Net Impact Conference 2019

Each year, Net Impact convenes students and professionals from around the world to learn from changemakers in fields like corporate sustainability, social entrepreneurship, and impact investing.

It’s also a great opportunity to network with social impact leaders, gain new skills, and leave with tangible next steps to create positive social and environmental change through their careers.

Attendees find this conference inspirational and indispensable, and you will too! We are eager to talk with you about early registration and group discounts for your institution.

Want to know more? Check out the 2018 conference highlights on photostream on Flickr and keynotes on YouTube. Review the 2018 conference program to get a sense of what the conference offers.


ANDE SGB Orientation Training: Intro to SGB Investing

The ANDE SGB Investing Orientation Training is a two-day comprehensive overview of the small and growing business sector with a focus on how to make impact investments in emerging market enterprises. The agenda will include sessions on: financial models, doing deals, impact investing, sector analysis, business plans, case studies, social entrepreneurship 101, and more!

Geared towards new hires, summer associates, and those new to the sector, 300+ individuals have participated in this training over the past five years.

For questions related to this training, email mina.alemzadeh@aspeninst.org.


Katapult Future Fest 2019

Katapult Future Fest explores how exponential technologies, consciousness and impact investing can be used to transcend the UN Sustainable Development Goals and build a future we want to live in. The KFF program aims to increase participants' knowledge and understanding of:

• Exponential technologies Learn from leading experts everything you need to know about the technologies that will take your organization to the next level; AI, Blockchain VR, AR, Robotics, 3D-printing, nanotech, biotech and quantum computing.

• Consciousness Understand the psychology of awareness and how we as humans can make conscious decisions on our use of technology.

• Impact investing Meet impact-driven tech startups and investors that are outperforming the market financially while making the world a better place.

This year we have invited experts to carry out deep-dives on the Future of Education, Environment, Food, Health and Financial Inclusion. We will focus on how YOU can help solve societal and environmental challenges using tools such as exponential technologies, consciousness, and impact investing.

 


Do Good by Giving Up More: A Vision of Restorative Investing

We live in an urgent time: duopolies and monopolies greatly suffocate the growth of small, local businesses; tax policy overwhelmingly favors the wealthy; corporate subsidies remain a lynchpin in economic development efforts; and the racial wealth gap continues to grow exponentially. Systems changing ideas and beliefs are needed to confront today’s economic challenges.

 

hundred years ago, Greenwood, a 35-square-block section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was home to one of the largest concentrations of African American-owned businesses and wealth in America. Booker T. Washington referred to Greenwood as “Negro Wall Street.” Black Wall Street, as it’s called today, had more than 300 African American-owned businesses serving roughly 11,000 residents.

It all came to a violent end in 1921, when a teenage African American boy was accused of assaulting a white female elevator operator. Followers of American history will know what came next: On May 31, 1921, white residents marched into Greenwood and burned it to the ground. Hundreds of black residents died and thousands more were left homeless. City and state officials were complicit in the violence: Instead of curtailing the riots, the National Guard was sent to detain African American residents into detention centers.

I first learned of Greenwood at the knee of my grandfather, a black man from the South who fought in the Korean War and received a Purple Heart for his troubles. Like millions of African Americans who served in the military during Jim Crow, my grandfather was denied the privileges owed to him from the G.I. Bill of Rights, which provided financial support in the form of cash stipends for schooling, low-interest mortgages, job skills training, low-interest loans, and unemployment benefits.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” — William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Most of us know nothing of Greenwood, or how G.I. benefits that helped to build the American white middle-class systematically excluded African American servicemen and their families, denying and suppressing wealth creation in black households for generations. Few of us know anything about redlining and blockbusting, and even fewer are aware that in 2018, financial institutions like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are being sued and fined for discriminatory lending practices in African American and Latinx communities. Indeed, the past isn’t past — it lives with us today.

“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made.” — Malcolm X

In 2016, a United Nations panel declared that the United States owed reparations to African Americans, as compensation for “the legacy of colonial history, enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality.” Thomas Craemer, an associate professor of public policy at University of Connecticut, concluded that U.S. slave labor in the 89 years between our country’s founding until the end of the Civil War would be worth approximately $5.9 trillion today.

Chattel slaveryJim CrowRedliningMass incarcerationPredatory lending. It’s a minor miracle that the racial wealth chasm between white and African American households isn’t significantly larger than it is today.

