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The Week in impact investing: Mobilization

TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Impact Briefing. On ImpactAlpha’s weekly podcast, guest host Monique Aiken leads a frank and personal discussion of the events triggered by the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd (see Agents of Justice, below). She is joined by Living Cities’ Demetric Duckett, Colonial Consulting’s Angela Matheny and Castleberry’s Donray Von. “Our aim is to share with listeners what this moment is like for us as Black men and women in finance and impact investing,” says Aiken, vice president for programs at Mission Investors Exchange, “and to begin to take action and mobilize, given the energy and attention around racial justice right now.” Listen to this week’s Impact Briefing, share it with your networks, and follow us on AppleSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Agents of Impact Call No. 18: Managing for impact in the time of COVID. The challenges of the pandemic present opportunities for impact investors able to help firms maintain operations and jobs and contribute to a sustainable and inclusive recovery. The International Finance Corp.’s new report, “Growing Impact,” will assess the potential for positive impact, especially in emerging markets. ImpactAlpha’s David Bank will talk with IFC’s Neil Gregory, DEG’s Julian Frede, Blue like an Orange’s Bertrand Badré and other Agents of Impact about managing for impact through the crisis. Join The Call, Thursday, June 11 at 10am PT / 1pm ET / 6pm London. RSVP today.

The Week’s Big 8

1. The social mobilization is on. Real change means shifting power, and that requires an historic mobilization of popular will. ImpactAlpha has been watching for signs of such a social mobilization for months, as COVID exposed systemic racism, inequality and injustice. Then came the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., and George Floyd in Minneapolis. With the protests are emerging stories of solidarity and leaders pointing to ways forward to fight racism, restructure systems and shift power. Get up, stand up.

  • Impact investors speak out. If racism is a systemic risk, overcoming its legacy and investing in justice and equality are systemic opportunities. This week, Agents of Impact pledged to support Agents of Justice, to fight bias in their own organizations, and to rebuild stronger. Hear from Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker, Candide Group’s Morgan Simon, Southern Bancorp’s Darrin Williams, Living Cities’ Ben Hecht, B-Lab’s Anthea Kelsick, the teams at Kapor Capital, Mortar and others. Pass the mic.
  • Tell us what your organization is doing to confront racism and promote inclusion. Drop a note to or share on our #social-mobilization Slack channel.

2. Investing in racial justice. Systemic racial bias has taken countless lives and left a long tally of misallocated capital, lost talent, overlooked markets, untapped innovation and wasted time. An eclectic set of investors are flipping the script. Capital providers like Illumen CapitalCommon Future and funders like the Kellogg Foundation are intentionally investing in justice and equality. Capital shift.

3. Local models for racial reckoning and renewal. The widespread protests are pushing racial equity to the center of the COVID recovery. Local funds such as Runway Project, Ujima Fund and the Boston Impact Initiative are doing the kind of deep, innovative, relationship-based work needed to build new financial infrastructure for an inclusive recovery and economy. Blueprint for inclusion.

4. Mobilizing with urgency. Last month’s Mission Investors Exchange conference called on foundations to take on systemic change. “We have been allowing far too many folks to live in crisis,” said Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Lisa Hamilton. “This moment requires leaders who are willing to make bold choices.” In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, MIE’s Matt Onek points to philanthropic leaders embracing “the discomfort that comes with risk and innovation.” Dive in.

5. Mispriced fossil fuels risk. Fossil fuel producers continue to invest in new production despite falling demand and the urgent need to cut carbon emissions. They may be overestimating future profits by more than $100 trillion, according to CarbonTracker. Such a mistake could have an enormous impact on investors holding more than $26 trillion in equity and debt linked to fossil fuels. Blind spots.

6. Investing in science to fight COVID. The coronavirus won’t be the last deadly virus outbreak, but investing in treatments for future pandemics is risky. That is “exactly the kind of market failure impact investors are accustomed to addressing with patient capital and creative financing,” write Prudential Financial’s Tony Berkley, Boundless Impact’s Michele Demers, and Kevin Mullane of Gladstone Institutes, in a guest post on ImpactAlpha. Hear them out.

7. Due diligence under lockdown. Constraints breed creativity. Investors with the determination (or mandate) to keep capital flowing through the COVID crisis are overcoming physical constraints and pioneering models of virtual due diligence, writes Catalyst at Large’s Suzanne Biegel. Zoom in.

