew Crosson, Invest Appalachia: Catalytic capital for community impact

Andrew Crosson was a decade deep in community economic development work in central Appalachia when he got the call three years ago to lead Invest Appalachia, a nonprofit community impact fund, as founding CEO. He understood nonprofits and philanthropy and Appalachia’s challenges. “What I brought was a vision and an understanding of the ways this fund needed to function if it was going to benefit the region,” says Crosson. “I didn’t know a lot about finance.”

With a new fund, Invest Appalachia is taking a catalytic and community-based approach to advance economic inclusion, health equity, climate resilience, and place-based impact in a region that has suffered decades of disinvestment and extraction.

🏃🏿‍♀️ On the move

  • ImpactAssets promoted Dana Cotter to managing director of impact and added Alice Lowenstein, ex- of Litman Gregory Asset Management, as chief operating officer. From the White House, Christian Peele joins ImpactAssets as chief of staff and head of strategic planning; Kavita Vijayan, ex- of Reinvestment Fund, becomes director of strategic marketing communications.
  • BlackRock promoted Caroline Brady to director of impact management and research.
  • Aaron Jackson, ex- of Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project, joined Fair Food Network as program director of Michigan Good Food Fund.

Impact Briefing

🎧 On this week’s podcast

ImpactAlpha’s David Bank joins host Monique Aiken to share takeaways from this week’s Agents of Impact Call on how investors are working to advance racial justice through the municipal bond market. Plus, the headlines. 


Deal Spotlight

💸 Protecting individuals and businesses from data and identity theft

Cell phones and digitization have helped billions of individuals, micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses improve their livelihoods. They’ve also introduced new risks, particularly around personal data and privacy. Omidyar Network’s India group last week backed PrivaSapien, a Bangalore-based maker of software that helps companies conduct privacy risk assessments, anonymize user data, flag concerns, and stay on top of regulatory requirements. 


Six Signals

🌐 Investing in refugees. Unilever, Citigroup, Inditex, BBVA and Starbucks topped the first-ever ranking of the 50 high-performing global companies taking action to address the refugee crisis through economic integration. (Refugee Integration Insights)

🤝 Alt-ownership. Dozens of tools and resources for investors and founders looking to build employee-owned businesses, co-ops, steward ownership and other alternative ownership and governance structures. (Esme Verity, Considered Capital). 

🧑🏾‍🌾 Agtech adoption is up. Roughly half of farmers make digital purchases, according to a McKinsey study of 5,500 farmers across nine countries. And though digitization and sustainability practices are often linked, adoption of the latter is still below 50%. (Agfunder News)

🌱 Sustainability-first startups. How can founders make hardware without ruining the planet? Hint: Weave sustainability into the product design as early as possible. (Techcrunch)

 Clean tech, clean air. Bronx residents that replaced their gas stoves with induction stoves showed a 35% decrease in nitrogen dioxide and a nearly 43% reduction in carbon monoxide. (The City)

📈 Applying economics to ESG. From how sustainability risk affects cash flows to ESG’s diminishing returns, 10 ways mainstream economics can help us better understand ESG. (Alex Edmans, London Business School)


Get in the Game 

💼 Step up

  • Veris Wealth Partners is looking for a wealth manager and a senior wealth manager in New York.
  • Open Road Alliance seeks an investment officer.
  • New Forests seeks an associate director for timberland and forest carbon investments in San Francisco.

🤝 Meet up

  • ReImagine Appalachia, in partnership with Manufacturing Renaissance and the American Sustainable Business Network, will host a webinar on community-based manufacturing ecosystems, Tuesday, Feb. 9.
  • The Sunrise Project’s Jordan Haedtler and Evergreen Action’s Sam Ricketts will join Climate XChange’s virtual discussion on climate policy trends, Wednesday, Feb. 15.
  • New Ventures ihosting the Latin America Impact Investing Forum, or “FLII”, February 28 to March 2 in Mérida, Mexico. Get 35% off with code IMPACTALPHA35.

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