The Brief | October 23, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Democracy

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, co-host Monique Aiken and Amy Cortese recap this week’s SOCAP Virtual conference and share soundbites from headliners like Darren Walker, Fran Seegull, Cathy Clark and Jed Emerson. This week’s Agents of Impact: Voters. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

  • Video booth. ImpactAlpha produced a short promo for our virtual booth at SOCAP. Have a watch, take a look around our YouTube channel and subscribe for free. 

The Week’s Big 6

1. Impact investing in a changed world. This year’s virtual Social Capital Markets conference – SOCAP for short – showcased inclusive and innovative ways to meet basic needs like food, shelter, healthcare and education in a world gone crazy. “We’re in an alternative-everything world,” Mission Investor Exchange’s Monique Aiken, a contributing editor at ImpactAlpha, said in her state-of-the-field assessment with U.S. Impact Investing Alliance’s Fran Seagull and Duke University’s Cathy Clark. Missed SOCAP? ImpactAlpha has you covered.

  • Zoomed out? The SOCAP marathon reinforced how virtual business has become. Aunnie Patton-Power, who lectures on impact investing at Oxford and elsewhere, offers 10 tips to boost engagement in online meetings. Collect the whole set.

2. Centering entrepreneurs of color.  When founders of color prosper, so will the entrepreneurial economy. CapEQ’s Tynesia Boyea-Robinson’s Path to 15|55 initiative is putting $100 million in fresh commitments to work for Black business owners. Living Cities will test new ways to deliver capital to underserved entrepreneurs of color with a $1.7 million grant from the Kauffman Foundation. Village Capital wants to boost private capital for new businesses through policy changes that redefine “small business” and “accredited investor.” Count the ways

  • Corporate case studies. Netflix’s $10 million deposit in HOPE Credit Union in Jackson, Miss., inspired 124 other companies to follow suit, generating $25 million to lend to small businesses across the South. That represents “life-changing capital to places where institutional barriers continue to impede the ability of Black residents to build wealth,” writes HOPE’s Bill Bynum. More

3. Institutional shift to food infrastructure (podcast). Concerns about the resiliency of food supply chains have gone from conceptual to concrete. Ultra-productive, high-tech greenhouses that can deliver regional food security are drawing interest from policy makers and institutional investors. “This is food infrastructure,” explains Equilibrium Capital’s Dave Chen on ImpactAlpha’s Institutional Shift podcast. Dig in

4. Impact performance in agriculture and financial inclusion. Two reports from the Global Impact Investing Network provide evidence of impact across more than 1,500 investments in financial inclusion and agriculture. The average financial inclusion investee, for example, provided first-time access to financial services to more than 136,000 individuals in a period of one year. “Impact measurement and management is going mainstream,” says the GIIN’s Amit Bouri. Behind the numbers.

5. Catalyzing investment in neglected diseases. Diseases perceived as too complex or affecting too few people struggle to attract investment and research for life-saving therapies. Venture philanthropy funds, like a Type-1 diabetes fund from JDRF, can “de-risk a disease area for the venture community and draw capital to the field, enabling real progress toward a cure,” Sean Doherty says in a guest post. Find out how

6. Lighting every clinic (video). ImpactAlpha’s Agents of Impact Call No. 24 laid down a design challenge for innovative finance: identify models to electrify frontline health clinics and improve health outcomes in Africa and Asia. Emerging models share common elements, including energy-as-a-service to turn upfront capital costs into affordable operating costs; portfolio aggregation to draw in investors; power purchase agreements; and revenue subsidies and guarantees. Catch the replay.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Voters. That sound you hear: tens of millions of early voters determined to have a voice in the country we want the United States to be. The risk of voting during a pandemic was supposed to deter voting. Instead, threats to our health and to our democracy appear to be turning voters out in record numbers. An astounding 49,313,897 have already voted in the U.S. election (as of this morning). That’s a third of the total turnout in 2016, with 11 days to go. Texans, who lead early voter turnout, have already cast almost six million votes – two-thirds of the nearly nine million votes cast in the state in the last presidential election. California, Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey and Michigan are following right behind. “This is one of the crucial elections for my sons,” Dana Clark, who voted in New Orleans with a “safety pod” to protect her and her son, told BuzzFeed News. “We’re so divided right now. We can do better. We should do better, and it starts with voting, which is why I always bring my kids to the polls.” Pandemic notwithstanding, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is predicting 154 million votes will be cast in the largest turnout in U.S. history. 

It’s no accident. Agents of Democracy have stood strong against efforts to suppress the vote, including voter ID laws, purges of voter rolls, and limits on mail-in, drive-in and early voting. The American Civil Liberties Union has won 26 victories to safeguard voting rights in 20 states and Puerto Rico. LeBron James’ More Than a Vote has recruited 40,000 poll workers and helped push for NBA arenas to be converted to poll stations. This week the organization launched an operation to combat misinformation among younger Black voters. Michelle Obama’s bipartisan “When We All Vote” campaign mobilized an army of mayors, school representatives and neighborhood “voting squad captains.” In Texas, Voto Latino registered more than 500,000 new voters between May and October. Beto O’Rourke’s Powered By People registered another 100,000, and mobilized more than 7,000 volunteers who have made six million calls and sent 40 million texts. Democracy is like jazz, musician Wynton Marsalis told the Financial Times. “You’ve got your individual rights – that’s improvisation. You’ve got your responsibility to the group – that’s swing. And you have your optimism and belief that your will and reasoning and choices can make a difference – that’s the blues.” – Dennis Price

The Week’s Dealflow

Access to… Humana backs ‘health outcomes fund’ to expand addiction treatment and support services… Lightship Capital invests in mobile dentistry startup Kare Mobile… Chelsea Clinton’s VC fund backs edtech startup Fiveable. 

Innovative finance. Impact Engine steps into private equity with $31 million growth fund… Pay-for-success funds in San Francisco and Colorado raise $10 million for nonprofits… Unreasonable Group launches diverse investing collective. 

Low-carbon economy. Electric bus maker Proterra raises $200 million… Heila Technologies scores $2.5 million to improve minigrid performance… Trilantic takes stake in electric vehicle infrastructure firm SemaConnect.

Frontier finance. Secha Capital reaches first close of second fund for early-stage enterprises in South Africa… Catalyst Fund secures $4.3 million to accelerate digital commerce in Ghana. 

Impact bonds. E.U. raises €17 billion from social bonds to support COVID recovery and job growth. 

The Week’s Talent

Annie McShiras, ex-Self-Help Credit Union, joins the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative as investment and fundraising director… RSF Social Finance welcomes 28 financial professionals as Integrated Capital Institute Fellows… Ford Foundation appoints Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to its board of trustees… Ryan Caldbeck steps down and Nick Talwar steps up as CEO of funding platform CircleUp.

The Week’s Jobs

Forward Community Investments is looking for a chief executive officer in Madison, Wis… UtilityAPI is hiring a vice president of sales… Prime Coalition is hiring a project manager of ‘first-of-a-kind’ climate infrastructure deployment… Acumen is looking for a business development manager in San Francisco… BMO is looking for a managing director for its sustainable finance group in New York… The Real Real is recruiting a director of sustainability in San Francisco… Consulting group Quantis is hiring a climate strategy lead in Lausanne or Zurich… KPMG Australia seeks a senior sustainability consultant in Melbourne… RHIA Ventures is recruiting a chief executive officer in San Francisco.

Thank you for reading. 

–Oct. 23, 2020