The Brief | March 20, 2020

The Week in impact investing: OMG

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact!

Impact Briefing. On ImpactAlpha’s newest podcast, host Brian Walsh talks with Amy Cortese about emergency small business bridge loans and David Bank reveals this week’s Agent of Impact. Check out this week’s show – and subscribe on AppleSpotify or wherever you listen.

The Week’s Big 6

1. Short-term loans are a safety net for social enterprises facing an ‘unexpected OMG moment.’ Mission-driven enterprises jolted by the coronavirus pandemic may not be able to deliver vital services – or recover. The short-term bridge loans made by Open Road Alliance to otherwise healthy enterprises experiencing a hiccup are suddenly in widespread demand. The firm, which calls itself “the everyday emergency room of impact,” closed on $10.5 million of its targeted $40 million fund, and is working with impact peers to scale up the response. OMG.

  • Supporting portfolio companies. Open Road’s Maya Winkelstein and Caroline Bressan offer tips for funders to keep their impact flowing. Debt funds, for example, can restructure borrower’s repayment schedules, defer interest payments, or accelerate tranched disbursements. “Your actions today can determine the longer-term impact and returns you help generate,” they write in a guest post on ImpactAlpha.

2. Helping Main Street businesses weather the coronavirus superstorm. The coronavirus is cratering industries from airlines to hotels. The most vulnerable: Main Street businesses that employ millions but have meager cash buffers. Without fast and targeted action, we could face a “Main Street bloodbath” that could decimate local economies, warn New Localism Advisors’ Bruce Katz, Blueprint Local’s Ross Baird and The Governance Project’s Colin Higgins. They’re among the voices calling for billions or trillions in emergency loans for small businesses. Bridge loans for all?

3. Dispatches from the front lines of the impact mobilization. The coronavirus has upended the world as we know it. The new watchwords: resiliency and disruption. Agents of Impact have been writing in with their insights as they shelter in place. Recent posts: Social Finance’s Tracy Palandjian on upskilling low-income Americans for in-demand jobs like nursing; Kellogg School of Management’s Megan Kashner on the limitations of returns-seeking finance for public good; and Align Capital’s Jennifer Kenning on the resiliency that comes with community and relationships.

  • ICYMI. Cornerstone Capital’s Erika Karp, Caprock Group’s Matthew Weatherley-White, SVX Mexico’s Laura Ortiz, UpStart Co-Lab’s Laura Callanan, Catalyst Opportunity Funds’ Jeremy Keele, Big Path Capital’s Michael Whelchel and more. Stronger together.

4. ImpactAlpha U: Training a new generation of MBAs to reshape business and finance (audio). Campuses are closed, but ImpactAlpha U was in session. Faculty and students from MBA and other graduate programs joined our Agents of Impact Call No. 13 last week to talk sustainable finance and impact investing education. Impact is disrupting professional education; the coronavirus pandemic only reinforces what’s at stake. Required reading: Students at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Tufts, Stanford, Oxford and other schools get free access to The Brief and, thanks to support from the Rockefeller Foundation. Your school can, too. Get smart.

5. The carbon disruption is here, disguised as a pandemic. Greenhouse gas emissions and oil prices have fallen sharply (clear skies in China!) Can flattening the curve also bend the arc of carbon emissions in the long term? A good place to start: reversing the ever-growing fossil fuels financing. An updated “Banking on Climate Change” report from Rainforest Action Network says such funding will hit $1 trillion per year by 2030 under banking business-as-usual. Despite pledges to restrict some lending, the 35 largest banks have increased fossil fuel funding every year since the Paris Agreement, for a total $2.7 trillion. Cut it out.

6. The future of meat may be meatless. When told the coronavirus sprung from animals at a Wuhan meat market, future generations may ask, “What’s a meat market?” The coronavirus is disrupting not only daily life, but outmoded systems and structures as well. Meat is just one of the disruptions we’re watching. Signs of the coming shiftImpossible Foods raised $500 million this week, as investor network FAIRR warned that the five biggest meat companies face “ruin” if they fail to reduce exposure to beef and get on board with alternatives. Dig in.

