Part of Cogent’s commitment is to make a lasting impact through changing the way people think about money – thinking beyond the individual level to the larger collective. Like our founder Susan Hammel’s mentor, Paul Wellstone said; “We all do better when we all do better.”

One way Cogent has worked towards upholding this mantra is through mapping the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem. This project, which began in 2016 thanks to support from the Bush Foundation, allowed our local community to better understand the breadth and complexity of impact investing activity in the Twin Cities and subsequently identified a substantial gap- equity investments are not going into social businesses, especially those owned by women and BIPOC individuals.

Why is this so important? Social businesses owned by individuals in marginalized communities  need equity investment flowing into their company versus more and more debt. So, from this learning, the Investors for Impact Project was born thanks to partnership with the McKnight Foundation, Hennepin County and others. Phase one is two-pronged; an investor needs assessment and research into current promising models

Phase 1: Needs Assessment & Model Research

In conversations with individual investors, it is clear that high-net worth individuals are interested in making equity investments into social businesses. However, there is a disconnect between their desire to invest, willingness to take risks, and lack of connections with women and BIPOC social entrepreneurs.

In the needs assessment, Cogent worked to identify why this gap exists and what it would take to get investors to the next level of commitment. They also looked to local and national models already in existence that might help investors provide this type of capital. Cogent identified an astonishing 59 models, 41 national and 18 local, with more popping up everyday! 

Addressing the Challenges

Seeing the progress in these innovative models is certainly encouraging. However, social businesses still face the challenge of access, especially for BIPOC and women founders. Minnesota has a culture of modest wealth, which makes identifying potential investors tricky and these entrepreneurs are often forced to rely on funds from friends and family. 

And let’s be honest, when people hear the term ‘high net-worth investors’, the image that often comes to mind is that of an older, white male. However, within the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem there are women and people of color ready to invest in social businesses. 

Call to Action

It is Cogent’s goal to bridge this gap in knowledge and connection by bringing investors, investees and intermediaries all together in the same room. Cogent recently hosted a Happy Hour which did just that, bringing together the impact investing ecosystem to learn, connect and commit together. Here is what we asked everyone in the room to do. We invite you to join us!

Learn

Connect

  • Tell your friends about investing for a positive impact – it is possible to make money AND do good.
  • Talk to your financial advisor/wealth manager/family office and if they don’t know about impact investing or try to steer you away, find a new advisor!
  • Stay informed through Impact Hub MSP – Join our Impact Investing Community of Practice
  • Subscribe to the Cogent Newsletter
  • Subscribe to our partner’s newsletters

Commit

“Don’t let today be a spark that fizzles out. Before leaving today find an accountability partner and commit to a simple action step you will take in the next 7 days to dream bigger, dare greatly, do good well. Get investing now because there are people waiting on the other side of your decision to be generous and act for good.”

– Megan Lamke, Business for Good Foundation and new partner for our project!

Over $112 million in capital invested in low-income communities as Minnesota faces one of America’s largest wealth gaps

The Minnesota Council on Foundations (MCF) and several Minnesota foundations today announced the five-year milestone of the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative (MI3). Since its inception, this investment collaboration has successfully supported access to homeownership and affordable multifamily housing for over 500 low-income families across the state of Minnesota, where there is one of the largest racial homeownership gaps in the United States (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis). 

Minnesota foundations and public entities have invested more than $112 million into the impact investing collaboration over the past five years. These assets are invested in a fixed income investment strategy managed by RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM).  The investments have spanned 32 different counties in Minnesota. To date, the MI3 program has funded 560 affordable homes and a dozen affordable multi-family projects for low-moderate income (LMI) families (defined as those earning less than 80% of area median income).  Eighty-two percent of the affordable properties are located in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) neighborhoods while 81% of the recipients are women-headed households. Each loan averages $250,000. In addition, the MI3 has funded small business loans and health care facilities supporting a total of 200 nursing home beds.

