Monthly Archives: June 2013

walking the talk in impact investing

My first visit to the Centre for Social Innovation at Regent Park was uplifting. Upon entering, I took in the wide stretch of white space, colourfully accented decor, and hipster inspired furniture. Up a glossy elevator equipped with sleek security gadgets, and I’d arrived at the first community Impact Investing Fair, a room brimming with smiling faces and glowing with slight perspiration, thanks to Toronto’s infamous humidity.

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courtesy of Centre for Social Innovation, Regent Park

The evening began with a presentation from the charismatic “Sustainable Economist,” Tim Nash, who dispelled the mysteries behind impact investing. Swiftly cutting through clunky terms like portfolio, market risk and liquidity, Nash boiled down the essence of impact investing. Afterwards, a number of entrepreneurial investment funds pitched their cause and expected returns to the crowd (the end of this post lists some of the exciting investments).

There were many conversations that night that I would have loved to continue for lengthy coffee breaks. Though from different backgrounds, the people present spoke a common language, one that understood the value of putting their money into something worth investing for. Sure, your own financial security is important – but at what economic benefit are you willing to allocate your funds to blue chips or off to mutual funds? I feel that it is much like the clothes we buy, never once contemplating the supply chains of our jeans and jackets. Where is our money going?
Ignorance is bliss, but meaningful investment is better.

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Reading resource: “Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference” by Antony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson

Impact Investing Resources
The term impact investing started to gain traction in 2009, with the establishment of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). Since then, leading publications and groups have jumped in:

Dipping my toes in the water
With all this discourse on the glorious frontier of Impact Investing, I craved a reduction in talk and uptake in action. And this started with myself. Several months ago I finally stumbled upon an impact investment opportunity that met my investment needs. It happened serendipitously through a conversation with the CFO of MEDA (my previous employer) that they had a Risk Capital Fund. With a low minimum investment of $1000, returns of 2 – 4%, and high social-environmental investment standards, I had found my match.

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Agro Capital Management (ACM), one of MEDA’s investments. ACM sells and finances agricultural equipment to small farmers to help create more profitable operations in the Ukraine.

My relationship with impact investing has mostly been rocky, a lot of talk and little action. I’ve learned that I need to be thorough and patient in my search. Impact investments do exist, and there is no shortage of places where money is needed. Investing safely and wisely means due diligence plays a serious role at this stage. Until impact investing becomes a staple in mutual funds, us investors will have to take a more active stance, and spend more time and resources understanding, supporting and promoting the industry. As difficult as my impact investment pursuits are, I’m in it for the long haul. Are you?

Impact Investments at the Toronto fair
Renewable energy

Microfinance and International Development

Partners in II

Youth Services

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A New (& Innovative) Beginning

Although my departure from Ethiopia was filled with bittersweet farewells, I have new opportunities emerging on the Canadian horizon. I recently signed a nine-month contract with Social Innovation Generation (SiG) National, based out of Toronto. SiG is a nimble nonprofit collaborating between four partners to actively cultivate social innovation in Canada.

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courtesy of brandeewine

My journey with SiG started in May. A month passed and I still can’t shake the jittery excitable rush I feel every morning. It’s a complete privilege to be able to work directly in social innovation. In essence, social innovation enables change to our current systems with the purpose of improving human welfare. Social innovators oppose, test and attempt to solve society’s intractable problems like homelessness, addiction, and vulnerable populations. It’s quite the daunting task but what better way to challenge yourself?

New to social innovation? Watch this video
Want to read my first blog for SiG? Read it here