Greetings, Agents of Impact!
Signals: Ahead of the Curve
Get up, stand up: Impact investors speak out for racial justice. Meet the protests in the streets, not with force, but with racial equity, capital for Black communities and entrepreneurs, solidarity and system change (see, “The social mobilization is on“). In statements, blog posts and tweets, Agents of Impact pledged support for Agents of Justice, to fight bias in their own organizations, and to rebuild stronger. “Every aspect of business as usual needs disruption,” Kapor Capital said in a tweet thread calling on investors to use technology to close gaps in education, healthcare, employment and access to capital. The firm, which has built a team led largely by people of color, decried the skyrocketing wealth of billionaires and tech companies while “incredibly talented, diligent, determined low-income kids of color have no access to education, no wifi, no tutors, no adults with the luxury to work from home, no food on the table, no resources for personal hygiene products, and increasingly, nowhere to live.” More impact voices:
- Fight and rebuild. “We are with the people calling for a more equitable society and will fight with you every single day,” Mortar, which supports Cincinnati entrepreneurs with physical space and revolving loans, said in a statement (see, “Derrick Braziel: Breaking down barriers for Cincinnati’s entrepreneurs of color”). “To the businesses hurt by this we are here as a resource to help you rebuild and come out stronger.” Brick by brick, the firm says, “we will rebuild as a city and country.”
- Corporate action. The Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker warned of a growing cynicism about American ideals of opportunity and mobility. “Throw out the old playbook,” he urged corporate CEOs. “Hope is the oxygen of democracy. We are asphyxiating optimism and hope by our economic policies and priorities that have privileged people like me at the expense of workers that we now deem essential.”
- Seek justice and accountability. All hands, and dollars, on deck to support Black lives, says Candide Group’s Morgan Simon, who lays out five ways: Help Minnesota activists. Fight for police accountability. Address the roots of racism. Help communities heal. Learn more about your local community.
- Support CDFIs. “CDFIs are a result of and a response to structural and systematic racism in America’s financial industry,” tweeted Darrin Williams of Southern Bancorp, which has made more than 1,200 loans in the Arkansas and Mississippi Delta totaling $110 million via the federal Paycheck Protection Program (see, “Agent of Impact: Darrin Williams, Southern Bancorp“).
- Just policymaking. “No city in this country has eradicated racism,” says Ben Hecht of Living Cities, which works with foundations and financial institutions to deploy capital to close racial wealth gaps (see ImpactAlpha’s series, “Investing in Racial Equity”). Living Cities will support up to six cities to develop racially-just policy- and decision-making.
- Challenge power disparities. We must “acknowledge the gaping disparity in power that communities of color suffer from daily,” Omidyar Network said in a statement. Omidyar Network committed $500,000 to organizations fighting to protect and advance Black lives. It has supported Color of Change, Community Change and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, among others. “Until we collectively acknowledge and address this structural problem and other destructive narratives, nothing will change.”
- Justice for inclusion. “We cannot credibly build an inclusive economic system without addressing the fundamental injustice, inequity and violence that disproportionately impacts Black people and other People of Color,” said B-Lab’s Anthea Kelsick, who pledged to engage the majority white network of B Corp business leaders “to be vocal and bring explicit conversations about race and racism to all of our stakeholders.”
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org with what your organization is doing to confront racism and promote inclusion or share it on our #social-mobilization Slack channel.
- More impact voices.
Dealflow: Follow the Money
Blue Like an Orange closes $200 million for Latin America fund. The debt fund was founded by former World Bank officials to finance the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (listen to the ImpactAlpha podcast interview, “Blue Like an Orange offers a report card for the Sustainable Development Goals“). The fund has invested $80 million, backing small business lender Produbanco, ride hailing company Cabify, small business IT services firm Cimcorp/Qintess, and fintech venture Movii. The 25 investors backing the fund include AXA, HSBC, CNP Assurances, BNP Paribas Cardif, SG Insurance, MACSF, and the family offices of Sir Ronald Cohen and Ray Chambers, founder of Wesray Capital Corp.
- Amplifying impact. Blue like an Orange has an agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank’s IDB Invest to jointly originate, structure and execute deals. IDB Invest has committed $40 million to Blue like an Orange deals and intends to co-invest an additional $50 million.
- Urgency. The pandemic “puts an exclamation point” on the need for capital mobilization, and “underscores the role of private credit in the impact/sustainability space to help companies through such challenging times,” Blue like an Orange’s Suprotik Basu told ImpactAlpha.
- Read on.
Plastics for Change backs India’s informal workers to divert plastic waste. The recycling company sources landfill- and ocean-bound plastic waste from informal workers through a tech platform designed to ensure fair prices for the collectors. Mirova Natural Capital led Plastics for Change’s $2 million round through the Althelia investment group it acquired last year. Aavishkaar-backed Nepra also leverages the informal waste worker economy to boost recycling in India. More.
Portugal’s Kitch helps restaurant businesses shift to delivery. Europe’s small business-driven restaurant scene is coming back to life from the COVID shutdown, but it’s far from business as usual. Lisbon-based impact investor Mustard Seed MAZE and London-based Seedcamp provided pre-seed funding to help Kitch build delivery-only kitchens for Lisbon’s restaurant owners and chefs.
Impact Voices: Pass the Mic
Mobilizing with urgency: A call to the impact investing movement. Last month’s Mission Investors Exchange National Conference was a call for foundation leaders to step up and take on the long-term battle for systemic change, MIE’s Matt Onek writes in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. The virtual conference, Amplifying Impact, ended before last week’s protests over police killings and structural racism, but many of the themes were presciently on point. “We have been allowing far too many folks to live in crisis,” Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Lisa Hamilton said. “This moment requires leaders who are willing to make bold choices.” California Endowment’s Robert Ross called for a “national agenda for reorienting capitalism with an equity lens.” Other foundation leaders described efforts to advance racial equity across their organizations by investing in entrepreneurs of color, working to increase diversity among asset managers, and reducing unconscious biases driving investment decision-making. “In order to walk the talk for racial equity, we had to go beyond the 5% and engage the 95%” of philanthropic assets held in foundation endowments, said W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s La June Montgomery Tabron.
- Democratize decision-making. Heron Foundation unveiled plans to transform their operating model and endowment and move money and decision-making power into the hands of the local communities (see, “Stretch goal for foundations: Shift power, as well as assets, for the post-COVID economy”). “The point of this money is not to make more money,” said Heron’s Preeti Bhattacharji. “It’s to achieve our mission.”
- Mobilize with urgency. The COVID crisis is “calling on us to demonstrate our willingness to move nimbly, double down on impact, and embrace the discomfort that comes with risk and innovation,” Onek writes. By changing reporting requirements, deferring loan payments, creating relief funds, and partnering with government, foundations have leveraged their networks and skills to face these crises. “We have a strategic plan,” said Ceniarth’s Greg Neichin. “It’s called doing things.” (see, “We are lenders, not heroes: Ceniarth’s three-part response to COVID-19”).
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Agents of Impact: Follow the Talent
Local Initiatives Support Corp. is seeking a community development officer in New York… Cutting Edge Counsel is looking for a part-time marketing and communications associate in the Bay Area… Mastercard Foundation is hiring a program impact partner in Accra, Ghana and an impact lead in Lagos… The Global Development Incubator seeks an innovation director in Washington, D.C. or Delhi… The Women’s Development Collaborative is hosting an online discussion with Small Change’s Eve Picker on June 4.
Thank you for reading.
–June 2, 2020