Access to affordable housing is especially relevant in Minnesota where there is one of the largest wealth gaps by race in all of America, according to WalletHub. The homeownership rate for Minnesota BIPOC households decreased from 46% in 1940 to 44% in 2019 while the homeownership rates for white families in Minnesota increased steadily from 55% to 77% during the same time, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Furthermore, the poverty rates for African American and Indigenous residents are at least three times higher than for white Minnesotans, according to the University of Minnesota.

“Investing for impact is a critical strategy for foundations and other institutions to help address wealth disparity in Minnesota,” said Susie Brown President of the Minnesota Council of Foundations. “By doing so, more capital is available for affordable housing and other critical needs, with a local focus. Building a fund of over $100 million in just five years represents significant progress toward addressing important community development needs.”

MCF launched MI3 in 2017 as a first-of-its-kind impact investing collaborative in the United States, led by the Minnesota Council on Foundations, and several other Minnesota foundations in partnership with RBC GAM. Over the past five years, MI3 has built support for impact investments targeting communities in need in Minnesota. The McKnight Foundation, Bush Foundation, Otto Bremer Trust and the Minneapolis Foundation were among the first institutions participating in the impact investing collaborative. They created MI3 in 2017 to strengthen Minnesota’s market for affordable housing and small business and grow the number of Minnesota-based foundations involved in impact investing.

“We are proud to participate in the Minnesota Impact Investing Initiative and to see how it has grown,” said Elizabeth McGeveran, Director of Investments at the McKnight Foundation. “The innovative approach has created opportunities for a wide range of investors to make a local impact in Minnesota while benefiting from geographically diversified financial performance.”

Assets dedicated to MI3 are invested in the RBC Access Capital Community Investment Strategy, a fixed income investment strategy managed by RBC GAM. The investment strategy seeks to positively support home ownership, job creation, small business growth, and increased access to rental housing, healthcare, and education in Minnesota. Local loans are assessed for social impact and purchased, then pooled to create custom securities for RBC GAM’s clients, such as MI3 members. Any investor, financial advisor, large corporation or foundation can make investments into MI3 with the aim of supporting community development efforts across Minnesota.

RBC GAM’s Access Capital Community Investment team has developed a track record of working with governments and institutional investors.  These investors invest in customized U.S. agency guaranteed mortgage-backed securities and government-backed loans and municipal securities that support social impact themes. As of May 31, 2021, the Access Capital Community Investment Strategy has more than $1.5 billion USD in assets under management.

“MI3 is a great example of how the broader region can come together to help provide access to capital in low-income communities,” said Ron Homer, Chief Impact Strategist, RBC GAM. “The global pandemic produced stark disparities in economic impact and health outcomes within low-income and BIPOC communities which exacerbated the already troublesome issue of income inequality in America. As we look forward, RBC GAM will continue to partner with foundations across America to make targeted investments that aim to reduce these inequalities while fostering economic growth and other positive social outcomes.”

Since MI3 was established in 2017, there have been several other communities across America have replicated the impact investment collaboration.

MCF is planning to celebrate the five year milestone of the MI3 at its Semi-Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, in February 2023.

I “retired” in June 2014 after working since I was age 15.  Most of my adult life I worked in a leadership role in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector with responsibilities to find better solutions to tough social issues ranging from early childhood education access, effective entrepreneurship education, to underemployment. I worked with committees, teams, staffed collaborations, sat on Boards of Directors and planning committees of all kinds. I trained others in what I was learning and pressed large institutions to replicate models that seemed to be working. I never backed down from a new tough problem, but retirement had me stymied.  After 6 years of “retirement”, I looked back to see what I had learned from my trial-and-error-pivot approach to staying engaged and relevant while facing that age-related declining energy.