For over 40 years, the U.S. political economy has been shaped by ideas conceived by Milton Friedman’s “Chicago School” of free market orthodoxy. These ideas have defined much of American social, economic, and political life. In 2017, these ideas enabled bipartisan support (Tim Scott on the “Right,” Cory Booker on the “Left”) for the Investing in Opportunity Act (Opportunity Zones), developed by billionaire venture capitalist Sean Parker, who proudly pronounced:

“Instead of having government hand out pools of taxpayer dollars, you have savvy investors directing money into projects they think will succeed.”

In this narrative, government is bad and market investors are the heroes of American ingenuity. Forbes’ commentary on Opportunity Zones says it all:

“If everything goes right, a big slice of the estimated $6.1 trillion of paper profits currently resting on American balance sheets is about to go to work to revitalize America’s depressed communities. If all goes wrong, however, it will prove to be one of the biggest tax giveaways in American history, all in service of gentrifying neighborhoods and expelling local residents.”

Opportunity Zones are just the latest invention of neoliberal free market orthodoxy. However, the ideology has seeded countless prominent institutions and networks. And as Anand Giridharadas illustrates in “Winners Take All,” its influence is pervasive in left-leaning institutions as well.

Today, with wealth inequality exploding and economic anxiety and political tensions rising, unlikely voices clamor for new ideas and paradigmatic shifts. Hewlett Foundation is investing $10MM over the next two years to support research on new ideas and intellectual frameworks to address problems like wealth inequality, wage stagnation, economic dislocation due to globalization, and loss of jobs and economic security due to technology and automation. In its most recent call for Fellows, Open Society Foundationsinvites applicants to respond to the following provocation:

New and radical forms of ownership, governance, entrepreneurship, and financialization are needed to fight pervasive economic inequality.

Even billionaire financiers Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones acknowledge that free market capitalism no longer works for most Americans. However, they are bereft of ideas on what can be done, turning to platitudes like improving schools, increasing access to higher education, public-private partnerships, microfinance, and creating stronger job training programs. In other words, more of the same. 10 years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, NY Timescolumnist and “Too Big To Fail” author Andrew Ross Sorkin admits that, “capitalism, the way we’re operating it today, is not working.”

Alan Greenspan’s 2008 testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform served as a succinct indictment of the ideology behind neoliberal free market orthodoxy. This exchange between Greenspan and then Committee Chairman Henry Waxman sums it up:

Greenspan: I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms…

Waxman: In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working.

Greenspan: Absolutely, precisely. You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

Of course, one can credibly debate whether or not things had been “working exceptionally well” over the 40 years that preceded Lehman’s collapse, with income stagnation, radical wealth inequality, and costs for healthcare and higher education increasingly out of reach for ordinary Americans. Greenspan would note that the “whole intellectual edifice” behind his faith in Wall Street and free markets collapsed in the summer of 2007.

And yet, today in 2018, the free market status quo is tightening its grip. We can recite such frightening statistics as:

  • 82 percent of all wealth created in 2017 went to the richest 1%
  • The world’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by $762 billion
  • The poorest 50 percent saw no increase in wealth at all
  • Median wealth of African Americans could be zero by 2053

We live in an urgent time: duopolies and monopolies greatly suffocate the growth of small, local business; tax policy overwhelmingly favors the wealthy; corporate subsidies remain a lynchpin in local economic development efforts; and the racial wealth gap continues to grow exponentially.

And while governments, philanthropists, investors, and civic leaders seek answers to today’s economic challenges, they lack truly systems changing ideas and beliefs. Opportunity Zones, impact investing, “doing well by doing good” — these ideas spring from the same intellectual edifice as trickle-down economics. It’s a tough fact to swallow, yet the truth of it is no less potent.

What is needed is an entirely different intellectual edifice.

“People should think things out fresh and not just accept conventional terms and the conventional way of doing things.” — Buckminster Fuller

The mainstream ideas that drive our political economy concentrate authority, power, and wealth into the hands of the few, while actively marginalizing, exploiting, and extracting from the rest of us.

Where there was once slavery, indentured servitude, and sharecropping, there is now prison labor, wage theft, and the gig economy. In California, prisoners make up nearly 40 percent of firefighters — saving the state $100MM annually — and earn just $1.45 a day to fight deadly fires. Capital continues to find new ways to, in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, plunder. This is fundamental to how our economy works. But it need not be.

