My work at Mason has allowed me to engage daily with amazing people and organizations in the fields of social innovation, entrepreneurship and the growing sector of social impact investing. Some thoughts on impact investing from Cohen and Sahlam in HBR:
We believe we are on the threshold of a major change not unlike the early days of the modern venture capital industry. In the mid-1960s and early 1970s, a new type of investment vehicle was created: the professionally managed venture capital partnership. This organizational innovation drew investment capital from institutional players like pension funds and endowments and allowed for appropriate time horizons. Soon venture capital became a core part of many economies and those bold moves changed everything. Entrepreneurship has never been the same.
Just as the formation of the venture capital industry ushered a new approach and mindset toward funding innovation within the private sector, impact investment has started to bring opportunities to harness entrepreneurship and capital markets to drive social improvement. This in time will bring much needed change to the social sector.
We’re already beginning to see innovation. People are developing new securities that link social performance to financial returns. There are new experiments — models that use the tools of finance to try things in different ways — sometimes creating income streams from novel concepts, like funding cancer research. There are also hybrid organizations like the Acumen Fund, Bridges Ventures and Root Capital that channel patient capital to high social return investments around the world. There are even organizations like Endeavor and Social Finance that help entrepreneurs gain access to global capital markets to fuel growth in employment and social impact.