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Karen's thoughts on the Social Economy

The Buzz on Impact Investing

Thursday, 31st October 2013

Impact Investing is on everyone's radar. I’ve been privileged to attend a number of inspiring conferences over the past couple of weeks and the social economy is ALIVE and kicking…

150 young philanthropists and social enterprise bods joined together at the Nexus Conference in Sydney last week to discuss how to change the world.

The standout speaker was Andy Kuper from Leapfrog Investments. Leapfrog Investments has provided 18 million micro insurance policies to the poor around the world in just 4 years.

Insurance enables their clients to have a more certain future and profoundly alters their appetite for investment in their tools of trade such as irrigation systems for crops. It will also generate a return on investment (ROI) for the insurers.

Leapfrog is a stunning example of the rise and rise of Impact Investing – which was also the discussion of many sessions at the Social Marketplace Conference, also in Sydney this week.

The clarifying point Andy Kuper made in his presentation about this challenging but fast growing area of Impact Investing – (which, for those unfamiliar with the term, is Investing for social returns as well as financial returns) is that once the market for this type of investment starts maturing there will be all kinds of investors with different appetites for risk, different sized wallets and different times frames all looking for different products.

As the Impact Investing marketplace becomes more sophisticated the market will develop many options for investments – not one-size-fits-all and at this early stage we should not be making judgements about the Impact Investment movement from the success or failure of just one kind of project or one kind of asset class eg social impact bonds.

Impact Investing is far more complicated that that. See:  IMpact Australia report

The CPA Australia congress (ALSO in sydney last week!) has put Impact Investing on their program right around Australia. Pro Bono Australia facilitated and developed the panel sessions which were attended by hundreds of CPAs keen to understand and learn about this growing area. It’s imperative that Impact Investing be known and understood as an investment option by financial professional advisors.

My takeout overall was that change is happening – and the pace of change is speeding up. The sheer number of organisations and people and the amount of energy generated by people in the room who gather to discuss changing the way the world operates attests to it.

DOING not talking is happening – and  you can see that by the myriad of organisations bubbling up.

The next challenge is how do we all collaborate to get to where we want to go….. and by the way where is that?


Karen Mahlab AM is the Founder and CEO of Pro Bono Australia. In 2015 she was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to the Not for Profit sector and philanthropic initiatives.
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