Here are my top 10 tips based on what I learned:

  1. Take naps– I didn’t realize how tired I was from decades of working on less sleep than I needed and then frequent midnight thought reminders of things I needed to get done.  After “retiring”, I gave myself permission to lay down in a quiet place and take naps. I had to tell myself those were not “wastes of time”, but rather taking care of myself. It took about 3 months before I didn’t need to do that so frequently.
  1. Make a clean break as fast as you can
    • Don’t go into the old office. Instead, I quickly spent time going through those boxes of files which were now at home and cleaning docs on my computer. All the while asking, will someone else find this helpful? I did capture a lot of history records and put them into a box or set them aside on my computer.  I threw everything else out.  A friend of mine gave me good advice – “someone might need those sometime” is not a good guide, especially now as everything people need is more easily found on the internet.  I have gotten requests every quarter or so from someone asking if I had a record or copy of something.
    • Say “no” to continued engagement: Say “no” to being on the advisory committee or working part time for your previous employer. That gives the new person breathing room to take on the job. I did continue to manage one project that was an award for entrepreneur of the year, which I had been the only person managing, just to take off a bit of pressure during the new person’s first months.  They took it over the next year.
    • Do make yourself available only to that new person, not other staff, and let them ask for advice, background or history.  Don’t get in between the new person and the staff or board, no matter what.
  1. Take control of your calendar: I realized that during my whole professional career, my waking hours were managed by a calendar filled by job demands or expectations of others.  I also realized that everyone else had been putting things on it forever, those committees, those weekly team and individual meetings, those monthly events I had to attend and more often guided by “you need to be there because of your role”  I had to relearn how to use it as a tool. Here are a few rules I use now that work:
    • No meetings or activities before 9 am
    • Book time for exercise first, adding daily walks or weekly exercise classes for example. And protect those as high priority!
    • No working lunches, save those for friends and fun or just relaxing at home.
    • No night events at all, unless it is with family or friends that can’t be done during the day.  And if I do have an evening, then clear the next morning for recovery.
    • Protect weekends, – I started with making sure I had 4-day weekends every week with nothing scheduled except family. Some months have slowly eroded to 3-day, but I press back as soon as I can to protect that relaxation-rejuvenation time.
    • When saying “no” to others, I just say “that time is booked”. This took a while to learn as those younger can’t fathom the decline in energy older people have.  They don’t need to know why I said no and seem not to understand when I say “I need a rest”.
  1. Be okay with “nothing to do”… It took me months to not be anxious about forgetting something I should have been doing, checking my calendar and email for what I missed.  Now I relish taking a break in the middle of the day.   Watching movies during the day can be a delightful way to spend 2 hours.
  1. Shop during the week.  My husband and I both discovered that weekday shopping is so much better.  The full-time, long-time staff are in the stores (they know things newbies don’t). There are fewer shoppers and no family groups, making it easier to shop. 
  1. Revisit old hobbies and try new ones:  What did you do when you were very young – those hobbies can come back.  I found some were great fun to initiate again (crocheting and puzzles) while others I quickly discovered why I quit them.  And find new ones.  Learning more about history has been one for me.  And there are lots of online how to’s and senior centers are always offering craft, painting, yoga and more.
  1. Practice saying “no” often.  For the first 6 months say it as much as you can.  That didn’t automatically come out of my mouth like I thought it would when I retired.  I still say “yes” a bit too much and then revisit those commitments when they become too much. Say “yes” only to those things you really, really want to do. And remember “they need me to do this” is not enough of a reason.
  1. Get better at using all the tech tools.  – Buy equipment that you can use easily. If you are comfortable with Microsoft, stick with that, if Apple tools are your go to..stay with them.  Find a resource you can go to with your questions. Geek Squad at Best Buy gets rave reviews for some and if you are an Apple user their Apple Care service has been a god send to friends of mine who don’t have tech savey spouses  And my teaching schedule connects me with students some of whom are great and respectful guides to how to use something better. And of course the internet is full of videos on how to do anything.
  1. Reconnect with old friends and more distant family.  Longer, leisurely trips are now possible and visiting people I know who live in those locations helps cut costs significantly.
  1. Pay more attention to your body signals.  “It will go away” or “I can delay it ‘til it is a more convenient time “, phrases I told myself when I was younger, no longer works.  My most recent bout with a bladder infection is a good example.  Symptoms are different for us older folks, recovery takes longer, and it is okay to call a doctor to see if what you are experiencing is “something”.
  1. Accept the praises for a well-done career:  Just saying “thank you” was hard for me as I had always shared any praise with all around me. But at this time in our life, we are role models for others’ careers, so accepting, acknowledging the praise is important.