8. The market opportunity in engaging older adults. Older adults in the U.S. would like to spend less of their $2.6 trillion in annual purchasing power on healthcare and more on independence, community, engagement and fun. The startup sector “has misjudged the market demand for innovation” focused on older adults, writes Village Capital’s Kelly Bryan in a guest post. Untapped opportunity.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Agents of Justice are agents of impact. Trauma, fatigue, frustration, grief and anger in the Black community poured into the streets this week – anger about what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and what hadn’t happened to the police and perpetrators that killed them. The anger, too, civil-rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative told The New Yorker, “is about continuing to live in a world where there is this presumption of dangerousness and guilt wherever you go.” Black Lives Matter, Movement for Black Lives, Color of Change, Campaign Zero and dozens of other groups mobilized. Neighbors, friends and allies joined in. Protests spread to cities in all 50 states and from New Zealand to Brazil to France, where the death of Adama Traoré, who died in police custody four years ago, became the catalyst for French protests. In the U.S., protesters withstood tear gas, flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and police batons. Over 11,000 people were detained. A legion of digital activists tuned in and #blackedout, signaled support and crowdfunded bail funds, GoFundMe’s and advocacy organizations. Agents of Justice (h/t U.S. Sen. Cory Booker) marched on. By the end of the week, they had built one of the largest civil rights movements in history.

Now what? While demanding immediate justice, advocates are also pushing for systemic change. Protesters are taking reforms, such as oversight committees, demilitarization of the police, and investments in communities of color, directly to city officials. Campaign Zero put forward eight policies to reduce police violence by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions and ensuring accountability. At Floyd’s memorial, Rev. Al Sharpton called for a March on Washington on Aug. 28, the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. “We can change the culture of institutions in this country,” Stevenson said. “We need people to vote, we need people to engage in policy reform and political reform, we need people to not tolerate the rhetoric of fear and anger that so many of our elected officials use to sustain power.” – Dennis Price

The Week’s Dealflow

COVID response. Community development financial institutions get $10 billion Paycheck Protection Program carveout… Latin American development bank issues €700 million COVID bond… OurCrowd eyes $100 million for “pandemic tech” startups… Portugal’s Kitch helps restaurant businesses shift to delivery.

Low-carbon economy. LanzaTech secures $50 million to convert industrial carbon emissions to new fuel sources… Climeworks raises $75 million to capture carbon… Renewance and Iris Light score early funding from Clean Energy Trust… Australian insurer QBE completes divestment from thermal coal.

Frontier finance. Blue Like an Orange closes $200 million for Latin America fund… Pearl Capital backs Ugandan seed distributor Naseco… RENEW re-ups investment in Ethiopian delivery tech startup.

Impact M&A. Accion’s Center for Financial Inclusion and MIX will merge to expand data and research on financial services providers… Capricorn Investment Group acquires minority share in Osmosis Investment Management.

Inclusive fintech. Varo raises $241 million to expand inclusive digital banking in the U.S… Curu raises $3 million to help individuals overcome bad credit.

Circular economy. Plastics for Change backs India’s informal workers to divert plastic waste.

Gender lens. ANDE’s Advancing Women’s Empowerment Fund awards $1.2 million to bridge women’s access to finance gap in emerging markets.

The Week’s Talent

Brigit Helms is the new executive director at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship… Amira El-Sayed joins Luminate as principal of civic empowerment… World Within Labs’ Rostam Zafari joins the board of directors at Cornerstone Capital… Amadeo Ibarra is named senior vice president and country head at Creation Investments Capital Management, which opened a Mexico City office.

Common Future’s Rodney Foxworth is one of two dozen social justice leaders selected for the Ford Foundation Global Fellowship… Manita Ray and Theresa Rajah launch Capital Human, a new strategic advisory firm focusing on gender equity and social impact initiatives in Australia… Catalyst Fund launches in Mexico.

The Week’s Jobs

Conscious Capitalism’s New York chapter is accepting applications for internships from students out of work or otherwise affected by COVID… Penn State University seeks an associate director of rural development… cKinetics is recruiting an economist for its carbon and offset markets team in Delhi… is looking for a communications director.

60 Decibels is hiring interns to deliver high-quality impact measurement and customer insights projects… Lightship Capital seeks a creative director in Cincinnati… The Impact Investing Institute is hiring a partnerships director in London… Mission Driven Finance is recruiting a community projects manager… 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 Nature Conservancy is looking for a director of product development for debt conversions Arlington, Va., Nairobi or London… Open Philanthropy is hiring a finance associate.

Thank you for reading.

–June 5, 20202

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