The Brief | May 8, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Flexibility

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

Impact Briefing. On ImpactAlpha’s new weekly podcast, host Brian Walsh talks with Dennis Price about how some impact investors are responding to the COVID disruption in a way that doesn’t require new infusions of capital (see No. 2, below) and Isaac Silk chats with Price, along with Jessica Pothering and Amy Cortese about how they pulled off a cringe-worthy birthday surprise for David Bank, this week’s special Agent of Impact. Listen to (and share) this week’s Impact Briefing, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Week’s Big 7

1. The 10x Challenge: How impact investors are stepping up (and how ImpactAlpha is helping them). ImpactAlpha last week called for impact investors to raise their ambitions by at least an order of magnitude in response to the COVID crisis. More than 400 people then signed up for Agents of Impact Call No. 16 to share their initiatives and inspiration. The Call rounded up investments, networks and conversations already underway, along with ambitions to do more to meet immediate needs and lay the foundation for long-term change.

  • Getting sh*t done. Ceniarth has helped mobilize $14 million in deposits at rural community development finance institutions. Open Road Alliance has received requests for $50 million (across 530 inquiries) for its bridge loans. Vital Capital established a $10 million emergency fund for agriculture, healthcare and education companies in Uganda and Kenya. Networks like the Global Impact Investing Network, Toniic, CREO Syndicate and Gratitude Railroad have been scanning for opportunities. Prudential’s Tony Berkley has hosted biweekly calls for impact investors to share dealflow. Read on and Listen in.
  • Continue the conversation. To keep up with demand, and with the scope of the unfolding story, ImpactAlpha is turning our editorial Slack channels inside-out – and opening them to all Agents of Impact. Our aim is to help the impact investing community connect with each other on the challenges you’re working on – and to help us cover our expanding beats. Find out more and get involved.

2. Flexibility is catalytic. Impact investors practicing patience and flexibility can generate, or at least preserve, financial and social returns in the COVID-disrupted landscape. RSF Social Finance’s investors accepted a lower return rate. The California Endowment forgave loan interest for all program-related investments for six months, without being asked. Get limber.

  • Update: Kresge Foundation has suspended $1 million in interest payments for six months.

3. The future of work is here. In an interview on ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment podcast, Social Finance’s Tracy Palandjian discusses the firm’s latest innovation: Career Impact Bonds to help reskill the workforce. “Let’s take the risk away from the student and level the playing field so students only repay the debt when they get a job,” she says. Listen in.

4. Better corporate sustainability. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, Albright Stonebridge Group and ex- OPIC head Elizabeth Littlefield points to signals that businesses will step up to their social responsibilities in the aftermath of the pandemic. Stakeholders seem poised to ensure they do. Read on.

5. Supporting the supporters. Like social enterprises, technical assistance providers are struggling amid COVID, but they have few or no new options for support. That can hurt fledgling entrepreneurs and put impact deals in emerging markets at risk. ANDE’s Matthew Guttentag and Dalberg’s Mark Pedersen offer up three actions investors can take to shore up these critical service providers. Hear them out.

6. Closing racial wealth gaps in the COVID response. In drafting the CARES Act, the Senate made clear that disadvantaged communities should be prioritized. That hasn’t happened. “The pandemic is a magnifying glass over structural inequity,” says Connie Evans of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity, which unveiled initiatives to help plug the gaps. More.

7. Stronger circular economy. Promising startups are tackling waste and recycling in emerging markets but “need hands-on support” to scale, says Circulate Capital’s Rob Kaplan in a guest post. Among his suggestions: strategic partners and local knowledge. Get looped in.

The Week’s (special) Agent of Impact

David Bank, ImpactAlpha. To celebrate his birthday, the ImpactAlpha team named Bank this week’s Agent of Impact. His reaction to us slipping the profile into the top of Thursday’s Brief: “Above the feature??? C’mon!” and “Thanks for making me laugh (and cringe). It’s all about the team.” Thank you for playing along with us. Read the ode and like it on Instagram.

The Week’s Dealflow

COVID response. Community Capital Management launches $100 million fixed-income strategy to finance community COVID relief.

Low-carbon economy. Australia launches A$300 million fund to accelerate hydrogen-based energy… Alt-battery startup ZAF Energy Systems secures $22 million… Oxwash raises £1.4 million for carbon-neutral laundry service… WindESCo secures $10 million for software for wind farm operators.

Frontier finance. East Africa Fruits raises $3.1 million to address Tanzania’s food distribution challenges… Parallevar secures early funding to bring delivery to Ecuador’s small cities and towns… Education lender Varthana secures $15 million loan from DFC.

Food and agtech. Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Temasek back Pivot Bio’s eco-crop treatments.

Health and well-being. Aledade scores $64 million to expand value-based healthcare.

Inclusive fintech. Small business bank Wise closes $5.7 million round.

Personal finance. Domini Impact Investments launches “sustainable solutions” mutual fund.

The Week’s Talent

JPMorgan Chase stripped Lee Raymond, former CEO of ExxonMobil, of his role as the bank’s lead independent director, just ahead of the bank’s annual shareholders’ meeting on May 19. Climate activists have pressed the bank and its largest shareholders to drop Lee from the board altogether (see, “Stewardship’ under scrutiny as shareholder season gets started).

Shaun Kingsbury, former head of the U.K. Green Investment Bank, was named CEO of The Conduit Investment Advisors… Jesse Griffiths, previously with Overseas Development Institute, joins Finance Innovation Lab as CEO… Sandy Boss, ex- of Bank of England, joins BlackRock as head of investment stewardship… Alice Miller, ex- of nonprofit Financing for Development Corp., becomes U.S. International Development Finance Corp.’s first chief risk officer.

3×5 Partners adds Jed Emerson as an advisor… Jane Bulnes-Fowles, ex- of Veris Wealth Partners, joins US SIF as chief operating officer… Melissa Radic, previously with BlackRock, was named director of investor relations and capital markets at IMPACT Community Capital… Cecile Blilious, ex- of Impact First Investments, is named head of impact and sustainability at Pitango Venture Capital.

The Week’s Jobs

Fifty Years is hiring a chief of staff in San Francisco… Sarona Asset Management seeks a director of investments for its Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund in Singapore… Roberts Enterprise Development Fund is hiring a director of development in San Francisco… Partners Group seeks a private equity investment manager in London… Boston Ujima Project is looking for research and general management interns.

Thank you for reading.

–May 8, 2020