Which of these tips resonates most with you? What would you add? Let us know in the comments!

Want to read others’ thoughts? 

Surviving Retirement when You’re a Workaholic

Retirement Advice for Workaholics

Terri Barreiro’s Bio: Terri Barreiro is an expert in systems change and a mission-driven venture advisor. She is an adjunct instructor and fellowship advisor at the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota. She is co-founder of and volunteer venture coach at Impact Hub MSP and consultant to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

Who knew how much I missed business travel? Despite the still-cramped seats, forced close proximity to other humans in a small capsule, and a few crabby passengers, after a 2 year hiatus, it was great to get back on the road. Thank you Impact PHL for giving me an excuse to visit our long-time client The Barra Foundation in Philadelphia. Their Total Impact Summit was invigorating, educational and inspiring, especially seeing all the local funds and Black led developers working to create economic opportunities in the city. Can’t wait to go to San Francisco for SOCAP and the National Center for Family Philanthropy conferences in October. Ping me if you’ll be there!

In honor of Earth Day

After finishing up as Finance Committee and Board Chair of the Citizens League I had decided not to serve on any more nonprofit boards. As much as I love the work, after continuous Board service since 1994 I figured I’d find another outlet for my volunteer time.

Then I had lunch with Michael Noble, Executive Director at Fresh Energy. Introduced by our mutual friend and Carleton classmate Elizabeth McGeveran, I think we each thought it was just a get-to-know-you meeting. I’ve always been passionate about the environment, having grown up in the big woods of Minnetonka (that’s a story for another time). Studying public policy at Harvard Kennedy School showed me how important policy is in truly addressing climate change. I was so inspired listening to Michael talk about Fresh Energy’s impressive track record.

I have to admit I was one of those who had kind of retreated into helpless despair when it came to climate change. The problem is so big and we humans seem so reluctant to change our habits, our companies continue to pollute, and our government leaders are timid, at best. 

Joining the Fresh Energy Board changed all that. I’ve met amazing people like Deepinder Singh, founder and CEO of 75f, making our existing buildings “smart”, more comfortable and energy efficient at the same time. I met Kristel Porter, Executive Director of MN Renewable Now, connecting underserved residents to renewable energy. I also got to meet amazing staff like Anjali Bains, Lead Director Energy Access & Equity and Sarah Clark, Deputy Executive Director. What can I say, now I’m hooked.

Lately some of the attendees at our monthly Impact Investing Roundtable asked me about volunteering and I have to say, please do consider Board service. It’s open to everyone and all of the thousands of nonprofit organizations need a Board of Directors. If you’re not sure what’s involved, you can take a class through Propel for Nonprofits. Here are my quick tips:

  • Figure out what cause you’re passionate about and look at Smart Givers for reputable nonprofit organizations (read our Cogent Principal, Terri Barreiro’s blog on the topic Four Steps to Donate Like an Investor
  • Get to know these organizations by volunteering
  • Consider a financial donation and get your friends/ family involved (do the same for their causes). Even small amounts of money make a big difference.

I’d love to hear your stories about Board service. Tweet me your thoughts @susan_hammel or email.

Susan serves on three boards: Fresh Energy, Carleton Careers Advisory Board, and the Trillium Family Foundation. She also is the volunteer President of the MN Alumnae Network of Harvard Women. Her previous boards include Pro Mujer, Children’s Home Society (was Family Services), St. Paul Arts Partnership, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Asian American LEAD, Arts Council of Fairfax County, NPH USA, Citizens League, Sunrise Banks and the Minnetonka Yacht Club.

