Ecosystem

Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem

The Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem is a network of investors, entrepreneurs, and not-for-profits who are using capitalism to drive positive change in the world through impact investing.

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What does the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem look like?

Thanks to the support from the Bush Foundation, I have been partnered with Impact Hub MSP to map the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem. Click here to interact with the ecosystem map and to learn more about the project.

Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem Map

What is impact investing?

The Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem uses the World Economic Forum’s language for defining impact investing as an investment approach intentionally seeking to create both positive financial return as well as positive social or environmental impact that is actively measured.

By this definition an impact investment could be an equity investment in a social enterprise, a program related investment (PRI) to a local not-for-profit, a loan to a community development financial institution (CDFI), or a retirement account investing in a fixed income bond fund that seeks and measures social impact. As long as the investor is intentionally seeking a social return and the social impact of the investment is being measured, the investment is an impact investment.

Who is part of the impact investing ecosystem?

The impact investing ecosystem is the sum of four types of organizations and individuals:

  • Sources of Capital — The sources of capital are organizations or individuals who control their own funds which they use to make impact investments. This category includes private foundations, venture capitalists, and both accredited and unaccredited investors.
  • End Users of Capital — The end users of capital are the organizations that convert capital into social impact. These organizations include not-for-profits and social enterprises.
  • Intermediaries of Capital — The intermediaries of capital act as a bridge between the sources of capital and the end users of capital. Like sources of capital, intermediaries make impact investments into end users of capital. However, unlike sources they are dependent on external funding. For example, a CDFI might act as an intermediary between private foundations and local entrepreneurs. The CDFI would receive loans from the foundations which it would use to make smaller loans to entrepreneurs. Intermediaries can take the form of CDFI’s, financial advisors, banks, or funds.
  • Field Builder — The fourth category of the ecosystem is not exclusive from the other three. A field builder in the impact investing ecosystem is an organization that is doing any kind of work to grow or mainstream impact investing. While the definition of field builder has not been agreed upon, the Bush Foundation has a working definition that I like best. They define a field builder as one that does any of the following activities in relation to impact investing:
    • Provides critical data and analysis
    • Spreads great ideas and builds capacity
    • Advances public awareness and policy
    • Builds and supports leadership networks

Gaps in the Ecosystem

During our research to create the Twin Cities Impact Investing Map, we identified the following gaps as the main roadlocks to scaling and mainstreaming impact investing in our community.

Communication Platforms, Language, and Terminology

The language of impact investing has been cobbled together from traditional investing and philanthropic jargon. Terminology is inconsistent across organizations and communities which hinders the evolution and exchange of best practices and constructive criticism. Furthermore, impact investing ecosystems comprise of siloed organizations that lack open communication channels with each other. What kinds of technology platforms are ecosystems using to address communication barriers? What steps are ecosystems taking to open communication channels between organizations? How are ecosystems addressing language and terminology issues?

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

To paraphrase national impact investing expert Henry McKoy, if impact investing replicates the existing white male investing arena, we will have failed miserably. Impact investing ecosystems have an opportunity to create something different but will have to be intentional in doing so. What steps are ecosystems taking to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion in all stages of the impact investing process?

Connecting Investors and Entrepreneurs

There are currently no formal systems in place to connect social entrepreneurs with the funders who have compatible impact investing interests. A symptom of this disconnect is an apparent absence of deal flow. How are ecosystems connecting investors and entrepreneurs? What kinds of matchmaking are ecosystems using to pair investors and entrepreneurs?

Measuring Social and Environmental Impact

Measuring social and environmental impact has proven to be a challenge for both investors and investees. For investees, the resource intensity of measurement is burdensome. On the other hand, investors are unsure how to track the social and environmental return on their investments. What measurement frameworks have been successful in other ecosystems? What are the trends in measurement strategies and applications? What has been useful in teaching investors and investees the value of measurement?

Role of Investment Consultants and Investment Advisors

Investment consultants and investment advisors have enormous influence over potential impact investors and impact investing institutions. In some cases, we have observed traditional investment consultants acting as barriers to foundations engaging in impact investing. How could we partner with investment consultants and investment advisors to unleash more impact investing capital from institutional investors?

Role of Field Builders and Intermediaries

The focus of the ecosystem map was the impact investing activity within the Twin Cities so we mapped the sources, intermediaries, and end users of capital. However, our investigation of the ecosystem revealed an equally important fourth category of individuals and organizations: field builders. Field building is one of the many nebulous terms in the ecosystem that means something different to everyone. While difficult to define, field builders are crucial to scaling the ecosystem. Similarly, intermediaries defy definition. They are each unique in their structure and form but are essential in bridging the capital flow between investors and entrepreneurs. What kinds of field builders and intermediaries populate other impact investing ecosystems? What kinds of field builders and intermediaries would benefit the Twin Cities impact investing ecosystem?

Action Steps

Learn

For both introductory and advanced material, check out our impact investing resources. If you are a Minnesota Council of Foundations member you also have access to me as the Impact Investing Executive in residence.

Connect

Essential to the health and prosperity of the impact investing ecosystem is our ability to sustain and create connections between stakeholders. On the side of this page I have listed upcoming impact investing events. I encourage you not only to attend these events, but to bring a friend or colleague that you would like to introduce to the ecosystem. In addition to the events listed on the side, you are invited to join the Impact Hub MSP’s Impact Investing Community of Practice. Minnesota Council on Foundation members are also welcome to join the Mission Investors Network.

Commit

However, at the end of the day the impact investing ecosystem is about writing checks. Here are some easy ways you can get started impact investing today:

  • For $20 dollars you can buy a Calvert Ours to Own: Twin Cities note which goes to funding loans that will expand local business, affordable housing, and food systems in the Twin Cities.
  • Open a Donor Advised Fund through The Minneapolis Foundation and participate in InvestMPLS. InvestMPLS is a $10 million revolving loan pool with a fixed interest rate paid to participating investors that invests in local community development financial institutions (CDFI’s).
  • Donate to a local CDFI.
  • Ask your financial advisor how you can begin impact investing.
  • Ask your employer’s benefits representative where they’re investing your retirement savings.