A leading investment professional explains the world of impact investing--investing in businesses and projects with a social and financial return--and shows what it takes to make sustainable, transformative change.
Impact investment--the support of social and environmental projects with a financial return--has become a hot topic on the global stage; poised to eclipse traditional aid by ten times in the next decade. But the field is at a tipping point: Will impact investment empower millions of people worldwide, or will it replicate the same mistakes that have plagued both aid and finance?
Morgan Simon is an investment professional who works at the nexus of social finance and social justice. In Real Impact, she teaches us how to get it right, leveraging the world's resources to truly transform the economy. Over the past seventeen years, Simon has influenced over $150 billion from endowments, families, and foundations. In Real Impact, Simon shares her experience as both investor and activist to offer clear strategies for investors, community leaders, and entrepreneurs alike. Real Impact is essential reading for anyone seeking real change in the world.
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Rocked My Perspective, & just at the right moment!!
I am the founder and chief exec of a small but growing social enterprise. 2017 was a dizzyingly good year for our organization. By the final weeks of it, I was left with a dauntingly “good problem”, and that was/is: now that we are on fire and growing, it’s high time I figure out which structure will best suit our mission as it grows? So, I hauled a bunch of books on social enterprise structures and strategies with me on a year end retreat to Central America. At the airport awaiting my flight, I learned about “Real Impact” listening to a podcast, and I bought/downloaded it.
Thank the Universe for that. While the #socent books I brought were illuminating, to be sure, they didn’t really solve my structure problem. In the end, I am a little smarter for reading them. Smart enough to admit that I am going to need some good lawyers for this work.
“Real Impact” ended up being my Retreat Rock-Star Game-Changer of a tome. Although Dr. Simon’s work is about impact investment, and expresses a vision of a macro-economic revolution of sorts, the book nonetheless profoundly helped me the tiny social entrepreneur. How? By clearly and boldly articulating so many notions of justice and sustainability that I have felt and sometimes even preached, but not very well and without confidence that I wasn’t some kind of whacko outlier. I mean, if I call myself a social entrepreneur, I am saying that I believe in the power of markets, soooo, capitalism, right? Well, what kind of capitalist dares to argue that we live on a finite planet, and, and, and so, the sacred American tenet that economies and businesses must grow grow grow always grow - or die - is flawed if not ridiculous, right? What kind of self-professed businessperson would take THAT position?
Dr. Simon observes:
“• Infinite growth models are incompatible with a finite planet. An overemphasis on short-term financial return leads to a pursuit of perpetual growth that is incompatible with finite global resources. This leads to an overemphasis on engineering our way out of our current environmental crisis, and in the private markets, companies and assets have to be sold to maximize returns for investors, with little regard for mission preservation.”
“• Shareholder primacy misaligns incentives. The notion that a corporation’s sole purpose is to maximize returns for its shareholders treats working people and the planet as costs that have to be minimized, rather than recognized as assets and key long-term stakeholders.”
And from observations like these, Dr. Simon builds her “Transform Finance” principles:
“1. Engage communities in design, governance, and ownership.
2. Add more value than you extract.
3. Fairly balance risk and return between investors, entrepreneurs, and communities.”
Again, principles for big Impact Investment funders or fund managers to tighten their game, so, what has this to do with the tiny social entrepreneur on the streets of Baltimore (or the hills of El Salvador), like me? And for my quest to get the structure right?
Of course, everything.
I start 2018 knowing - if not the exact legal structure (like I said, still need the lawyers for that) - the exact principles which I want built into that structure, and moreover, into the culture and mission of my organization.
Seriously, “Real Impact” was a Real Re-set for me. I come back to my work refreshed, invigorated and focused.
And dying to find someone to book-club this work with me. The coupla quotes above of course are core statements of Dr. Simon’s thesis, but the book is loaded with great insights and reporting. I bookmarked, highlighted and noted the hell out of it. And am now pushing it on every #socent fanatic I encounter.
If you are a warrior for justice, you’ve got to grab a hold of this book and let it change you.
I hate to throw around the term “paradigm shift,” but, if you think that’s what this world needs (like I do), well, here’s your recipe.