Susan Hammel Bio:  As a philosophy major who went to Wall Street, Susan Hammel translates between passionate social changemakers and expert accountants.  In her role as President and Founder of Cogent Consulting Inc., Susan serves as MCF Executive in Residence for impact investing and led the charge to map the Twin Cities impact investing ecosystem. As a native Minnesotan, Susan is dedicated to the entire community and brings professional experience from New York, Washington DC and Chicago to the region. 

As we emerge cautiously from our pandemic caves, it’s wonderful to be out with humans again, at least a little bit. Then again Zoom is part of our workplace culture now and I’m grateful for the technology, as is our Cogent principal, Terri Barreiro, who I enjoy seeing weekly at Impact Hub MSP, which she co-founded with Katie Kalkman. Lately, I have had the good fortune to be spending time with talented Black entrepreneurs and they give me a lot of hope for our communities: people like Ian Alexander, Anisha Murphy, and Karine Blanc. You’ll note that many of the people leading this work are women and in honor of Women’s History Month, I also want to give a shout to someone I’ve admired for years: the late great Madeline Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. 


It’s got me thinking about the suspicion many in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors have regarding the for-profit sector. Skepticism and pointed questions are good but it is possible that the for-profit sector will develop sustainable, scalable solutions to our pressing challenges: racial justice, gender equality, climate change, economic opportunity for all, to name a few. My advice–look beyond someone’s tax status and focus on the work they’re doing. If you’re not sure of a for-profit entrepreneur’s motives, see if they are a Public Benefit Corporation, like Cogent and/or B-Lab certified like one of my favorites: Binary Bridge founded by Lori Most, bringing mobile health technology to places around the world.

After 20 years as a mission-driven business, Cogent Consulting converted to a Specific Benefit Corporation on December 18th, 2018. We are an independent, strategic, financial, and impact investing firm empowering purpose-driven organizations.

We work with a diverse set of mission-driven investors and entrepreneurs through evidence-based and actionable advice. Our work serves foundations, corporations, social entrepreneurs, and place-based ecosystems. Our clients in 2021 included Allina Health, Barra Foundation, Beyond Celiac, Blandin Foundation, Bush Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, First Children’s Finance, gener8tor, Local Initiative Support Corporation Twin Cities and Duluth, Marbrook Foundation, Minnesota Council of Foundations, New Mexico Association of Grantmakers and several others. Please see our new website for more information, www.cogentconsulting.net.

Pursuant to Section 304A.101 of the Minnesota Statutes, Cogent Consulting SBC pursues the following specific benefit purpose as listed in its articles:

To empower purpose-driven organizations that drive positive social impact in their communities.

Cogent Consulting, SBC accomplishes its specific benefit purpose with all of its clients and pro bono work.

This work included the following projects:

  1. Add knowledge to the field:
    ○ Cogent advised new clients in impact investing through educational workshops and our custom Strategic Portfolio Design process.
    ○ Cogent deepened its work on Opportunity Zones in Duluth and the Twin Cities by building on previous momentum and interest. This has led to further interest in social impact investing in the community going beyond the 2017 Jobs and Tax Act that created Opportunity Zones.

  1. Grow the field:
    ○ Engaged the field in learning dialogues: In 2021 Cogent strengthened the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem, provided pro bono support to Impact Hub MSP, convened an active community of practice for professional impact investment advisors and individual investors and another group dedicated to measuring and reporting impact.
    ○ Designed and led the Minnesota Council on Foundations Integrated Capital Recovery Program which raised $44.7m for Minnesota CDFIs to address the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic and racial reckoning after George Floyd’s death.
    ○ Facilitated virtual discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the field. Cogent Consulting facilitated the January 2021 Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem “Pathways Into the Field” and led a national discussion on expanding the presence of women and people of color in impact investing.
    ○ Convened the TCIIE again in a national conference: Build Forward Better in June 2021 to highlight underrepresented fund managers and entrepreneurs.
    ○ Shared knowledge through website blogs, and speaking engagements.
    ○ Expanded opportunities for women and people of color in Cogent’s work.

