All Things Impact.

exploring how we finance social good

All Things Impact for August 26: confronting privilege in philanthropy; confronting myths in impact investing; BlackRock launches an "impact mutual fund"

Brian WalshComment

Hi friends,

Welcome to All Things Impact, a newsletter of interesting things I've seen from across the spectrum of impact: effective philanthropyimpact investing (in the private markets), responsible investing (in the public markets) and a wildcard topic. For previous posts, to subscribe, and for more information, please visit All Things Impact.

Here are four links worth your time (plus items of note, job postings, a calendar of upcoming events, and an invitation for discounted tickets to SOCAP 16):

1. Effective Philanthropy: confronting the blind spot of privilege
Kathleen Enright, the CEO of Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, writes in the Huffington Post how for “many in philanthropy, privilege is a blind spot.”

“Privilege” often refers to wealth, but other aspects of privilege might be a bit harder to identify and therefore harder to address—like being socially advantaged merely based on your gender, the country of birth, sexual orientation or the color of your skin.

By their nature, donors are people of economic privilege (though some did not grow up in those conditions). Many of us with careers in philanthropy also come from various forms of privilege or at least experience it now.  Yet for centuries, privileged people have engaged in philanthropy that is, at times, less than effective. It’s clear that — in order to do philanthropy well — we must recognize and confront privilege…
 
It often shows up as attempts to do for instead of with those most affected…It shows up as a lack of understanding — one that often borders on suspicion — as to why it is so hard to break the cycle of poverty. It can show up as exacting standards around evidence and evaluation that often mask a lack of understanding about the type of work required for social change. Unconfronted, privilege can prevent us from feeling true empathy for the people and communities we hope to serve….
 
Privilege means that we’ve benefited from policies that were designed in a way that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, disadvantage others....

So how best to overcome this privilege?

"When I think about philanthropy leaders who model the best ways to be in this work, they operate from a place of humility, gratitude and service, not privilege…What would change if philanthropy broadly prioritized hiring people whose life experiences provide them with fewer blind spots and with the hard won, gut level empathy that comes from a lack of privilege?"


2. Impact Investing: confronting the 4 myths of impact investing
Writing in Medium earlier this summer, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, addressed four “myths and skeptical perceptions that we’re hearing, which may be posing barriers to taking impact investing to the next level.”
 
Here is a condensed version of her piece:

Myth #1: You need to sacrifice profit for purpose
Much like other types of investments, what we’re seeing with impact investing are returns that fall along a spectrum, with investments targeting a variety of financial and social outcomes, and an increasing evidence base showing you do not have to sacrifice profit for purpose.
 
Myth #2: Impact Investing is cannibalizing philanthropy
We agree that foundations should be thoughtful and strategic as they incorporate this new tool into their community development, conservation, education or other charitable funding strategies to avoid the potential pitfalls of the “square peg round hole” problem or cannibalizing effects…Our hope for the sector is that through effective integration, impact investments will work as a strong complement to, rather than a replacement for, other philanthropic tools through either mission related or program related investments (MRIs or PRIs).
 
Myth #3:The market is limited to “do gooders” — the serious, savvy players haven’t jumped in
Perhaps the greatest single change that has driven the momentum of impact investing is the “broadening of the tent” in recent years, as world-class investors, respected financial institutions, private equity and venture funds have all jumped into the space. And most recently, significant policy changes pave the way for foundations and pension funds to play an increasing role. Indeed, we are truly seeing deal flow across a broad spectrum of asset classes and an equally broadening array of investor classes emerge.
 
Add to this some world-class investors and respected institutions that have stepped into the game, including Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman, Vinod Khosla, Marc Andreessen, BlackRock, Bain Capital, Goldman Sachs and more.
 
Myth #4: Impact investing will never really go mainstream — it’s only available to the rich
It’s true that impact investing has gained traction for a set of accredited and high net worth investors and institutions, but we see the potential for a wider set of individuals to align their investments with their values. This is a dynamic that is rapidly advancing as a greater number of organizations are creating onramps for investors from a wider range of income levels to get into the impact investing game. 
 

3. Responsible Investing: BlackRock Launches Impact Mutual Fund
I don't usually source from press releases, but its pretty significant when one of the world's largest asset managers (BlackRock manage nearly $5 trillion - that's trillion with a t - on behalf of investors), steps into the impact game. The "BlackRock Impact Bond Fund" (BIIIX) is the first broadly available U.S. fixed income fund launched by the company since the formation in February 2015 of BlackRock Impact, the firm’s $200 billion sustainable investing effort.

So what will the Fund invest in? Corporate bonds, through a "unique research and investment approach" that will identify companies with "positive aggregate societal impact outcomes such as corporate citizenship, high impact disease research, greenhouse gas emissions, ethics controversies, and litigation...The portfolio focuses on measurable impact and consistent alpha."

