The Brief | November 1, 2019

The Week in impact investing: Popular uprising

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

The Week’s Agents of Impact

The popular uprisers. Social protests are spreading across the globe. The protests, from Santiago to Beirut, are sparked by local grievances: a metro-fare increase, an inept administration, an unfair law. Demonstrations have been led by young people; the supposed adults have messed things up. The collective uprising surfaces the latent sense that economies and societies are not working well for a broad aspirational majority. And the response often reveals the widening gap with an out-of-touch elite. In Chile, more than a million people – one out of every 17 citizens – took to the streets, forcing the cancellation of major international events (see No. 1, below). Globally, some six million people participated in September’s climate strikes. The next mass action in the U.S., planned by the young people behind the Sunrise Movement, is set for Dec. 6. “For our entire lives, politicians have sold our futures to the highest bidder,” Sunrise tweeted. “Our generation is saying, ‘Enough.’”

Popular uprisings are messy. But the convergence of the climate justice and social justice strands is a needed wake up call. The youthful protesters, ImpactAlpha has argued, are more “pro-business” than global leaders slow-walking solutions on climate change and inequality and exacerbating systemic risks. Taking to the streets in massive numbers and refusing to back down, the popular uprisers could forestall even deeper economic dislocation in the long run. The “outside game” of civil protest can “change the math of the inside game,” as David Leonhardt writes in the New York Times. This week, striking teachers in Chicago and autoworkers in Detroit were able to drive new contract terms. With millions of citizens protesting for economic opportunity, good governance and climate action, it’s time for a new social contract as well. Get lit.

– Amy Cortese, senior editor

The Week’s Big 7

1. Protests test impact investing elite. People power is mobilizing. From the yellow vests in France to the crowds in Hong Kong and Beirut, people are in the streets. Protests in Santiago prompted the Global Steering Group on Impact Investing to move its summit to Buenos Aires. Like the climate strikes, social protests against inequality are calling attention to systemic risks global elites should heed. The impact investing movement “must get political,” the GSG’s Amit Bhatia told ImpactAlphaDemonstration effect.

2. Community development to community wealth. Inequality is prompting civic leaders to rethink decades-old approaches to community revitalization. A “quiet revolution” is transforming underinvested urban areas. Out: top-down, one-size-fits-all, debt- and subsidy-dependent solutions. In: locally-driven, collaborative solutions that foster community ownership and prosperity, Bruce Katz and Ross Baird write in a new report. Dig in.

3. Shrinking oil and gas. The oil and gas industry is still expanding production, even with current reserves that can’t safely be burned. The stark message in Carbon Tracker’s new analysis: Top oil and gas producers need to slash combined production by 35% within a decade. If the fossil fuel majors don’t manage their own decline, “either the world will miss its climate targets or assets will become ‘stranded’ in the energy transition, or both,” says coauthor Mike CoffinOn the bubble.

4. Taking risks on impact tech (video). Tech venture capitalists are infusing fresh funds and an appetite for risk into early-stage ventures with high impact potential. “The vast majority of investors are very uncomfortable with a company that has only a 20% chance of succeeding, but if they could succeed could eliminate an entire category of problems,” 50 Years’ Seth Bannon told ImpactAlpha’s David Bank at last week’s SOCAP. “That’s a bet we would take all day long.” Jump in.

5. The plastic circular economy. The goal: a circular economy with zero plastic waste. More than 400 organizations endorsed the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, launched in October 2018 by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme. The group’s first progress report details actions, from reducing the use of virgin plastic to government taxes on plastics, to move towards that goal. Get looped in.

6. Impact washing in Saudi Arabia. Last year, business and investment leaders largely boycotted the controversial Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was tied to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the subsequent cover up. This year, many were back, including legacy investment firms trotting out impact investment products. Impact watch.

7. Smarter smallholder subsidies. “Get smart” about donor objectives, impact returns and blending capital to close the global gap in smallholder farmer finance. In a guest post on ImpactAlpha, agriculture finance experts from ISF Advisors and RAF Learning Lab discuss how to better match capital demand from rural households with capital supply from commercial, sub-commercial, or philanthropic sources. Closing the gap.

The Week’s Dealflow

Clean energy and climate finance. mPower Technology secures seed funding for micro solar cells… National Grid makes three investments to boost resilience… Oil and gas giant Total commits a $400 million venture fund to carbon neutrality… Log 9 raises $3.5 million for aluminum-based battery alternatives.

Growth markets. Twiga Foods enlists Goldman and shifts supply away from Africa’s small farmers… Temasek Trust raises ABC World Asia impact fund… U.K.’s CDC Group invests $12 million in Nepalese internet provider WorldLink… Goodwell backs Kenyan postal delivery service Sendy.

New schooled. BAG Innovation raises seed funding to ready Rwandan students for work… Shiksha and Credenc attract investment to finance education in India… Stride Funding secures $2.2 million to enable graduate-level income share agreements.

Locavesting. Turner Impact Capital closes $225 million for new multifamily fund… Steve Case’s Revolution raises second Rise of the Rest fund… Australia’s IIG scores $20 million for place-based impact fund.

Farmer finance. Rabo AgriFinance to finance farmers’ transition to organic practice… WeFarm secures $13 million to advance farmers’ access to supplies and networks.

Inclusive economy. Miller Center identifies promising 19 enterprises serving migrants and refugees… Elevar Equity backs Canasta Rosa’s marketplace for Mexico’s artisans.

The Week’s Talent 

Lauren Booker Allen of Jordan Park joins the board at ImpactAssets… Swedfund’s Maria Håkansson joins the board of the Global Impact Investing Network… Anne Driscoll steps up as CEO of Launchpad as Chris Schultz steps down (see, “A launch pad for businesses that can make Opportunity Zones thrive)…

Bran Dunlap departs as head of tech investing at TPG’s The Rise Fund to join The Blackstone Group’s tech growth equity group as managing director…Chelsea Clinton’s husband Marc Mezvinsky, ex- of Social Capital, joins TPG as managing director of its tech adjacencies fund.

The Week’s Jobs 

Harvard Business School seeks a research associate on its “impact weighted accounts” project (see, “Weighting accounts for impact”)… LeapFrog Investments is looking for a head of brand and communications… Mercy Corps Ventures is looking for an Africa principal in Nairobi, Kenya or Abuja, Nigeria… Open Society Foundations seeks a director for its education program in London… Zais Group seeks an impact investing intern in New York… Also in New York, Demos is looking for a director of policy and research to its national policy development and research efforts…

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is looking for a program officer of research and development in Seattle… JFFLabs is hiring a managing director for its employment technology fund in Boston… Accion seeks a learning and organizational development specialist in Cambridge, MA… Impact Experience Institute is recruiting a product manager and developer in San Francisco… Bloomberg Philanthropies is hiring a senior program manager in New York for its government innovation team.

Thank you for reading.

– Nov. 1, 2019