Despite the number of interesting sessions offered at Net Impact this year, I chose to stay focused on a specific topic and attended mainly sessions related to impact. This post is a combination of a few of those sessions.
The first impact session I attended, The Role of Impact Investing in Social and Environmental Change, discussed the significance of investing for impact and new trends in the field. John Goldstein ofImprint Capital Advisors, the moderator, started the session by acknowledging that impact investing applies to a wide range of asset classes and missionaries. Each panelist then shared their interest in current innovations occurring as a result of impact investing. Bill Marvel from Baldwin Brothers, which started as a hedge fund, is interested in new enterprise and investment strategies, while Art Stevens from the Calvert Foundation is focused on ways to use impact investing to create more effective vehicles to enable participation and channel capital, whereas Rob Whittier of Deloitte is involved in building industry infrastructure though standards and metrics. Whittier, who works with IRIS, highlighted that one of the goals of IRIS is to unlock trillions of dollars to invest in such ventures. I was also pleased to hear Rob cite a malaria example to describe the type of metrics IRIS uses that I often use to describe the differences between outputs and outcomes (i.e. an output would be the number of malaria nets distributed, whereas an outcome would be the change in malaria incidence due to the malaria nets). He also clarified that IRIS is focusing on standardizing output metrics first. To which Stevens later added that "outputs are okay ... We need outcomes, (to answer the question) are we changing people's lives. (We) need to ramp up measurement." He continued by saying we need to collect enough data to know what our impact is, but not be buried in measurement; a line that the impact investing field is carefully assessing now.