In 2014 29 Orgs Committed $1.5 Billion to Impact Investing. Where’s the Money After 18 Months?
Friday, September 16, 2016
I got the call from the White House, in May 2014. “We’re going to have some major new commitments of impact investment capital at the meeting in June. Would you be interested in helping us track how the money is spent?”
What do you say to a call like that when you run an impact investing research center? (Hint: You say yes.)
Earlier in 2014, I had been invited to be part of the United States National Advisory Board on Impact Investing (the NAB). An impressive group of impact investing professionals from industry, philanthropy, government and academia, we had been meeting for nearly a year under the auspices of the Social Impact Investment Taskforce established by the G8. Our purpose: to collect advice and make concrete recommendations for how US policymakers could encourage more impact investing (released as Private Capital, Public Good), and to participate in the larger global conversation among G8 countries around a global set of recommendations, released later through aset of coordinated international reports.
But it was clear that to get press attention to our desired policy recommendations in Washington, DC, the NAB needed to announce something tangible and new related to this impact investing marketplace. Jonathan Greenblatt, then the Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, decided to see what new commitments private companies, funds, and philanthropies would be willing to make, alongside some significant commitments the US government was preparing to announce that day.
By the time of our press event, in June 25, 2014, he had engaged 29 organizations who collectively promised to invest over $1.5 billion in new commitments to impact investing. It was a diverse group – private funds, foundation programs and endowments, investment banks, small family foundations, and nonprofit organizations. The way that Jonathan framed it to me was as intriguing then as it is today. He said, you know how some philanthropies have private pledges and they report the numbers up front? The White House want to be sure the actions follow the words. Would we be willing to independently track the money that goes out by these investors and see what it actually achieves?