    Cogent continues to grow place-based impact investing in Philadelphia and New Mexico.
    ○ Cogent helped launch a place-based impact investing fund in New Mexico with the New Mexico Association of Grantmakers, modeled on the fund Cogent created for the Minnesota Council on Foundations.
    ○ In Philadelphia, Cogent is continuing to work with the Barra Foundation and their peers to help them develop their impact investing policies, strategy, and due diligence. Cogent supported the Philanthropy Network’s Mission Aligned Cohort in making their first collaborative impact investment into Thrive Village, led by Ujima Developers.

  1. Educate About Impact Investing: Cogent increased impact investing awareness and practice within the philanthropic communities and their leadership and the general public through presentations, roundtables attended by entrepreneurs, non-profits, career changers, and students and an active social media campaign.
    ○ Cogent works with foundations to explore and implement impact investing for their own investment portfolios. Cogent founder and CEO, Susan Hammel, CFA, continues to educate Minnesota’s philanthropic community by serving as Executive in Residence for the Minnesota Council of Foundations. In this capacity she led the charge and raised $44.7 million for recovery and rebuilding due to the pandemic as well as rebuild damaged communities in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.
    ○ Cogent hosts monthly roundtables that educate about Impact Investing and build new connections. These sessions are open to all and hosted at various locations across the Twin Cities, including Impact Hub MSP. These sessions moved to online in March 2020 and continue to engage between 7-12 new people each session.
    ○ The CEO and founder of Cogent Consulting has given speeches to educate those interested in the field at investor forums, CEO Net, Great Plains Institutional Investor Forum, and Groove Angel Fest.
  2. Strengthen Social Entrepreneurs and the Non-Profit Sector: Cogent Consulting serves social impact-oriented clients seeking consultation on financial growth strategies and the best investor relations strategy practices for their organizations.
    ○ It is important for social ventures in particular to attract investors that are aligned with their mission. Cogent has done this work by connecting social ventures such as Beyond Celiac, Gener8tor, First Children’s Finance, and Entrepreneur Fund with investors to support the growth and development of their current fund.
    ○ Helped hone Beyond Celiac’s mission and approach to think strategically about building an investor base.

  1. Provide Pro Bono services: Cogent Consulting worked with social businesses and nonprofits that are dedicated to making an impact.
    ○ Cogent Consulting provided pro bono facilitation to lead the Impact Investing and Impact Reporting Communities of Practice for Impact Hub MSP. The value of this service is $12,000 on an annual basis.
    ○ The CEO and Founder of Cogent Consulting serves on the Fresh Energy Board of Directors, the Carleton Careers Advisory Board, and the Trillium Family Foundation. Other team members also serve on nonprofit boards.
    ○ Cogent team members informally advise and mentor a diverse group of entrepreneurs locally as a service to the Twin Cities ecosystem

Cogent Consulting encountered the following hindrances to pursuing its specific benefit purpose:

  1. The continuing Covid-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change form a backdrop for Cogent’s work. Addressing these deep and challenging problems is the work of our lifetimes.
  2. Impact investing is still an evolving industry. Cogent continues to encounter situations that require more creativity and judgment calls than traditional financial and legal institutions.
  3. The lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the investment field is an ongoing issue. The percentage of venture capital funding going to women and people of color-led startups continues to be less than 3%. Women in the investment industry as a whole hover around 20%.

The latest science says we are living through an “endemic” not a pandemic, anymore (take a listen to Science Friday’s 9/17 podcast). Rather than finding this news thoroughly depressing, I’m doing my best to embrace it. I’ve never thought there would be some kind of magic getting “back” to normal: only “Build Forward Better” as we said in our June, 2021 impact investing conference. So, let’s share what we’ve learned over the last 18 months. I’ve learned that people really do want to take action and explore new ways of addressing society’s ills such as climate change and racial injustice. What did you learn? I’d love to hear. Tweet me @susan_hammel or email or leave a comment below.