In our pursuit of new ideas and innovation, we’ve dismissed history and the collective capacity, genius, and tireless work of communities of color. As Jessica Gordon Nembhard and Edgar Villanueva make clear in Collective Courage and Decolonizing Wealth, African Americans and Native people have a long history of cooperative ownership and democratic economic participation, two intertwined beliefs that are antithetical to the economics of plunder, wealth hoarding, and “market power.”

In fact, the very answers sought-out by Giridharadas, Dalio, Jones, Hewlett, and Open Society can be found in marginalized communities of color that have historically built and operated economic alternatives to colonization, oppression, and exploitation.

Restorative investing is one such alternative. Pioneered by brilliant black women like Nwamaka Agbo and Alfa Demmellash, restorative investing acknowledges the urgent moral, economic, and ecological imperative to share and redirect power and promote collective well-being and social equity. It is an attempt to subvert the systemic injustices that plunder from rural, Native, and majority communities of color, and repair the harm unjustly inflicted upon economically exploited communities.

There is no shortage of leaders and communities who put restorative investing into practice. Inspired by Latin American indigenous movements, Thousand Currents’ Buen Vivir Fund demonstrates what is possible when investors democratize capital, enable community wealth and power building, and promote well-being above the preservation and accumulation of capital. Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole, principals at Chordata Capital, challenge, guide, and support their clients — largely, young inheritors of generational wealth — to invest with a laser focus on racial and economic justice.

In Boston, a network of frontline leaders — including BALLE leaders Aaron Tanaka and Deborah Frieze, alongside Nia Evans, Lucas Turner-Owens, and Mark Watson — work incessantly to build a community-controlled economy that redresses the city’s astronomical racial wealth divide through transformative efforts like Ujima Project and Boston Impact Initiative. And through the Runway Project, a powerful group of women of color — BALLE Fellow Jessica Norwood, Nina Robinson, Konda Mason, and Rani Langer-Croager — audaciously tackle the racial wealth gap and its adverse impact on African American entrepreneurs.

The major criticism levied against Giridharadas’ Winners Take All is that it lacks solutions. This criticism is intellectually dishonest at best — a complex system predicated on unequal power dynamics in which one party controls the purse strings and systemically sets the terms cannot be “solved.” In fact, what Giridharadas painstakingly sets out to prove is that financial elites are winning by the rules of a rigged game. What is required is a paradigmatic shift in the rules — moving from systemic power imbalance and wealth accumulation to distributing wealth and power equitably.

Foundations might prioritize investing in structures that resulted in perpetual community wealth building above their own institutional perpetuity.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) — which surpassed $110 billion in total assets under management in 2017 — would serve as risk capital largely inaccessible to communities of color due to systemic racism and economic exploitation.

And instead of spending $90 billion every year in tax breaks and cash awards to companies like Amazon to move across states, U.S. municipal and state governments would invest in cooperative ownership, minority-businesses, community-empowered development, and other authentic alternatives for advancing community wealth and economic equity.

There are clear alternatives to the status quo. In order to build a just and equitable economy, we must reckon with our compounding moral debts and heal the wounds caused by generations of economic plunder and exploitation. And for those of us with power and wealth engendered by the status quo, it means giving some of it up — rather than doing well by doing good, it means doing good by giving up more; less privilegeless wealth, and less power.

Philanthropy and investment — indeed the act of giving itself — is in need of reframing. I’ll leave you with a simple question: What are you willing to give up in order to make lasting systemic change?

Original posting of this article can be found on Medium.com


Rodney Foxworth is Executive Director of BALLE, a network of local economy leaders from across the US and Canada. This year, we’re calling for a #ShiftCapitalTuesday to refocus our efforts on communities that have been historically marginalized and economically exploited. To support this work, and the collective efforts of the BALLE network, consider a commitment of action by tagging #ShiftCapitalTuesday on Twitter or by making a contribution here.


Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium

New England International Donors (NEID) and The Philanthropic Initiative’s Center for Global Philanthropy are co-hosting the 2018 Innovations in International Philanthropy Symposium to propel forward the capacity and impact of internationally-oriented philanthropists, including individuals, families, foundations, investors, and corporate funders. The Symposium will provide funders a place to network, learn about relevant trends in international philanthropy, discover opportunities for collaboration, and gain practical, hands-on skills to increase the impact of their international giving.


