Measuring Impact in Opportunity Zones
Since the launch of the Opportunity Zone (OZ) program in 2017, impact investors — and particularly foundations — have been playing a critical role in ensuring that "impact" remains a key focus in its implementation. By convening stakeholders, advocating for clearer guidelines, supporting evaluation and monitoring, and more, foundations have been working to ensure that the OZ program realizes its full potential of directing much needed investment capital to the census tracts identified as OZs. Below are a number of initiatives and resources from foundations and others to ensure that impact remains central to the OZ program. If you have additional resources to share, please reach out to us and we'll add them to this page!
Advocating for Impact
Foundations and their partners have been advocating for increased clarity around impact measurement and the need to ensure community representation in the OZ program, whilst highlighting its potential challenges and unintended effects. Many foundations are using this program as an opportunity to build local ecosystems and networks focused on impact.
- This open letter from the Presidents' Council on Impact Investing — a philanthropic leadership group facilitated by the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance — called on policymakers, investors, fund managers, and philanthropists to work together to ensure communities have a voice in how investments in OZs are implemented. The letter cautions that ignoring additional reporting and regulatory suggestions could end up leading to the displacement of residents from the 8,700 areas designated as opportunity zones.
- A speech delivered by Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Council on Metro Economies and the New American City in Boston urges local governments to proactively develop a pipeline of investable opportunities for Opportunity Funds to ensure that community interests drive investment decisions in OZs.
- This testimony before the Internal Revenue Service, given by U.S. Impact Investing Alliance Executive Director Fran Seegull, stresses the importance of data collection and transparency in OZs in order to evaluate the policy and it's impact in communities living in designated OZs.
Creating Tools for Measurement and Reporting
- In February 2019, the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, the Beeck Center at Georgetown University and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, launched the Opportunity Zone Reporting Framework, a tool to help fund managers consistently, transparently and authentically engage with communities and measure impact. This voluntary reporting framework outlines a set of guidelines for Opportunity Fund managers to proactively measure and report the impact of their investments.
- The Opportunity Zone Community Impact Assessment Tool, developed by Urban Institute with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, evaluates the potential impact of an OZ investment against evidence-based indicators and assigns each investment an 'impact score'. MIE members can learn more about the tool in this Virtual Learning Opportunity hosted by Urban Institute.
Supporting Impact Focused Learning, Development, and Investing
- The Rockefeller Foundation and Smart Growth America have launched an Opportunity Zones Academy to help cities drive sustainable growth in Opportunity Zones by attracting socially responsible investment.
- The Kresge Foundation is providing guarantees focused on supporting high impact projects. Click here to learn more about the guarantees, which support two OZ investment funds that have committed to investing in adherance to covenants that go well beyond what is required in the OZ legislation.