The Brief | August 19, 2021

The Brief: Impact-first debt, career impact bonds, community solar, beta stewardship, vaccine justice

The team at


Greetings, Agents of Impact! 

Dealflow: Follow the Money

Global Partnerships’ impact-first debt fund raises $45.5 million for the COVID recovery. The firm’s ninth fund will provide “patient debt” and affordable working capital for emerging-market microfinance institutions and social enterprises, particularly those serving women and the rural poor. The Impact-First Growth Fund is a “strategic response to the pandemic, which has severely impacted – and will continue to impact – the lives of people living in poverty,” said Global Partnerships’ Rick Beckett.

  • Catalytic capital. The U.S. International Development Finance Corp. anchored the fund with $37.5 million. That investment was made possible by an $8 million first-loss tranche backed by family office Ceniarth, the Shelby Cullom Davis Charitable Fund and other catalytic investors. “The pandemic has further highlighted the need for impact-first financing vehicles like this new fund,” said Ceniarth’s Diane Isenberg. On an Agents of Impact podcast last year, Isenberg said, “I thought it hysterical that Ceniarth has to protect the United States. But if that’s what they need to get the money out the door.”
  • More

Social Finance raises $49.9 million for workforce-focused UP Fund. The W.K. Kellogg, Inherent and Phillips foundations are among the latest backers of the fund, which deploys “career impact bonds” to upskill American workers in high-demand fields (learn more here). The fund has initiated impact bonds with General Assembly, Acuitus, Alchemy Code Lab and American Diesel Training Centers. The financing covers the up-front cost of enrolled learners, who repay tuition after they secure well-paying jobs in their new fields. The fund aims to support 8,000 workers.

  • Donor-advised. Social Finance expects the UP Fund to reach a final close later this year. Roughly 17% of commitments so far come from donor-advised funds, or DAFs. Social Finance has attracted DAF account holders at the Boston Foundation, the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, Fidelity Charitable and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.
  • Pay it forward. Separately, Social Finance is partnering with a half-dozen state governments to upskill workers from underserved communities. “Pay it forward” programs in New Jersey and other states use an income-based repayment model similar to UP Fund’s career impact bonds.
  • Learn more

Community solar developer Nexamp secures $680 million in debt and equity financing. The Boston-based company, led by a pair of U.S. Army veterans, develops and manages solar-energy storage for approximately 40,000 customers in 10 U.S. states. Walmart, for example, is subscribing to 23 of Nexamp’s community solar farms in New York “to play a direct role in spurring economic development in the communities we serve” and “spark collective climate action,” said Walmart’s Mark Vanderhelm. For consumers, Nexamp offers discounts on clean energy services without a credit check or long-term commitment.

  • Solar financing. Nexamp raised $240 million from Generate Capital. The equity financing follows $440 million in debt funding the company secured earlier this year. Generate’s Scott Jacobs said Nexamp is “speeding up the democratization of energy – a critical piece in the urgent climate solutions puzzle.”
  • Plug in

Dealflow overflow. Other investment news crossing our desks:

  • Impact-focused digital bank Aspiration will go public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company InterPrivate III Financial Partners Inc. and become a public benefit corporation.
  • Achieve Partners takes a stake in Cloud for Good to establish “Talent for Good,” an apprenticeship program for Salesforce service providers (for background see, “Achieve Partners raises $180 million to boost apprenticeships and job placements”).
  • Bangalore and Singapore-based fintech Klub secures $20 million in debt and equity to provide revenue-based financing to digital businesses in India.
  • New York-based Health In Her Hue raises $1 million to offer digital healthcare services tailored to women of color.

Signals: Short Takes

Beta stewardship. Institutional investors with diverse portfolios are practicing active ownership to hold individual companies accountable for creating systemic risks. The Shareholder Commons took on systemic risk, or “beta” issues, with two dozen shareholder proposals this proxy season, including asking YUM! Brands and McDonald’s to address antimicrobial resistance by reducing the use of antibiotics in the supply chain.

Fiduciary duty. Robert Raben of the Diverse Asset Managers Initiative is slamming U.S. Senators Pat Toomey and Ron Johnson over their letter to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The senators claimed that calls to boost diversity contradict the board’s fiduciary duties to retirees. “Since that is offensive, and prima facie wrong, we ask that you clear up this confusion,” wrote Raben to the senators. “You cannot possibly think that people of color don’t manage money as well as white people, or that women underperform men.”

Vaccine justice. Investor members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility called out Johnson & Johnson after a New York Times report found that the pharmaceutical company is sending COVID shots manufactured in South Africa to Europe and other parts of the world, even as South Africa waits on the doses it has contracted from the firm. Johnson & Johnson “should be working with other manufacturers to ensure the manufacturing of enough doses for everyone, everywhere,” said Oxfam America’s Diana Kearney. A J&J executive told the Times the South Africa plant would be dedicated to supplying African countries later this year.

Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent

US Equity Holdings’ Chester Aldridge joins the board of AVG Group Sarl’s Nordic ESG and Impact Fund… Zebras Unite is hiring a community catalyst to lead its Philadelphia Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Initiative… 17 Asset Management seeks stakeholder engagement fellows… JFF is recruiting a senior program manager for its workforce training initiatives… Humboldt Area Foundation is hiring a director of impact and project investment. 

Finance in Motion seeks a senior expert of impact and sustainability in Frankfurt… is recruiting a strategic development executive… Just Capital has an opening for a managing director of programs… The Crane Institute of Sustainability seeks a membership manager for its Intentional Endowments Network… Opportunity Finance Network is accepting nominations for the Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance.

Thank you for your impact.

– Aug 19, 2021