ANDE SGB Investing Orientation Training

The ANDE SGB Investing Orientation Training is a two-day comprehensive overview of the small and growing business sector with a focus on how to make impact investments in emerging market enterprises. The agenda will include sessions on: financial models, doing deals, impact investing, sector analysis, business plans, case studies, social entrepreneurship 101, and more!

Geared towards new hires, summer associates, and those new to the sector, 300+ individuals have participated in this training over the past five years.

Tuition* (flat, non-refundable):
$300 for ANDE members
$500 for non-ANDE members

The tuition fee includes breakfast and lunch both days, and all relevant materials. In addition, we invite you to a NYC Networking Happy Hour on June 19th after the first day of training. Location is TBD, but it will be walking distance to the daytime training venue.


SOCAP Conversations: The State of the Field of Impact Measurement and Evaluation


What should robust evaluation and measurement of impact investing look like? Last year The Rockefeller Foundationpartnered with SOCAP to explore that question through a series of five SOCAP16 conference sessions focused on measurement and evaluation in impact investing and social enterprise. The series brought together diverse leaders from the impact community and outside experts on data, measurement, and evaluation, to share their expertise. It was clear from these discussions that there is a groundswell of interest in measurement and evaluation.

Following the conference, a report supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and co-authored by two designers of those sessions, Jane Reisman and Veronica Olazabal, was released. “Situating the Next Generation of Impact Measurement and Evaluation for Impact Investing” explores various ways the impact investment field, and market-based approaches in general, can establish evidence of social and environmental impacts. We recently spoke with Reisman, the founder of ORS Impact and measurement and evaluation advisor for The Rockefeller Foundation and Olazabal, the director of measurement, evaluation, and organizational performance at the Foundation.

SOCAP: Please describe your journey to understanding the impact measurement and evaluation state of the field.

Jane Reisman: I’ve been on this journey with Veronica and her colleague Nancy MacPherson, the managing director for evaluation, who have been spearheading this at The Rockefeller Foundation. They are attempting to strengthen the evidence base for impact investing and other market solutions because the Foundation has such a strong interest in how to best leverage all forms of capital, including the private sector, to achieve ambitious goals around poverty and resiliency. The evidence base for these approaches really hasn’t kept pace with the growth of impact investing.

Veronica Olazabal: Over the last few years, we have observed tensions between the state of the field and the growth in the evidence base around impact. Part of what happened last year—a large focus of the SOCAP series as well as other discussions anchored by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Social Value International, and American Evaluation Association—was confirming demand from the investment community. From that standpoint, last year was a big year for testing this question: Is there demand for strengthening the evidence base? Resoundingly the answer was “yes.”

What are the main headlines in the report?

Veronica Olazabal: The report begins with a review of the current state of impact investing measurement and the social sector and provides a rationale for why this topic continues to be both relevant and critical to addressing global issues. One of the main messages of the paper is that not all social sector investors are the same and thus, they do not need the same level of evidence to make decisions nor do they need to contribute to the impact dialogue in the same way. We believe that, as with financial impact, the risk-return spectrum also holds for social sector impact. Others have also made this observation. So we lay out some propositions: that measurement practices need to evolve and that new practices have to borrow from the strengths of both business and social sectors. The social sector has been working on measuring impact for over 65 years. While working under different assumptions and likely at a different part of the risk-return spectrum than impact investing, “how” to go about measuring social and environmental outcomes and impacts is likely similar enough to provide cross-learning.

Additional questions we dive into are related to what is the state of the art right now? The report does not go through all the specific examples—there have been tons of inventories of who is doing what. What we tried to do is categorize the measurement practices that are shared publicly because so many of them are proprietary—essentially segmenting approaches by purpose and needs. What we found is that the majority of investors are concentrated on standards, such as the IRIS (Impact Reporting and Investment Standards) catalog of metrics produced by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and others, such as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) approaches. We believe this is a sign that impact investors are using standard metrics as a way of saying we are going to document our impact.

Interestingly, the GIIN has been publicly stating that IRIS was never intended as the be-all and end-all, but that it was an important starting point. Building on this work, the GIIN today is going deeper and looking closely at how to align investments with impact goals—for example, through expansion of their Navigating Impact Initiative with support from The Rockefeller Foundation.

