Themes from SOCAP18, the 2018 GIIN Investor Forum, and more
This blog is part one in a three-part series by Mission Investors Exchange on critical themes in the impact investing field that surfaced during SOCAP18 and the GIIN Investor Forum, reflecting the work of MIE members and others.
Click here for part two in the series, which focuses on how foundations and others are deepening their commitments to equity in race and gender. Click here for part three in the series, which focuses on the impact investing community’s response to some of the most urgent issues facing our time. Visit here to view information on MIE’s sessions on racial equity, inclusion, and diversity at SOCAP, including a recording of a mainstage event featuring Sharon Alpert of Nathan Cummings Foundation and Fred Blackwell of San Francisco Foundation.
It's been a packed Fall for impact investors across the globe. From October 23 – 26, 2018, MIE was grateful to partner with many of our members to curate two sessions as part of SOCAP18's racial equity, inclusion, and diversity track. Our staff also attended the High Water Women's Conference and the 2018 GIIN Investor Forum. Through these activities and others, we joined thousands of investors, investees, and field builders in dialogue on the state of impact investing around the world.
From niche industry gatherings, impact investing today has grown into a collective, exponentially growing movement that brings together people across issues and backgrounds, in finance and beyond, to ask fundamental questions about the nature of our global economy. Yet income inequality continues to rise and atmospheric warming is on pace to result in severe consequences in just 20 years. Despite its successes, has impact investing made enough of a difference?
“We cannot lose sight of the fact that our current financial system exacerbates these issues," noted Amit Bouri, CEO of the GIIN, at the GIIN Investor Forum. "Reinforcing inequality and driving decisions that are having a corrosive effect on our world. It’s increasingly clear that our financial system is not working. It’s not serving the planet. It’s not serving the people. And it’s not serving investors. We need a new way of doing business. We need a financial system that serves everyone. A system that’s accountable for its effects on people and the planet. And I believe that impact investing presents a real alternative to the status quo!"
In this 3-part blog series, we’ve lifted up several ways that these strands of optimism, urgency, and critical questioning of social outcomes were woven throughout all the events we've attended. In this first blog, we provide a brief snapshot of two major themes— and how foundations continue to play a critical role in ensuring that the social impact of our work remains at the center of discussion.
Making Deeper Commitments to Equity in Race and Gender
Equity, in contrast to equality, acknowledges that all individuals come from unique contexts, and thus have different needs. Racial equity further frames this recognition of difference in an understanding of deeply rooted racial biases in our systems, which fundamentally disadvantage certain communities— regardless of their skills, talents, and hard work.
The system failures are massive: according to “The Road to Zero Wealth,” a 2017 report by Prosperity Now and the Institute for Policy Studies, median wealth for African Americans will fall to $0 by 2053 based on the current trajectory. Foundations and other impact investors at SOCAP discussed how their commitments to racial equity are expressed in practice, including investing in entrepreneurs of color, creating space for communities to drive their own solutions, and exploring systems solutions to challenges including predatory lending, redlining, and more.
SOCAP also continued its longstanding focus on gender lens investing, which in part gained momentum during a SOCAP conference several years ago. Discussions highlighted the significant growth of this field over time, surfacing examples of women-led impact funds and gender-inclusive social enterprises, as well as strategies to accelerate gender equality in the workplace, from boardrooms to the supply chain.
Read the full blog, which highlights sub-themes and strategies that are emerging across the field.
Responding Quickly to a World Facing Rapid Change
On October 8th, a new climate change report found that many of the severe consequences of climate change, including famines, flooding, and natural disasters, may begin affecting us by 2040— earlier than scientists had initially predicted. At the same time, forcible displacement resulting from political turmoil has skyrocketed in the past few years, bringing the total number of refugees around the world to 68.5 million. These numbers will go up even further as a result of climate change. (Click here for a resource page we developed on immigration, migration, and refugees.)
Yet there are signs of fast-paced potential, as well: while the Opportunity Zone program in the US went into effect at warp speeds, early movers— including Kresge Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and others— have acted to foster an environment where social impact drives activity. Meanwhile, technology that may help drive impact investing, including blockchain and machine learning, continues to evolve more quickly than ever.
How can impact investors respond to these urgent challenges— and opportunities? In this blog, we explore the challenges of rapid response in greater depth, and how investors are striving to see around the bend to shed light on areas of need.
These are just a few of the major trends we saw at impact investing conferences this Fall. But there are many more: from ongoing discussion on impact management, to the practical details of portfolio construction, conference sessions offered a bird’s eye view of the movement today. Does something different stand out for you in today’s dialogue? Email Anjali Deshmukh to share your thoughts.