The Brief | May 1, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Mobilization

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact!

10x impact. Thanks to the hundreds of Agents of Impact who zoomed into The Call yesterday to accelerate #MainStreet and #FrontierFinance, #CatalyticCapital and #Systemic change. “@ImpactAlpha challenges #impact investors to scale up their efforts 10X. To which I say: Yes!” tweeted Blue Haven’s Liesel Pritzer Simmons, who called out cash transfers, voting rights, universal childcare and a wealth tax as high-impact #policy and #civics investments. 10x’ing impact means an increase in speed, collaboration and accountability, as well as capital by an order of magnitude or more (see, Pandemic is a chance for impact investors to step up by an order of magnitude – or more). The Call demonstrated that the mobilization is well underway. We’ll post a full report next week.

– David Bank

Impact Briefing. On ImpactAlpha’s new weekly podcast, host Brian Walsh talks with Jessica Pothering about rebounding from the (Ebola) epidemic (see No. 1, below) and with Dennis Price about Partners in Health’s Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer, this week’s Agents of Impact. Listen to (and share) this week’s Impact Briefing, and follow us on AppleSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Week’s Big 6

1. How Liberia and Sierra Leone rebounded after Ebola. When lenders returned to the West African countries in 2015 after the months-long shutdown caused by the Ebola epidemic, they found communities eager to repay loans, restart businesses and rebuild livelihoods. That resilience offers lessons for COVID. “The best thing we can do is go back into communities and lend,” says BRAC Microfinance’s Shameran Abed. “The faster we do that, the faster we all recover from this crisis.” Lessons learned.

2. People power vs. coronavirus. “A decisive investment in a public-health initiative big enough to meet the challenge,” will pay off in saved lives and jobs, says Jim Yong Kim, former World Bank president and co-founder of Partners in Health (see Agents of Impact, below). Countries and states from Germany to South Korea and Massachusetts to California are working to restart their economies by tackling the coronavirus head-on, with contact tracing, testing, isolation, and treatment at scale. Leading the way.

3. ‘Stewardship’ under scrutiny. This year’s annual general meeting season will be the first since corporate CEOs signed a Business Roundtable pledge to elevate stakeholders – employees, customers, suppliers and communities – along with shareholders. COVID-19 raises the stakes for corporations just as the annual general meeting season gets underway. On the ballots: How companies treat employees and how they’re implementing the stakeholder pledge. Take a closer look.

4. Impact management is hot (audio). Catch the replay of last week’s Agents of Impact Call No. 15 that rounded up the findings from the first round of investor assessments under the International Finance Corp.’s Operating Principles for Impact Management. Tune in.

5. Driving private capital for public good – or not (podcast). The roundtable regulars of ImpactAlpha’s Returns on Investment podcast debate how the COVID disruption might tilt private capital toward the public good. ImpactAlpha’s David Bank tries out four ways to tweak the markets – and is roundly batted down by Imogen Rose-SmithRead on and listen in.

6. Enterprise ‘PPE’ and financial ‘vaccines.’ Just as masks, ventilators, testing, social distancing and contact tracing help flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, new and innovative ways of delivering capital “can flatten the curve of the economic infection,” writes Encourage Capital’s Ricardo Bayon in a guest post on ImpactAlphaStep it up.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

Paul Farmer and Jim Yong Kim, Partners in Health. Partners in Health earned its reputation battling tuberculosis and cholera in Haiti, HIV/AIDS in Rwanda, and Ebola in West Africa. Now, the global nonprofit is bringing its model of people-powered community health to the COVID crisis in its home state of Massachusetts. Led by co-founders Paul (“Mountains Beyond Mountains”) Farmer and Jim Yong Kim, who went on to lead the World Bank, Partners in Health has teamed with the Commonwealth to identify, trace and treat every COVID-infected person in the state with a virtual support center of 1,000 people. Young people, in particular, are ready to step up as community health workers; in two weeks, the COVID Community Team received more than 15,000 applications. Such contact tracing “armies” are the hallmark of responsible reopening plans in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, California and elsewhere (see No. 2, above).

Partners in Health honed its community-based strategy over three decades of fighting pandemics and outbreaks around the world. Community health workers – accompagnateurs in the Navajo Nation, acompañantes in Mexico, or “village health workers” in Malawi – accompany people on their journey through sickness and back to health. In the COVID crisis, Farmer says, human-to-human contact tracing, even if virtual, is vital to early detection and triage for people who could slip through the public safety net and be at risk for rapid health declines. “This will help us identify the already afflicted but unaware,” he says. Kim convinced Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to take up the approach in a late-night phone call at the end of March. Data and experience from countries that have suppressed COVID-19 leave us no choice but to pursue such an expanded response, he says. “It’s time to go on offense against the virus.” – Dennis Price

The Week’s Dealflow

COVID response. ImpactAssets sets COVID Response Fund to channel donor-advised funds to unmet needs.

Inclusive economy. Accion Venture Lab backs Colombian fintech startup R5… Cheyne Capital raises £150 million to build and preserve U.K. social housing… Okra raises $1 million to improve Nigeria’s fintech infrastructure… Aprende Institute raises $1.6 million to expand online vocational training in Latin America.

Low-carbon economy. Vutiliti clinches $11.8 million to reduce energy waste and improve utility safety… AMPLY Power locks in $13.2 million for electric vehicle charging-as-a-service… Oil company Repsol breaks ground on its first solar farm.

Circular economy. Circulate Capital invests in plastic recyclers in India and Indonesia.

Capital on the frontier. IFAD backs Agri-Business Capital Fund to support small farm businesses… FINCA Impact Finance secures $15 million loan facility from Calvert Impact Capital.

Food and agtech. Agricycle secures $1.5 million for “upcycled” food snacks… Investors open their wallets for chickpea and duckweed-derived proteins.

Health and well-being. Medici raises $24 million to help doctors deliver telemedicine.

The Week’s Talent

ESG exodus: BlackRock cofounder Barbara Novick is giving up her day-to-day role as director of stewardship… Rakhi Kumar, State Street senior managing director and chief strategist for ESG and asset stewardship, will leave the firm in May… Robert Main, former head of investment stewardship at Vanguard, left in February to start advisory firm Sustainable Governance Partners with former Vanguard ESG execs Jessica Wirth Strine, Marc Lindsay and Amy Hernandez (h/t Eric Balchunas).

Hiro Mizuno joins University of Oxford Saïd Business School’s global leadership council. Mizuno, who recently departed Japan’s $1.6 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) after five years as chief investment officer, also joined Tesla’s board of directors (see, Hiro’s Journey: Japan’s pension fund chief rallies ‘universal owners’ around sustainable finance).

Tammie Arnold, ex- of Generation Investment Management, joins Sonen Capital’s board of directors… Community Investment Management hires Bernhard Eikenberg as a partner, Jeff Hilton as managing director of investments and finance, and Louis Mrachek as chief credit officer… Jason Segedy of Akron, Ohio, was named Economic Innovation Group’s first Legacy Cities Fellow.

The Week’s Jobs

Main Street Project is hiring an executive director in Northfield, Minn… The Kellogg Foundation is recruiting a program-related investment officer in Battle Creek, Mich… Green infrastructure B-Corp Greenprint Partners is hiring a director of finance / CFO in Chicago… Overdeck Family Foundation is looking for an impact asset manager in New York.

RSF Social Finance seeks fellows for its Integrated Capital Institute in October… New Forests is hiring a senior analyst of investments in San Francisco… Kiva is looking for a managing director for its Invest in Women Fund, location flexible… Oikocredit seeks an impact investor relations officer in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Thank you for reading.

–May 1, 2020