Press release: Impact Investing Leaders Introduce Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework
The U.S. Impact Investing Alliance (“USIIA”) and the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University (“Beeck Center”) today released a set of principles and a detailed impact measurement framework to help guide the development of the Opportunity Zones market.
The Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework, a voluntary guideline, is designed to define best practices for Opportunity Fund managers seeking to invest in designated Opportunity Zones around the country. Market participants will be encouraged to abide by these best practices and to proactively share how and where they will deploy capital as part of a collaborative effort to build the market and maintain a focus on the policy’s original purpose: achieving positive economic and social outcomes in distressed communities.
The effort to develop a shared understanding of how to measure impact in Opportunity Zones was identified as a key next step by participants in a July 2018 roundtable at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The concept was socialized in October 2018 during a convening of real estate developers and investors hosted by the Beeck Center and was further refined in December 2018 during USIIA-hosted roundtable discussions with venture capital firms and leading wealth management platforms. Building on those meetings, the co-authors worked with a broad array of industry leaders, including investors, asset managers, academics, policy experts and community stakeholders, who all contributed to developing the principles and measurement framework. These contributors include individuals from: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Economic Innovation Group, the Urban Institute, Sorenson Impact Center, Rockefeller Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, Local Initiatives Support Coalition (LISC) and several leading wealth management platforms.
“Opportunity Zones represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spur private investment into America’s distressed communities. However, in order for us to achieve the transformational impact we hope for, such as equitable growth and economic opportunity, it is important that those entering this market remain committed to transparency and community engagement,” said Fran Seegull, Executive Director of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.
“The only way we will know if the Opportunity Zones policy is effective is by continuously measuring and proactively evaluating the long-term outcomes,” said Lisa Hall, Fellow in Residence at the Beeck Center. “To truly be successful, we should see measurable evidence of social and economic benefits that accrue to the people who live and work in the Opportunity Zones. This framework is meant to guide investors, fund managers and community stakeholders to make sure that they are contributing to that shared goal.”
The Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework includes five core principles for Opportunity Fund stakeholders:
- Community Engagement: Opportunity Fund investors should request that fund managers integrate the needs of local communities into the formation and implementation of the funds, reaching low-income and underinvested communities with attention to diversity.
- Equity: Opportunity Fund investments should seek to generate equitable community benefits, leverage other incentives and aim for responsible exits.
- Transparency: Opportunity Fund investors should be transparent and hold themselves accountable, with processes and practices that remain fair and clear.
- Measurement: Opportunity Fund investors should voluntarily monitor, measure and track progress against specific impact objectives, identifying key outcome measures and allowing for continuous improvement.
- Outcomes: Opportunity Fund metrics should track real change, with an understanding that both quantitative and qualitative measures are valuable indicators of progress.
The Reporting Framework builds upon these principles with a core set of criteria that can be deployed across a range of investment types. Examples of these criteria include the size of the fund, the investment focus (e.g., affordable housing, small businesses, etc.) and the amount of impact generated (e.g., jobs created, new businesses formed, affordable housing created or preserved, etc.). It further seeks to help articulate how stakeholders collectively can define and measure the long-term outcomes, like educational attainment or economic mobility, of Opportunity Fund investments.
“We strongly believe that continued community engagement can lead to both better investment decisions for investors and better outcomes for the residents of these Opportunity Zones. We hope that this framework can serve as a useful tool for local leaders and community groups as they think about how best to engage with Opportunity Funds, and we hope that fund managers will likewise be welcoming and receptive of these local champions,” said Jennifer Collins, Fellow in Residence at the Beeck Center.
“In order for the Opportunity Zones market to function, we need a shared framework to monitor, measure and report on both financial and impact data. This data will show us where capital is flowing and how that capital is being used, thereby revealing where there are structural barriers and where there are opportunities. A shared commitment to transparency will help create a more efficient market and ensure that capital flows to the areas—and the people—that need it most,” said Seegull.
The Opportunity Zones policy was passed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The policy allows individuals and businesses to defer the taxes on their unrealized capital gains by reinvesting the capital into Opportunity Zones, which are low-income communities located around the country. More than 8,700 Opportunity Zones have been chosen by state governors and certified by the Treasury Department.
To learn more about the Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework, please go to www.OZframework.org.
Development of the Opportunity Zones Reporting Framework is made possible by the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation and Kresge Foundation.
Photo courtesy of qimono.