The Brief | March 1, 2021

The Brief: Democracy’s power brokers, lab-grown beef, blending SDG capital, workforce housing in D.C., gender + climate call recap

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Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Featured: The Reconstruction

The Reconstruction: The mobilization of Black women and other voters of color is uplifting us all. There was an important history lesson embedded in the confirmation hearings of Attorney General-designate Merrick Garland: The Department of Justice was established in 1870 to enforce the 15th Amendment’s right to vote. In the last few years, the U.S. has learned a corollary lesson: a broad-based popular mobilization is required as well. On the latest episode in ImpactAlpha’s podcast series, The Reconstruction, host Monique Aiken sits down with sociologist and demographer Jessica Barron and her colleague Marion Johnson to discuss how women of color have mobilized to protect and expand the right to vote and become key players in the future of democratic rule. Women of color “are the major players in the game,” Barron tells Aiken. “If we’re gonna sit here and play this chess, we need to have these women on board.”

Barron and Johnson, with the North Carolina-based consulting firm Frontline Solutions, spent a year talking with women organizers, scholars and elected officials of color. One insight: Women of color, who have been forced to deal with systems in ways others haven’t, often have the insights, strategies and solutions that can benefit all. Barron and Johnson’s report, “Democracy’s Powerbrokers – The Political Power of Women of Color,” foretold the potential of women of color even before the mobilization of such voters proved decisive, particularly in Georgia (see, “Agents of Impact: Georgia’s organizers). Now, BIPOC women are fighting the backlash to their success: Already this year, GOP politicians have introduced more than 250 bills in 43 states to restrict voting access. “My hope is that we stop writing off women of color, we stop writing off the South as a foregone conclusion, and we start actually paying attention to the really phenomenal work that’s happening at the local level, at the state level, to really empower communities,” says Johnson. Women of color are shifting the paradigm of governing into a collective vision, adds Barron. “If you don’t have everyone in that vision, you will always have cracks in the foundation.”

Read on and listen in, “The mobilization of Black women and other voters of color is uplifting us all,” the latest podcast from The Reconstruction on ImpactAlpha.

  • The Reconstruction. ImpactAlpha’s podcast series, hosted by Monique Aiken, is chronicling the people and projects centering Blackness in the service of economic liberation for all. Catch up on Monique’s conversations with Melissa Bradley, Carmen Rojas and Gene Bruskin, and her roundtable with Rachel Robasciotti, Tracy Gray, Erika Seth Davies and Brent Kessel, unlikely partners in the fight against racial bias in asset allocation. Listen on Spotify, Apple or Anchor.  
  • On the beat. Scan The Reconstruction’s landing page for podcast summaries and original coverage, including dealflow, features and Agents of Impact.

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Mosa Meat closes $85 million to scale lab-grown beef production. The Netherlands-based alternative protein company produces meat from cow cells – without harming the cows. It says it can make 80,000 beef burgers from just one sample. Mosa Meat will use its Series B financing to launch its lab-grown beef in the consumer market and expand production at its headquarters in Maastricht.

  • Food tech investors. Impact fund Blue Horizon Ventures led Mosa’s round. Last June, it backed alt-breast milk startup BIOMILQ (see, “BIOMILQ secures $3.5 million for milk grown in a lab”). Other investors in the Series B round include Rubio Impact Ventures, ArcTern Ventures, Nutreco, Bell Food Group and M Ventures
  • Cellular meat startups. Lab-grown meat companies are inching closer to bringing affordable products to market. Israel-based Future Meat raised $26.8 million in an equity funding round in February to bring its lab-grown chicken to market; Berkeley, Calif.-based Memphis Meats hauled in $161 million to build a plant in the Bay Area to produce lab-grown chicken, duck and beef; San Francisco-based Wild Type secured $12.5 million to develop lab-grown lox and salmon fillets; and Emeryville, Calif.-based Finless Foods scored $3.5 million for its bluefin tuna product.
  • More.

