The Brief | October 9, 2020

The Week in impact investing: Reconstruction

The team at


TGIF, Agents of Impact! 

The reconstruction is on. The period after the Civil War was a time of great ferment, division – and systemic change. Today’s confluence of pandemic, dislocation and popular mobilization presents our own opportunity for systemic change. Anne Price and her colleagues at the Insight Center in Oakland, Calif., are helping develop narratives that center Blackness in the service of economic liberation for all (see Agent of Impact, below). “We believe that when Black people are made a priority and given the chance to share their true lived experiences, hopes, dreams, and values, our shared understanding of the systems we need to create in and for America will shift,” they wrote this summer. “Centering Blackness is the pathway toward an inclusive progressive worldview that actively seeks to dismantle racism and build a better world for all people of all races.”

Impact Briefing. On this week’s podcast, Monique Aiken talks with Insight Center’s Anne Price, this week’s Agent of Impact. We’ll share a taste of Sir Ronald Cohen’s “impact thinking, and a poem from Dr. Sherece West-Scantlebury of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Plus, the headlines. Tune in, share, and follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

What works? What doesn’t? Help ImpactAlpha provide even more value. Complete our short subscriber survey by Thursday, Oct. 15, to win one of five free tickets to this month’s SOCAP Virtual. Take the survey.

The Week’s Big 5

Lighting up frontline health clinics. The COVID crisis is spurring a scramble to bring reliable, renewable power to frontline clinics in sub-Saharan Africa and other regions where a majority of facilities lack power for refrigerators, medical devices, and even lights at night. ImpactAlpha teamed up with We Care Solar on its latest Agents of Impact Call to pose a challenge for innovative finance: Light every clinic. We’ll share the recap and replay next week. Get enlightened.

Bridging the gaps in working capital in Latin America and India. A survey of capital providers in Latin America suggests most of the small and mid-sized enterprises in their portfolios were growing annual revenues by 10% or more – before the pandemic. The survey by the Collaborative for Frontier Finance found 60% of the funders say their portfolio companies will need more than $300,000 each in working capital to rebound from the crisis. Mind the gap.

  • Credit-worthy. Lack of access to credit in India is slowing the expansion of companies offering affordable healthcare, off-grid energy and other high-impact products and services, says Ramraj Pai of Impact Investors Council. The IIC found that, despite perceptions, 60% of India’s impact enterprises are credit-worthy. More.

JPMorgan Chase says oui to Paris. The world’s largest fossil fuel funder said it would reduce emissions in projects it finances in line with the goals of the Paris climate agreement, to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, and work with clients to lower their carbon footprints. The light-on-details pledge did not appease the bank’s critics, but was a powerful sign of the forces pushing corporations to change. Get on board.

Footing the bill for fossil fuel failures. As Big Oil struggles and frackers go belly up, U.S. taxpayers could be saddled with more than $280 billion in clean-up costs for abandoned wells. Texas alone faces up to $117 billion in such costs. “If this is coming to an end, we need to do some smart thinking about what comes next,” said Robert Schuwerk of CarbonTracker, which tallied up the potential bills. More.

  • Leaders and laggards. U.S. oil majors lag European peers such as Eni and BP in preparing for an energy transition. The leaders are cutting growth assumptions and setting more ambitious climate targets, according to a new CarbonTracker analysis. No major fossil fuel energy company has yet aligned plans with the two-degree warming scenario, says Transition Pathway Initiative.

Making good on stakeholder capitalism claims. A crop of new initiatives and resources aims to help corporations live up to their promises to value their employees, suppliers, communities and the planet, along with shareholders. “We don’t have a decade to wait for companies to take action,” said Kristen Lang of Ceres. “There are critical things that need to happen in the next five years.” No excuses

The Week’s Agent of Impact

Anne Price, Insight Center for Community Economic Development. Price is the first woman and the first non-lawyer to lead the 51-year-old organization that works at the intersection of work and wealth. Her strategy: transformational narratives. With her team, Price published “Centering Blackness: The Path to Economic Liberation for All” this summer. The ideas, which Price had worked on for years, “were not really well received until George Floyd, to be perfectly honest,” Price told ImpactAlpha. Even conceptual frames like “dismantling white supremacy” serve to keep the focus on white experience; “anti-racism” is a double-negative. Price’s affirmative kernel: “If we start from centering the Black experience, it steers our bodies, minds, and imaginations in a whole different direction, which can lead us toward true liberation.”

Price is at work putting the new narrative into practice. The Insight Center helped push the Families Over Fees Act, signed last month by Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom, which ended almost two dozen criminal administrative fees and lifted $16 billion of debt from largely low-income communities of color. Understanding the racialized aspects of policy and investment can point the way to a proactive vision, she says. “It is about a power structure that marginalizes many Americans.” (See, Changing investment algorithms to advance racial justice.”) The refusal by some states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, for example, hurts white people as well. Also: Mississippi’s history of not fully drawing down available federal funds for childcare disproportionately affects Black mothers, but also other parents. “It really is saying, ‘How does this show up?’ And then how are we all ensnared in it?” Price says. “There’s not a time in our history where Black women were doing well, and other people were not doing well. That has never existed. If they are doing well, then everyone else is going to be doing well. It’s really that simple.” – David Bank

The Week’s Dealflow

Returns on inclusion. Google selects 76 Black founders for Google for Startups awards… Malomo raises $2.7 million to help small businesses expand online marketing… Founders First backs OnShore Technology… Concord’s creative economy fund targets underserved communities.  

Low-carbon economy. Generate Capital provides $600 million to Alturus for energy efficiency, generation and storage… Redaptive raises $156.5 million to meet corporate demand for energy efficiency… FMO backs Husk Power Systems’ minigrid expansion. 

Agrifood investing. Ÿnsect raises $372 million for carbon negative, vertical insect farming… Krishitantra secures seed funding to monitor India’s soil health. 

Frontier finance. Indian startups and social ventures attracted $1.8 billion in venture capital last month. 

Fund news. Salesforce stands up its second corporate impact fund at $100 million. 

Impact SPACs. TPG’s ESG-themed SPAC raises $350 million in a public offering.

Locavesting. Jonathan Rose closes $525 million impact fund for affordable housing.

The Week’s Talent

Curtis Ravenel, formerly Bloomberg’s global head of sustainable business and finance, joins Context Labs as strategic advisor… Lynn Nicholson, ex- of Invest Europe, will head communications for the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing… Lorenzo Bernasconi steps down as managing director of innovative finance at Rockefeller Foundation.

Sarah Stremlau, ex- of Arabella Advisors, is the new president of LOCUS Impact Investing… Jessie Duncan, ex- of Boston Consulting Group, has joined the Tipping Point Fund on Impact Investing as a program officer… Najada Kumbli, ex- of Calvert Impact Capital, joined Visa Foundation as head of mission investments. 

The Week’s Jobs

Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return, or FAIRR, is hiring a policy director… Paul Ramsay Foundation is looking for an impact investing associate in Sydney… Climate Leadership Initiative seeks a head of global climate strategies… East African Social Ventures is looking for Africa-based board members… Dow Jones has an opening for an ESG investment analyst in Barcelona.

Generation Investment Management is hiring a growth equity associate in London… Prime Impact Fund is looking for an intern for investment operations in Cambridge, Mass… ISF Advisors is looking for a manager in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire… MORTAR has openings in Cincinnati for a development and expansion manager and a program manager for entrepreneurship program alumni… TZP Group is hiring a senior associate of impact investing in New York.

Thank you for reading.

–Oct. 9, 2020