Jane Reisman: Standards are a great start, but there are also other ways of measuring and more specific ideas about measurement that go deeper toward building an evidence base—for example, performance monitoring. A great example of performance monitoring is the Lean Data approach that the Acumen Fund has popularized. It goes beyond outputs to consider social performance outcomes. Social performance is becoming very popular. Many funds are starting to develop performance monitoring and management approaches that move beyond metrics, and into “how” to measure, that is, how to collect the necessary data. We believe this is a good sign, especially since social and environmental metrics are not as straightforward to capture as financial metrics.

These are positive signs, but they are more along the lines of management and monitoring for understanding whether a fund is reaching its intended goals. These approaches do not provide deeper analysis of the whys and external factors, which are important for investors to consider. Often a distinction between monitoring and evaluation is that evaluation asks additional layers of questions to understand how things work and what’s in the way of things working and what are the unintended consequences. Evaluation uses a variety of methods to produce Rigorous Outcome and Impact Evaluations Studies. That stands in contrast to the lean data approach, which is very important for social performance monitoring and a real step forward from using metrics alone.

We also discuss the importance of understanding a market system and system factors if you want to have impact. That has not been talked about much. Looking at the service, resource, or the product alone won’t help you understand whether you’re having impact, or what’s in the way of impact. You must also look at the system factors that surround the intended impact. I recently read a great example of that in a report about internet connectivity. Even though internet technology has reached 80 percent of the globe, only 40 percent of the people it reaches are using an internet connection because factors in the market them from using it. That is when you really need to start looking at systems approaches.

We are suggesting that there is another level of evaluation beyond the business model for most individual impact investment organizations and funds. As a collective, and in many other ways, that is something that needs to be understood. This systems approach has been used quite a bit in multilateral work and as the private sector and impact investors continue to get into impact work, grounding their thinking in a systems mindset and measuring system factors will be important for producing the impact.

What reaction do you hope to see in response to this report?

Jane Reisman: This paper hopes to catalyze a convergence of methods—not looking at any one method as the be-all and end-all, but assessing the situation and determining which method will be most effective in a particular situation. We are suggesting different situations will call for different methodologies and not just a single standard. It is important to look deeper and consider the measurement approach that is being used and the goals you are trying to reach. That will help you determine what method makes the most sense.

It is really a good time for the impact investing industry and the social sector to begin working more collaboratively. They’ve been working in parallel streams and haven’t really connected very much. But over the past year, cross-fertilization has started to happen. The evaluation community is a good partner for the impact investment community in this endeavor. Instead of reinventing the wheel in the social capital markets there are lots of good ideas, tools, and methods that can be built upon and adapted to the new field. Everyone must innovate and create something new in this space.

Looking forward, are there any resources that you would point the SOCAP community to look to?

Jane Reisman: Tremendous work is happening across the globe, across disciplinary teams, and across industry teams—large investors, institutional investors, high net worth individuals, asset managers, asset owners, and evaluators and impact analysts. There are far more conversations happening in allied fields, including the microfinance community. There are five major initiatives that the SOCAP community should be aware of:

  • The Navigating Impact work being led by the GIIN;
  • The Impact Management Project facilitated by Bridges Ventures;
  • The Global Steering Committee that is a follow up from the G8 Task Force;
  • A new World Economic Forum initiative related to impact investing that was discussed in a session at the World Economic Forum in January and is the subject of an action agenda; and
  • The Social Performance Task Force, which is focusing on inclusive economies and financial service providers with social goals and that brings to the table a robust history of learning around impact measurement and evaluation.

Veronica Olazabal: Most importantly, I would say, keep your eyes open for a new generation of measurement and management. Management is as important as measurement. The GIIN created the business case for why measurement helps to manage investments for impact better. Clearly there is lots of demand and lots of commitment to strengthening the process for generating evidence and this is a real game changer.

This post was written by Mandy Gardner and originally appeared in the SOCAP Blog; it is republished here with permission.


Impact Investing in Silicon Valley

Highlighting the rapidly growing interest in impact investment opportunities within Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs, investors and other partners were brought together on March 16, 2017 by the Palo Alto Impact Center's “Impact Investing in Silicon Valley” Spring event. 
 
As a follow up to the successful Demo Day in November, the latest event in Palo Alto Impact Center’s program combined fireside chat discussions, on-stage interviews and pitches from top Bay Area-based social entrepreneurs, drawing together members representing all parts of the impact investing community — which included corporate affiliates, local investors and top business schools. A diverse line up of eight entrepreneurs pitched their unique solutions to challenges within healthcare (SavonixLegWorksWeal Life), education (LiftEdKiraKira), food (Tiny FarmsBarnraiser) and the environment (PowerScout). 
 
