Thanks to support from the Bush Foundation, Cogent Consulting has spent the last year partnering with Impact Hub MSP to scale and mainstream the Twin Cities Impact Investing Ecosystem. During the course of the year, engagement in the project scaled from 50 to over 400. Here are the 5 biggest of the project:
In the first phase of this project we created an interactive map of the impact investing ecosystem. We built the map by seeking self reported ecosystem participant data through surveys and interviews of ecosystem members. By adhering to a strict definition of impact investing and including only impact investments made within the last two years, we were able to create a map that accurately represented the current impact investing activity in the Twin Cities. The map proved to be a useful tool in showing stakeholders where they fit within the ecosystem as well as creating a common understanding of the Twin Cities impact investing landscape. In addition, the map has been equally useful in communicating the breadth of our ecosystem to other communities. The map has been viewed thousands of times online. Susan Hammel presented the map at the Impact Capitalism Summit in Chicago, and Matt Onek, CEO of Mission Investors Exchange, included it as a highlight of his summer in the Mission Investors Exchange newsletter. This inspired Mission Investors Exchange member San Diego Grantmakers to replicate the model to map the San Diego impact investing ecosystem. Stephen Rueff, Director of Entrepreneurial Studies at Minneapolis College of Art and Design, presented the map to his students as an example of an effective systems map.
By interviewing stakeholders from all segments of the impact investing ecosystem we were able to understand the problems of the ecosystem from multiple perspectives. Most issues stemmed from opacity and lack of a shared language with which to discuss impact investing. The language of impact investing has been cobbled together from traditional investing and philanthropic jargon and is inconsistent from organization to organization. Furthermore, neither potential investees nor investors knew where to look to find deals or learn more about impact investing.
In all stages of this project, we have made a deliberate effort to bring ecosystem members from all types of organizations to work together on common goals. Integral to this process was removing the power dynamic of funder-fundee and investor-investee relationships. In both convenings for this project, stakeholders were brought together discuss the impact investing ecosystem in a context where any dealmaking or brokering was left at the door.
In the second phase of this project we surveyed stakeholders for bold ideas that would accelerate the impact investing ecosystem. From the 46 ideas that we received, the project partners—Bush Foundation, Impact Hub MSP, Cogent Consulting—chose the 12 that we thought would be most effective. These ideas included a method of securitizing impact investments, a vehicle for charitable investments into businesses, and a for-credit student impact lab. At the Second Impact Investing Convening on November 10th, each of the ideators was given 5 minutes to present their bold idea to the 79 impact investing ecosystem members in attendance.
In the third phase of the project, we organized and facilitated meetings around the ideas that received the greatest response during the convening. In these meetings we are bringing together stakeholders from all segments of the ecosystem to refine the ideas and outline the next action steps. The ideas we are convening are:
When COVID-19 and the ensuing economic disruption hit, I worried that impact investing would recede as investors sought comfort in old-style investing and social entrepreneurs kept their day jobs. Luckily, my worries were for naught: more investors are interested in doing good and doing well. More philanthropists are looking for innovative ways to address the multiple crises we face: health, economic, racial, civic, climate, and rural. Social entrepreneurs are launching and growing their ideas to address the world's problems. These leaders give me hope!