“Impact investing seeks to enable investors to achieve competitive returns while targeting transparent, measurable social and environmental goals,” said Deborah Winshel, Managing Director and Global Head of Impact Investing at BlackRock. “BlackRock continues to leverage the breadth of its investing and risk management skill to create innovative portfolios that seek to combine social purpose and investment performance.”
...
 
“We believe this new investment strategy will address a growing demand for fixed income impact solutions in the public markets,” said Scott Radell, Managing Director and portfolio manager of the Fund. “The BlackRock Impact Bond Fund seeks to leverage the firm’s renowned analytics capabilities and with its deep knowledge of the bond markets to create something truly differentiated for sustainable investors.”

 

4. Wildcard Topic: the end of Gawker.com
Alex Balk is a writer and editor I’ve read for many years now. He used to work at Gawker and then co-founded The Awl, where he recently reflected on the demise of Gawker.com:

"Each morning you wake to a new set of lies. They vary in subject and value and size. Some are omissions and some are direct, but the accretion of deceit contributes to a culture of cynicism and despair. Even knowing that you are being lied to is no help when everything around you is lies. You know that the positive reviews you read are written by writers who will not offer honest criticism for fear that it might hurt their future prospects. You know that no one is making the world a better place with an app that allows you to be chauffeured from a bar on one side of town to a bar on the other. You know that the people who are paid to tell you about your government regurgitate conventional wisdom to make themselves sound more authoritative. You know that you are being fed fear or hope or an idealized sense of yourself so that you will accede to their demands. Knowing you are being lied to is no help when everything around you is lies. All it does is habituate you to living with lies, so why would you bother to take anything too seriously? When words lose their meaning our very idea of what we owe each other is debased and devalued to such an extent that we become closed off and contemptuous and unable to rise above our own self-interest. We are afraid to diagnose deceit because we might be mocked for our innocence by those who tell us everyone already knows that these things are false, and so we stay silent. This situation has become so unremarkable that to make mention of it seems tiresome.

What Gawker did at its best was stand up and say, “No, you’re right, these are lies, you are correct to think that you are being lied to” and for however long that assertion hung there in the air you were able remind yourself that you weren’t wrong to feel discomfort with what whatever narrative they were pushing at you. You weren’t alone. It did not make the world better but at least it pressed pause on the world’s becoming worse.

Gawker was not always, or even often, at its best…Gawker was stupid, loud, bullying and ill-informed, and most days it was the only honest thing you could read.
 
Now those days are over."
 

5. Items of Note

  • Special announcement for All Things Impact readers: Liquidnet has a limited number of discounted passes ($795) to SOCAP16 available. If you reply to this email with a good case for going, and if I have any left, I'll be happy to provide you with one.  

  • The Beeck Center at Georgetown University released a new report on the state of impact investing education and training (including a listing of nearly 200 educational opportunities)

  • Fund for Shared Insight announces $2.6m in new grants for foundation openness

  • Markets for Good launches an RFP for Good Data Grants


6. Job Postings


7. Upcoming Events
Sept 6-8  PRI in Person (Singapore) Responsible Investing
Sept 8 Best for The World Gathering (Berkeley, CA)
Sept 13-16  SOCAP (SF) Impact Investing
Sept 19 Financial Advisor - Inside Alternatives Conference (Denver, CO) Impact, Responsible Investing
Sept 26-28 Exponent Philanthropy Conference (Chicago) Effective Philanthropy
Sept 26-28 ANDE Conference (Lessburg, Virginia) Impact Investing
Oct 9-14  Opportunity Collaboration  (Cancun Yucatan) Impact Investing
Oct 18  High Water Women (NYC) Impact Investing
Oct 18-20 Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit (Austin, TX) Responsible Investing
Oct 20-22 PopTech: Culture Clash (Camden, Maine)
Oct 24-26 Impact Convergence (Atlanta, GA) Impact Investing, Effective Philanthropy
Oct 27-28 Feedback Labs 2nd Annual Feedback Summit (DC) Effective Philanthropy
Nov 3-5  Net Impact (Philadelphia) Various
Nov 9-11  Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing (Denver) Responsible Investing
Nov 16-18 Independent Sector (DC) Philanthropy
Dec 7-8  Global Impact Investing Network (Amsterdam) Impact Investing

That’s it for this week. Help me spread the word about #AllThingsImpact to your friends and colleagues, who can sign up to receive this newsletter at All Things Impact. Please also send me any job postings, items of note, upcoming events, or compelling links you discover in your own journeys across the web (even things like this lioness hugging her cub).

Until next time, thanks for reading!
Brian

Brian Walsh
Head of Impact at LiquidnetFull Bio.