Presenting her company, Weal Life, which aims to make caring for others during times of chronic illness or aging easier with the use of technology, Keely Stevenson said the day prompted a "wealth of insights and practical support from investors and other entrepreneurs." One of five women pitching on the day, Keely also noted she was left impressed by the high percentage of female entrepreneurs on stage compared to elsewhere in Silicon Valley. "It demonstrates a leadership that is truly innovating."
 
From start to finish, the event prompted thought-provoking discussions, with esteemed John Kohler from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship reaffirming the crucial role of patience when assessing impact investment timelines and the associated returns, while Jenna Nichols (Impact Experience) and Wes Selke (Better Ventures) reflected on the influence their upbringings had on their respective impact investing journeys. The value from knowing, and telling, your story emerged as a key theme from the event. 
 
Before making time for a friendly, informal reception, the official sessions ended with awards to entrepreneurs in 3 categories - Best Qualified Team, Most Innovative Solution and Best Overall Impact Investment - presented by an experienced and highly innovative panel of judges: entrepreneur CEOs Cat Berman (CNote) and Christine Su (PastureMap), alongside impact investors David Cooper (Nourish Ventures), Tony Stayner (Excelsior Impact FundSV2 & toniic member) and Peter Herz (FoodSystem6).
 
Established in 2015, the event reflects the Palo Alto Impact Center’s focus on cultivating a powerful ecosystem of social impact professionals to unlock resources and deliver their mission - enabling the launch of new social impact organizations that improve the lives of individuals in the Bay Area and globally. Central to this aim was the event's friendly and relaxed atmosphere, allowing diverse change makers possessing common values to strengthen their connections. The reception also gave participants the opportunity to deep dive with each of the presenting entrepreneurs in order to find out more about their products and services first hand.
 
"It’s not just a networking event," said Suzanne Andrews, investor and entrepreneur at wingpact. "At PAIC events, I always meet great people who I end up developing lasting and rewarding relationships with. I learned a ton from each expert that spoke, plus their expertise wove together to create an expansive and fascinating picture of the impact investing space.”
For anyone curious to find out more about impact investing in the Bay Area and the work of the Palo Alto Impact Center, further events are scheduled throughout the year and can be found on their website.

Highlights from FLII: 2017 Latin American Impact Investing Forum

When the Latin American Impact Investing Forum was created in 2011, New Ventures had no idea it would later become the most important meeting on impact investing of Latin America. It came to light very naturally, as you bring together your best friends to share a good bottle of wine. Since its creation, the Latin American Impact Investing Forum—Foro Latinoamericano de Inversión de Impacto (FLII in Spanish)—has always been about the people it brings together.

After six years of gatherings and a growing number of impact investing events that reflect the dynamism of the sector throughout the world, we wanted to  create something special for our 2017 convening; we aimed to generate a friendly and relaxed atmosphere for high-level investors, entrepreneurs, and changemakers, all of whom share a common interest in bettering the lives of thousands of people in Latin America. That was our success metric.

With more than 400 attendees from 24 different countries (50 percent of attendees came from countries other than Mexico), the 7th annual FLII demonstrated that you can have fun while tackling critical issues such as health, education, women empowerment, housing, access to energy, mobility or transparency (just to name a few).

Held in Merida, Mexico on February 14-16, the forum included inspiring panel discussions, speed pitches, speed talks, workshops, and opportunities to discuss challenging questions with a diverse audience. Together we explored the blurred lines of the sector, and dealt with exciting trends such as the role of foundations in impact investing, the potential of faith-based initiatives, and lessons learned from investing during difficult times.

During the forum's three days, the conversations covered a large spectrum of interests, from the importance of mentoring to strengthen the ecosystem, to the value of storytelling, and the relevance of innovation and creativity, regardless of your position in the impact investing world. The perspectives of social impact bonds in Latin America provoked constructive debates, as well as exit strategies for investment funds.

Networking sessions played an even greater role this year, for this edition—purposely called “Let's meet up!”—specifically aimed to offer participants numerous and relevant opportunities to connect. We were particularly happy to attract new attendees to the forum this year, and observe that about 50 percent of attendees participated in FLII for the first time this year. And we are obviously thrilled to know that they are all willing to come back next year!

For those of you who were unable to attend in 2017, we invite you to join us next year and let us know what you would like to see, hear, and experience so we may make next year's experience even better together.