The Week’s Agents of Impact

You. Yes, all of you. As the world reels, you are stepping up in so many ways. Social distancing is becoming social responsibility… is becoming mutual aid… is becoming community resilience… is becoming inclusive recovery is becoming… sustainable, healthy prosperity. Or at least pointing the way. The fabric of that narrative is you and your friends and family, your companies and communities, your institutions and countries. Now that we are overcoming one overwhelming global challenge together, we can overcome other overwhelming global challenges together. Agents of Impact (that’s you!) will help us get through this crisis with resilience and grace. And you will seize the opportunity for systemic change to drive climate action, social equity and sustainable, inclusive development. We need effective government, yes, now more than ever. But, with or without such leadership, you are key to meeting the challenges. So this week, you are ImpactAlpha’s Agent of Impact. Yes, you. We are in this together. – David Bank

The Week’s Dealflow

NEW: GiveDirectly launches crowd-sourced cash transfers in the U.S. The organization is offering immediate $1,000 payments to individuals registered to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. GiveDirectly has facilitated more than $140 million in direct, no-strings-attached cash transfers to low-income households worldwide. It plans to make the first disbursements to 200 households affected by the COVID-19 crash within the next week, through a partnership with fintech company Propel.

Capital on the frontier. MCE Social Capital snags $3.7 million grant for loans to small and growing businesses… Indian startups StanPlus Tech and Lal10 raise impact capital on BayTree marketplace.

Catalytic capital. U.S. International Development Finance Corp. allocates $881 million… responsAbility launches $3 million facility to support new energy access fund.

Farmer finance. BBG Ventures leads $2.7 million round for Planet FWD’s regenerative ag platform.

Financing fish. Aqua-Spark backs Swedish Algae Factor to convert waste water to industrial products.

Urban tech. Toyota Tsusho Canada Inc. invests in mobility rewards platform Velocia.

The Week’s Talent

Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft’s board to spend more time on global health and climate change through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation… Andrew Bailey takes over as governor of the Bank of England from Mark Carney, who becomes the U.N.’s special envoy on climate action and finance (see, “Agent of Impact: Mark Carney)… Mark Green resigns as head of USAID.

Marina Linhart steps down as CEO of Next Street as Charisse JohnsonMichael Roth and Samantha Berg become managing partners and assume Next Street’s leadership and governance roles… Jennifer Morris, ex- of Conservation International, will become CEO of The Nature Conservancy on May 18.

The Week’s Jobs

Citi is looking for a vice president (or senior associate) of venture investing in New York or San Francisco for its Citi Impact Fund… Participant Media seeks a director of social media and content marketing… Hewlett Foundation is hiring a program officer of its effective philanthropy group in Menlo Park… Climate-KIC is recruiting a start-up investment program manager… The Climate Justice Alliance is looking for a policy associate… The Kapor Center is recruiting a chief marketing and communications officer in Oakland… Green America seeks an innovation network manager of climate safe lending and other roles in Washington, D.C.

Solarcentury is hiring a procurement manager in London… The Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment is recruiting a policy analyst and other roles… Transform Finance is hiring a director and program manager of its capital strategies program in New York… Imaginable Futures (formerly Omidyar Network’s education initiative) seeks an investment analyst in Redwood City… New Island Capital is looking for a real assets associate in San Francisco.

SVX MX is hiring an impact investing analyst and intern in Mexico City… Avivar Capital is looking for a summer intern in Los Angeles… Bamboo Capital Partners seeks a portfolio valuation and audit officer in Luxembourg… Rally Assets is looking for an impact investing intern in Toronto… Autodesk Foundation is hiring an impact investing intern/associate in Boston.

Thank you for reading.