Good jobs. 

Safe homes and communities. 

Quality schools. 

Fresh food. 

Close friends and family. 

Excellent medical care. 

With the COVID-19 Delta variant surging, my mind is once again turned to health: what does it mean to be healthy, to live in a healthy community, to share a healthy lifestyle? Imagine how everyone can enjoy abundant health in their own lives, families and communities.  

When we think about health we tend to think of hospitals, doctors’ offices, medicine, and medical equipment. Yet health means so much more and requires access to a place to live, good food to eat, quality jobs and a safe community. People in health care refer to these factors that occur outside a medical setting the “Social Determinants of Health”.  

The six Social Determinants of Health are really quite obvious; things our grandparents knew intuitively. 

  1. Economic Stability: jobs and money to help people meet their health needs 
  1. Neighborhood and Physical Environment: homes and neighborhoods that promote health and safety 
  1. Education: full access to educational opportunities from pre-school to vocational training and higher education 
  1. Food: access to healthy nutritious options 
  1. Community and Social Context: social and community support that ends discrimination, stress, builds social integration 
  1. Health Care System: Full access to quality health care with cost coverage and provider availability 

Source: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation 

Makes sense, right? But what’s a hospital, doctor, or health system to do? They are focused on number six: providing access to high quality care. They have to provide for unpaid care, too. There are limited financial resources and giving is focused on the medical setting.  

But they are large institutions requiring significant financial management operations. What about activating their balance sheet? Hospitals, some clinics, and health systems maintain investments to support their operations. What if they invested a portion of their assets in these Social Determinants of Health? 

There are investable opportunities in almost every Social Determinant of Health: numbers 1-4 are the most straightforward.  

For example, a hospital can invest in an affordable housing project in their region. They could make a loan to a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that lends and provides advice to small businesses in under-resourced neighborhoods. They could fund healthy food options in their neighborhood or help build a new school. When the investments pay off, the hospital can recycle the money back into other projects that advance the Social Determinants of Health. What if they used a local community accessible bank for all or part of the normal banking business?  

Imagine if every hospital in the country went beyond their community giving programs and employed more of their own investable assets to address the Social Determinants of Health. Do good and do well: yes, it can be done. 

I tell my kids that good health rests on a three-leg stool of actions: move, eat, sleep. My advice stands but doing those things requires a good job, someplace safe to live, healthy food to buy nearby, education to live a productive and fulfilling life, and positive social connections. Many children lack access to these essentials. The more we are all aware of ways to address gaps in those required attributes the better our communities will be.  

Forward thinking health care organizations are already working on it. 

Tweet me your thoughts @susan_hammel. 

Susan Hammel Bio:  As a philosophy major who went to Wall Street, Susan Hammel translates between passionate social changemakers and expert accountants.  In her role as President and Founder of Cogent Consulting Inc., Susan serves as MCF Executive in Residence for impact investing and led the charge to map the Twin Cities impact investing ecosystem. As a native Minnesotan, Susan is dedicated to the entire community and brings professional experience from New York, Washington DC and Chicago to the region.   

Right now I’m hopeful: more people are getting vaccinated every day, gender and racial equity remains top of mind for all even though a year has passed since the murder of George Floyd, and more money is moving into making a positive social and environmental impact. After getting my start in impact investing in the 1990s with Prudential Financial headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, I’m particularly excited to see other corporations join the party. Many investors are requesting “education to action” engagements, which is also a change from just a few years ago. And social entrepreneurs like Kate Mortenson of iPondr, the gener8tor team, and Dr. Paul Johnson of Brown Venture Group, the heart of why we do the work we do, well, they continue to inspire me with their tenacity and brilliance.