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.
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.
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.
The impact investing ecosystem is the sum of four types of organizations and individuals:
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.
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?
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?
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 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?
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?
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?
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.
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. You are invited to join the Impact Hub MSP’s Impact Investing Community of Practice and Cogent Consulting’s Social Entrepreneur Roundtable. Minnesota Council on Foundation members are also welcome to join the Mission Investors Network.
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: