Drexel University has taken on a mission as an engaged anchor institution with a substantial role and set of responsibilities in the life and local economy of West Philadelphia. One of our key strategies is to integrate this outward-looking perspective into our core academic functions through comprehensive supports for civic engagement. The Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships, part of Drexel’s Office of University and Community Partnerships, offers a hub for doing academically rigorous work that is creative, collaborative, responsive to the needs and interests articulated by residents and neighborhood stakeholders, and generates benefits for both students and residents.
Investments into Opportunity Funds offer attractive tax benefits, while catalyzing capital inflows into economically distressed communities. However, prudence is necessary in evaluating these investment opportunities as they come to market. The tax benefits will not outweigh the negative consequences of a bad investment. Moreover, large numbers of investment opportunities have not yet materialized. While the initial round of IRS guidance has answered some questions, additional information, expected shortly, is necessary, and then firms will need time to evaluate and identify qualified investment opportunities before launching investment funds. Currently we assume that there will be Funds available for investment in 2019. While questions remain, Opportunity Zones offer an exciting space to monitor and evaluate for tax-sensitive and impact investors.
Each year, the Excellence Awards celebration attracts hundreds of prominent business leaders to recognize the people and companies that have demonstrated unique vision, innovation and achievement in support of our region’s economy and small to mid-size business community.
Philadelphia’s Department of Planning & Development incorporates “social impact” as a component of its review process for developers seeking public land and financing. This document explains the concept of social impact, with the intent of helping developers craft a successful social-impact strategy
The Kresge Foundation announced Monday it will partner with two established impact fund managers and provide $22 million in investments to anchor their emerging Opportunity Zone Funds, after these managers have agreed to a level of transparency, accountability, and disclosure thus far unheard of in the Opportunity Zones space.
Racial inequity is inextricably connected to nearly every social challenge that philanthropy seeks to address. Quality healthcare. Affordable housing. Access to a better education. Participation in a just economy. These are just some of the challenges that disproportionately affect people of color and are central to the mission-driven work undertaken by foundations.
If you’re in business or finance, the term “impact investing” is probably already on your radar. If not, the growing global market – $228 billion in assets (doubled from 2016 to 2017) – is a topic that leaders as diverse as Larry Fink, the Pope, U2’s Bono, and local Philadelphia impact leaders, Jay Coen Gilbert or RoseAnn Rosenthal, would advise you have on your 2019 agenda. And the Total Impact Conference, this May in Philadelphia, is the just the opportunity to begin or advance your impact investing strategy.
First Step Staffing has a disarmingly simple impact strategy for integrating homeless and previously incarcerated people into the workforce. The nonprofit acquires all or part of much larger for-profit staffing companies with steady customers in need of reliable workers. First Step assimilates the existing staff and, through natural attrition, gradually adds employees from much more vulnerable – but eager to work – populations. To boost retention, First Step provides transportation and covers other expenses.
WhoseYourLandlord, founded in Philadelphia by Ofo Ezeugwu to empower and inform renters, is among the first 25 companies backed by Backstage Capital’s new accelerator program. The venture capital firm for founders who identify as a woman, person of color, and/or LGBTQ will invest $100,000, and provide mentorship, investor introductions and financial guidance to each of the Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and London-based companies, in exchange for a 5% stake.
Most low-income communities in the U.S. have access to an important resource that few people outside of these communities know: a CDFI (community development financial institution). CDFIs are private community lenders dedicated to delivering social and economic impact by providing responsible, affordable financing to disinvested people and communities. Why are CDFIs important? If you live in a community whose streets are dotted with check cashers, liquor stores, and blighted buildings, chances are there are few if any bank branches and very little investment overall. Without access to capital, residents can’t start or grow a business, purchase or rehab a home, or oftentimes, have access to quality childcare and healthcare facilities. CDFIs provide access to capital that creates opportunity and leads to real change that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
The spiritual guru Deepak Chopra had just finished teaching a class about ethics in business at Columbia Business School when he called the billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones II in the fall of 2012. “‘Listen, one of my students has got a really good idea,’” Mr. Jones said Mr. Chopra had told him. The student had posed two questions: “Why can’t companies be an instrument for goodness? Why can’t companies focus their capital — human and financial — on being a change agent for societal betterment, a change agent for justness?”
Of all the factors stifling America’s underserved communities, a dearth of economic investment is among the most pernicious. For decades, institutional capital has largely bypassed disadvantaged urban and rural areas due to the perceived risk of investing there – whether those concerns are justified or not. As a longtime investor in underserved communities, I have witnessed firsthand the transformative power of private sector capital to create jobs, energize schools, revitalize neighborhoods, and ignite hope. I have also faced rejection from institutional investors who are fearful of any number of real or perceived hazards, from lack of market opportunity and narrow customer base to high crime and poor governance.
Larry Fink challenges. Tucker Carlson rants. David Brooks moralizes. Others wonder Can American Capitalism Survive? They all correctly diagnose the problem—a broken economic system that is not meeting the needs of the vast majority of people and that has embedded incentives that make it designed to fail in the more perilous times ahead—but they all fail to see clearly how long we’ve had this problem, what is its root cause, and what is required for its solution.
As one of my New Year’s resolutions, I’ve introduced my children to an excellent idea I heard once at an event on gender lens investing (which is, by the way, a whole other interesting angle I’ll come back to at another time!). Basically, the idea is that when your children get pocket money or Christmas money etc, instead of blowing it instantly on sweets/games/50 packets of Match Attax, they have to divide it up into four pots: one for spending, one for saving, one for investing, and one for giving away.
I have never been a big fan of joining clubs and recoil at the over-simplification often inherent in these types of identifiers. That said, I have found myself, circuitously, embracing this new badge. When I first casually glanced at promotional materials for last November’s Gender Smart Investing Summit, organized by Suzanne Biegel, I was not sure that it was a forum that would be relevant to me or my team at Ceniarth. Yes, we deployed over $40 million last year in a range of global funds and enterprises, almost all of which, given their rural focus, must be attentive to gender and power dynamics in underserved communities. Yet, I still did not consider myself a gender-lens investor.
In the last year, two unique opportunities brought the potential to drive significant new investment in cities across the country. First, Amazon announced their search for a second corporate headquarters (“HQ2”) which is projected to employ up to 50,000 employees over the next fifteen years. More than 238 cities and regions submitted proposals, and 20 candidate cities (including Philadelphia) were ultimately selected by Amazon to compete in a next phase. Amazon eventually decided to split its second headquarters into two locations and chose New York and Northern Virginia for its next stages of growth.
Like most parents, Dave Friedman approached his son’s graduation with pride. But he also worried. He knew that with valuable skills but high-functioning autism, his son would find few companies prepared to hire him. Friedman’s response was to create AutonomyWorks, which employs people with autism spectrum disorder to provide marketing operations support—work that, because of its detailed, repetitive nature, makes it hard for companies to retain staff.
New research from Tideline and Impact Capital Managers (ICM), a network of private fund managers committed to impact investing, shows that a social and environmental focus on investment management can, in fact, boost financial returns. The new white paper, titled The Alpha in Impact, is based on Tideline’s analysis of nearly 30 financial transactions from ICM-member investment portfolios. The analysis uncovered 10 unique drivers of “impact alpha,” defined as the ways in which operating with an impact objective can enhance or add financial value for fund managers, investors, and the firms in which they invest.
Thirty-four developments are under construction, completed or proposed for the North Broad Street corridor between City Hall and Germantown Avenue. The projects include the $56 million renovation of The Met Philadelphia into the state of the art entertainment venue, the redevelopment of the historic Lorraine Divine Hotel, $25 million renovation of the former Blue Horizon boxing venue into a Marriott brand Hotel Moxy and the transformation of the Beury Building into residential and commercial space.
City agencies own roughly a quarter of the 40,000 vacant parcels of land in Philadelphia. It’s a figure that’s barely budged over the last decade despite a building boom and the introduction of several new blight-fighting tools. But on Friday the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority plans to put 26 of those properties on the market and take a first (small) step towards a resolution for the backlog of undeveloped, municipally owned land that pocks the city’s neighborhoods.
In pursuit of deeper impacts, social sector investors have begun to explore different permutations of Program Related Investments. Intermediaries play an important role in facilitating PRI loan funds however, this often raises the cost of capital to a price equal to or exceeding market rates. Direct PRI loans could unlock significant savings yielding new programmatic investment, financial stability, and ultimately, deeper impact.
When BlackRock CEO Larry Fink proclaimed in his annual letter in January that, "To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society," he says he wasn't doing it "to be en vogue," or, as Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. wrote, to "buy indulgences" with the public. "We're trying to improve the performance of our clients," Fink said at The New York Times DealBook Conference in New York on Thursday. He also predicted that in the near future, all investors will be using ESG (environmental, social, governance) metrics to determine the value of a company.
Help the Philly Impact Ecosystem “show up” by participating in the annual Social Enterprise Ecosystem Survey led by Halcyon. In past years, this survey has identified Philly as a top social impact center nationally and has recognized ImpactPHL as a “best practice” for other cities to model. Deadline is December 31st.
This story begins in 2002 in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Clemens and a small group of colleagues saw the need to create a conscious and sustainable world through engaged philanthropy and had the vision to align practice with purpose – at the individual level, in the community, and on a global scale.
CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion™ is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The organization runs a mobile tour nation-wide called the “Check Your Blind Spots” experience. This mobile tour visited FS Investments in early November, as they join the over 500 organizations working with CEO Action in order to hold conversations and address diversity issues in an interactive way.
Recent studies have shown that faith-based organizations have been more and more frequently investing in socially and environmentally impactful organizations. Apart from their traditional charitable works in their communities, these organizations are beginning to utilize the power of the funds they have invested in order to create change in the world around them. John O’Shaughnessy, CEO and CFO of Franciscan Sisters of Mary, says “We no longer wanted to invest in things that were adding to the problem,” and have since divested from investments they deemed counterproductive and invested in ones that more closely match their values.
A new clause has been added to the Delaware statute governing authorized investments for trusts. The language allows for the personal values of the beneficiary to be a guideline for the investments made by the fiduciaries on the beneficiaries’ behalf. This marks another step in the movement for value-based investing as an industry standard. Time will tell what impact the new clause will have on the investsments of these trusts, and if it will effectively encourage the growth of impact investing.
During the “Gilded Age”, Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest Americans to have ever lived, shared his thoughts on philantrhopy and how it should be carried out. Today is known as the “Second Gilded Age”, where the super wealthy are able to give large sums to causes of their choosing and recieve large tax breaks in return. With the legal definition of philanthropic organzation being murky at best, how can we be sure that the growing amount of money being funneled into more and more foundations are actually socially beneficial?
Are you ready to solve problems in Philadelphia? We are. That’s why we’re bringing urban thinkers from around the country to Philadelphia for our inaugural Ideas We Should Festival on November 30th—get your tickets here. And that’s why we’re thrilled to announce the Jeremy Nowak Urban Innovation Award, a $50,000 prize to launch one of those ideas in Philly.
“Many startups fund their earliest days with money from friends and family, as well as angels. But what if your friends and family are not wealthy—and, in fact, are more on the struggling side of the equation?” Village Capital hopes to have an answer to that with their new program, VC Pathways. The new endeavour looks to target organizations founded by African American, Latino, and female entrepreneurs that are not ready yet for their typical three month program, but have a promising prototype or pilot. The goal is to provide avenues to venture capital and industry knowledge to demographics who may not have those opportunities otherwise.