Joint SDG fund allocates $41 million to catalyze financing for the global goals. The U.N.’s Joint SDG Fund is aiming to blend private capital to advance the Sustainable Development Goals. It selected Fiji, Indonesia, Malawi and Uruguay for catalytic grants to help the four countries leverage an additional $4.7 billion. The fund has made $223 million in SDG investments across 112 countries to date.

  • Portfolio countries. Fiji will use the public-private funding to protect its coastal reefs and ocean life. Indonesia will support the creation of women-led small businesses and accelerate its transition to renewable energy. Malawi aims to create jobs and support small agri-businesses to reduce poverty, hunger and inequality. Uruguay will focus on accelerating the transition to renewable energy across sectors.
  • Blended finance. Strategies to stack capital with different profiles for risk and returns have underperformed expectations in recent years (see, “Blended finance is mobilizing billions, not trillions, for the global goals”).  Innovation is exciting, but institutional investors are more interested in standardized products that are familiar, tested, and proven, according to Convergence, the blended-finance clearinghouse (see, “Five tips for attracting capital to blended finance vehicles).
  • Dig in.

Washington, D.C. workforce housing fund closes at $114.5 million. The D.C. government aims to add 36,000 new housing units by 2025, one-third of them “affordable.” The Washington Housing Initiative Impact Pool, created by real estate investment firm JBG SMITH and D.C. nonprofit Federal City Council, already has invested $21.8 million to preserve 1,151 affordable workforce housing units. With Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund, the Impact Pool helped the Washington Housing Conservancy purchase Crystal House, a 825-unit apartment building in Arlington, Va. MainStreet Bank invested in the fund.

Agents of Impact Call Recap 

The Call No. 27: Opportunities at the intersection of gender and climate. Follow the women. “Companies with better gender diversity are more likely to establish climate goals, they are more likely to avoid environmental litigation and sanctions from regulatory authorities, they are more likely to avoid fraud, and they are more innovative,” said Pax World Funds’ Julie Gorte, who joined hundreds of other Agents of Impact on The Call last week to explore under-tapped opportunities at the intersection of climate and gender-lens investing. “We need the climate investors and the climate business actors to up their game on gender as much as we need the gender actors to up the game on climate,” said GenderSmart’s Suzanne Biegel.

  • Climate adaptation. Enterprises like Grassland Cameroon are demonstrating what the gender + climate opportunity looks like. Grassland provides asset-based financing to 1,000 Cameroonian smallholder farmers, most of whom are women. “Women are not only in charge of feeding their children, but they’re also in charge of providing that food in some way,” said Grassland’s founder Manka Angwafo. The company is helping farmers adapt to climate change with zero-tillage, crop rotation, cover crops and other resilience practices, as well as better weather information.
  • Intersectional impact. Nearly all of the portfolio companies of Senegal-based women’s investment firm WIC Capital are addressing climate change in some way, said WIC’s Evelyne Dioh. For example, its first investment, E-Cover, makes new materials out of recycled tires.
  • Market development. The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. and Shell Foundation last month announced a $145 million blended-finance commitment to invest in small businesses in Africa and Asia, which are on the frontlines of climate change. The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs, or ANDE, is partnering with Global Affairs Canada, the Aga Khan Foundation and World University Service on Accelerating Women Climate Entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve rounded up dozens of resources shared by Agents of Impact on The Call.
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Carbon Removal Advocacy Europe is recruiting for an executive director… J.P. Morgan is looking for a vice president of its impact venture equity fund in New York… Also in New York, Rockefeller Foundation is hiring an associate of innovative finance, and World Education Services is on the hunt for an associate director of impact investing… Hope is recruiting a credit officer and senior credit officer for its commercial lending team… Common Future seeks a digital content producer in Oakland… Open Road Alliance is looking for a data and Salesforce manager… The Impact Management Project is hiring a communications associate in London… The Sobrato Organization has an opening for a director of impact investments in Mountain View, Calif. 

Thank you for your impact.

– Mar. 1, 2021