The Brief | March 19, 2020

The Brief: ImpactAlpha U, Main Street bridge loans, Nature Conservancy’s new CEO, GSG postponed

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impacts!

Impact voices. We’re updating our running post, “Resilience and disruption: Agents of Impact share lessons from the pandemic,” with your dispatches from the global mobilization. Send your thoughts to [email protected]. If you’d rather speak out loud, just click here to quickly record a one-minute audio message. We’ll feature your voices on our new Friday podcast, Impact Briefing.

– David Bank, editor

Featured: The Call

ImpactAlpha U: Training a new generation of MBAs to reshape business and finance (audio). Campuses are closed, but ImpactAlpha U was in session. Faculty and students from MBA and other graduate programs joined our Agents of Impact Call No. 13 last week to talk sustainable finance and impact investing education. The impetus was the impact disruption of professional education; the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic only reinforced what’s at stake. “We can’t keep up with the demand no matter how fast we grow,” said Wharton’s Sandi Hunt. “The driving reason is this generation of students and their demand – not expectation – that they are going to live more integrated lives: their jobs, their finance, their time all aligned more with their values.”

The Impact & Sustainable Finance Faculty Consortium has grown to 190 faculty members across 90 universities in 18 countries. “You see social-impact cases, questions and approaches being woven into MBA programs outside of the impact-first classes, into finance, management and organizational behavior,” said Kellogg’s Megan Kashner, who leads the consortium. As enrollment in traditional finance and MBA programs has declined, some universities have revamped their business schools entirely around sustainability and impact, said Peter Lupoff of NetImpact, which has student chapters at more than 200 universities. The University of Vermont shut down its previous program to offer instead a Sustainable Innovation MBA.

  • Talent competition. Korn Ferry’s Kate Shattuck said the most sought-after job candidates are “multilingual,” fluent in finance, policy, business and philanthropy. “Students are uniquely qualified to have fluency in those language.” Kellogg sponsors, with Morgan Stanley, the annual Sustainable Investing Challenge, which this year attracted 95 teams from 74 schools. Judges will pick winners from the dozen finalists in an online event April 17. Wharton hosts both the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge and the MBA Impact Investing Network and Training, or MIINT.
  • Required reading. At NYU’s Wagner School (impact investing is not just for MBAs, anymore), Scott Taitel provided students free access to ImpactAlpha in his Social Impact Investment class. “That provided the extracurricular learning that fueled the fire for a lot of us,” said student Luke Jones. Supported by the Rockefeller FoundationImpactAlpha provides free subscriptions to faculty and discounts site licenses for university libraries. Students at HarvardYaleMITTuftsStanfordOxfordDukeMichigan and a dozen other schools get free access to The Brief and

Keep reading, and find an audio replay of, “ImpactAlpha U: Training a new generation of MBAs to reshape business and finance,” by David Bank on ImpactAlpha.

Signals: Ahead of the Curve

Helping Main Street businesses weather the coronavirus superstorm. The coronavirus is cratering industries from airlines to hotels. The most vulnerable may be local restaurants and retailers that are closing, voluntarily or not, to tamp the spread of the virus. Main Street businesses employ millions but don’t have deep pockets – half have a cash buffer of less than 15 days – nor sway over policymakers. Without fast and targeted action, we could face a “Main Street bloodbath that…will very soon decimate local economies across the country for a long time,” warn New Localism Advisors’ Bruce Katz, Blueprint Local’s Ross Baird and The Governance Project’s Colin Higgins. They say governments should enlist community development financial institutions as well as “rapid response” fintech lenders to deliver loans. City and county “economic stabilization teams” could provide “short-term, focused relief,” including rental and mortgage holidays. The trio are among many voices calling for billions or trillions in emergency loans for small businesses.

  • Main Street recovery. Economic Innovation Group’s Adam Ozimek and John Lettieri call for an emergency small-business loan program to provide long-term, zero-interest loans of up to $5 million, administered by banks. “A well-designed policy will not only ensure that otherwise viable businesses survive the near-term disruption, but that they also emerge ready to drive a rapid, bottom-up Main Street recovery,” they write.
  • Bridge loans for all. Short-term bridge loans, like those deployed by Open Road Alliance, help otherwise solid mission-driven enterprises through unexpected crises (see, ‘Short-term loans are a safety net as social enterprises face an ‘unexpected OMG moment). The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, who chronicled the 2008 bailouts, proposes the government offer five-year, no-interest bridge loans to every American business and every self-employed or gig worker. The condition: keep 90% of the business’s workforce at full pay. The proposals do not address inequality and other systemic issues, acknowledges Sorkin. Once the economy is stabilized, he says, “we need to have a very serious, almost grave, conversation in the country with our political and business leaders about financial responsibility and our policies.”
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

Conservation International’s Jennifer Morris will become CEO of The Nature Conservancy on May 18… Bamboo Capital Partners seeks a portfolio valuation and audit officer in Luxembourg… Rally Assets is looking for an impact investing intern in Toronto… Autodesk Foundation is hiring an impact investing intern/associate in Boston… The Global Steering Group for Impact Investing postponed its 2020 Pan-Africa Summit in Johannesburg to late 2021. The GSG expects to host the summit virtually Sept. 9-11.

Thank you for reading.