Thought Leadership

Mission Forward! A Q&A With Julia Stasch

The Mission Investors Exchange National Conference is dedicated to bringing together philanthropy's impact investing community every other year to highlight and share bold innovations, creative partnerships, challenges, and lessons learned. In the Q&A below, Julia Stasch, President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and a conference co-chair, shares her perspectives on the National Conference, MacArthur's impact investing approach, and the growing impact investing ecosystem in her hometown, Chicago.
 

MIE: Why are you co-chairing this conference?

Julia: "Now, more than ever, I think the philanthropic view of impact investing is critical. Rising interest and rapid growth in the market is expanding the amount of financing devoted to social and environmental progress. But, often, those investments aren’t aligned with the unique needs of the social sector for patient, flexible, risk-taking capital. Foundations can help bridge that gap. We prioritize impact and provide catalytic capital that can crowd-in other investments. 
 
MIE is a connection point for that work. The National Conference is an opportunity to listen and learn from each other, to clarify emerging trends, and to develop new collaborations that accelerate the flow of financing to address the world’s most difficult problems. Working together, we can spur new initiatives that address poverty, health, climate and other challenge that affect the well-being of people around the world. 
 

What do you hope to share—and learn?

"Impact investing is a fast-growing field, but there are still significant barriers to entry that keep capital on the sidelines.  Distinct challenges related to risk, return, and timelines for exit can be daunting, and even motivated investors can be deterred by unusual underwriting and transaction terms.
 
This is where philanthropic capital can be catalytic, and it is why MacArthur is so focused on strategies to unlock commercial capital—something we often refer to as “market-making for mission.” We are leveraging our $500 million pool of impact investing assets to attract capital that otherwise would not flow. That way, we can fuel progress that goes well beyond what we could achieve with our capital alone.  For us, impact investing is a “big bet” to drive transformative change. We think it can have a profound effect on the lives of millions of people around the globe.
 
So, that’s what MacArthur is doing. But, we want to hear more about how others define “going big”.  How do other investors approach difficult market gaps and advance innovative opportunities for change? What can we do together to achieve greater impact? The National Conference is an ideal gathering for that kind of learning and sharing." 
 

MIE's 2018 Conference is in Chicago—MacArthur's home town. What do you hope participants learn about your city?

"MIE's conference isn't just in Chicago—it also includes programming about Chicago, working with community members and impact investors to show what our dynamic and diverse city has to offer. We could not be more excited to show off the place that we love and call home. Conference attendees will get a chance to learn about the region’s strong ecosystem of nonprofits, social enterprises, intermediaries, foundations, and investment funds, all focused on ways to connect capital to impact.
 
There will be six Beyond the Walls offsite sessions that take attendees into Chicago's heart, its neighborhoods, illustrating how impact investing supports the aspirations of families, organizations, and communities. We are particularly proud of our Benefit Chicago collaboration with Calvert Impact Capital and The Chicago Community Trust, which is mobilizing $100 million to address difficult social and economic challenges in the region. It reflects the creativity of our local market, and it is a model of local investing that can be replicated in other places where, as we found in Chicago, capital gaps hinder progress.
 
We look forward to welcoming everyone to the Windy City!

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