Over the past several years, no strategy for change has captured the imagination of philanthropy more than impact investing. In the United States and even more so in emerging markets, people and institutions with financial means are deploying those resources in new and sometimes innovative ways. Right or wrong, some of the newer players are convinced that donations alone are not the solution to our world’s challenges. Indeed, some have considered structuring new entities that leapfrog over more traditional philanthropic strategies. Even tried and true grantmaking, the backbone of American philanthropy for more than a century, has gotten the cold shoulder from some of these new players.
Just what is meant by “impact investing”? As my colleague Laura Tomasko has written, impact investing, simply speaking, is investment intended to produce both financial and social returns. Put another way by the Global Impact Investing Network,
Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate multiple bottom lines—social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments… target a range of returns from below market to market rate, depending upon the circumstances.
I am extremely excited that I’ll have a chance to deepen my understanding of impact investing next month during an inaugural Impact Investing Programme offered by Said Business School at Oxford University. It is being developed by trusted colleagues at Oxford who played a key role in developing the Council’s signature global philanthropy training program, the Global Grantmaking Institute.
Oxford Associate Fellow Gayle Peterson and her colleagues, Dr. Keith Grint and Dr. Pegram Harrison, have played an important role in helping Council members wrap their heads around wicked problems, deliberate leadership, and other tools that bolster philanthropy’s chances to make lasting change. These and other themes will be woven into a broader conversation on best impact investment practices to maximize social, environmental, and financial results. Playing an important role in the program, in addition to Oxford’s world-class faculty, are several U.S. foundations that have deep experience in the impact investing sector, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation.
I would like to invite Council members to join me at this world-class program, April 13–16, following the Skoll World Forum. You will be joining colleagues from a range of countries, including Australia, China, France, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.
This promises to be a remarkable learning experience. Space is limited, but I encourage you to attend and hope to see you there! For more information, please contact Steve.Brewster@sbs.ox.ac.uk or Zindzi.Cresswell@sbs.ox.ac.uk (+44(0)1865 422737).
John Harvey is managing director of global philanthropy at the Council on Foundations.