At The Rockefeller Foundation, January marks the start not only of the New Year but also of new directions in our Harnessing the Power of Impact Investing Initiative and related work. As is the case with all of our work, the Impact Investing initiative was designed as a time-bound initiative, meant to catalyze innovation and systems-level change for the benefit of poor and vulnerable people. It is our belief that such an approach maximizes every philanthropic dollar we spend.
Our Impact Investing initiative was approved by our Board at the end of 2008 for a period of four years. Since then the initiative has progressed considerably and we have begun to reflect on the achievements we have made across the four components of our initial strategy: 1) catalyzing industry leadership, 2) supporting market-building infrastructure, 3) catalyzing new and larger forms of intermediation, and 4) supporting research and enabling policy. We are proud to take stock of the many ways the initiative has helped advance the impact investing industry, including:
• Helping to found the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN)
The GIIN’s latest publication, Insight into the Impact Investment Market, presents fascinating analysis of investor perspectives and over 2,200 transactions.
• Incubating the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS)
GIIRS is about to announce the next 25 funds that have committed to get their portfolios rated and will start beta testing GIIRS Analytics this quarter. GIIRS Analytics gives investors uniquely powerful tools to analyze aggregated, verified and comparable data on the social and environmental impact of companies and funds.
• Making Research and Development grants or Program Related Investments (PRIs) to a number of catalytic intermediaries such as Acumen Capital Markets, Root Capital, Social Impact Partnership and IGNIA
At the end of last year, we were also pleased to invest in African Agricultural Capital Ltd. (AAC) alongside our partners at JP Morgan, the Gates Foundation, Gatsby Trust and USAID.
• Contributing to landmark research and policy developments that hold the potential to help shape the future of the Impact Investing industry
We are also proud to see the work of our partners in the impact investing field gaining the recognition it so much deserves. Last November, Forbes Magazine named nine Rockefeller Foundation partners to its first ever list of the world’s top 30 social entrepreneurs
, eight of whom have been involved in our Impact Investing initiative, including the Acumen Fund, B Lab, Enterprise Community Partners, Gray Ghost Ventures, IGNIA, Pacific Community Ventures, Root Capital, and VisionSpring. Seeing so many of our partners named to Forbes’ Impact 30 list provides evidence of the impact that they and their organizations are having on the world. Just as importantly, it is illustrative of the strength that the impact investing community is gaining as it attracts and connects an ever growing number of dedicated and enterprising individuals, committed to facilitating the deployment of socially- and/or environmentally-focused capital.
In addition to reflecting on the accomplishments of the past four years, the Rockefeller Foundation will take the opportunity in the upcoming year to contribute further to the acceleration of impact investing. We will remain active in the impacting investing space through new work that seeks to facilitate the entry of new sources of capital and explore complementary strategies for leveraging additional resources for generating positive social and environmental impact.
Our ongoing work will focus on three areas:
First, we will further embed impact investing within a range of Foundation initiatives. Currently still in development, for example, our green jobs initiative includes a significant focus on helping to create the financial instruments and markets needed to scale energy efficiency retrofits in the U.S.
Second, we are developing a dedicated strategy to help foster the “demand-side” of socially- and/or environmentally-focused capital. Increasingly, we see that impact investors confront a shortage of investment-ready deals. We are exploring an entirely new strategy to grow the capacity and scale of social entrepreneurs, hybrid value chains, and other forms of activity with significant potential to deliver social and environmental benefit.
We were pleased to join one of our newest partners, Sistema B, in Chile earlier this month to convene 100 social enterprises (“empresas B”), impact investors and other ecosystem participants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia. The workshop sparked a regional discussion about the opportunities and challenges facing the development of social enterprise and impact investing in South America, and set the groundwork for Sistema B's official launch at Rio+20 in June.
Finally, the Rockefeller Foundation is exploring a fuller range of innovative financing models than our current impact investing initiative has focused on to date. An early example of this is our role in supporting the development of a West Coast Infrastructure Exchange, a platform to accelerate new public-private finance models for infrastructure projects in California, Oregon, and Washington. As the Foundation’s exploration into innovative financing models evolves, we look forward to sharing the stories of our impact and the lessons we learn along the way.
~ The Impact Investing Team