Scaling impact ecosystems: Cross-sectoral organizing for impact investing

Impact investing has been rapidly gaining traction in Latin America, and the current world pandemic has accelerated the interest in directing capital towards the companies, organizations and projects that will build back better. Countless studies and white papers show that this requires a full ecosystem of actors working together towards common goals.

After a similar engagement in Colombia and supported by the Government of Canada, four partner organizations including Deetken Impact, SVX Canada, SVX Mexico, and Impacto have combined forces to work on an ecosystem development project in Peru, including sector mapping, developing education strategies, and creating an action plan for a proposed National Advisory Board (NAB) on impact investing. This blog post includes background on National Advisory Boards, case examples, insights, key questions, and potential principles for consideration by stakeholders in Peru.

What is a National Advisory Board on Impact Investing?

A National Advisory Board is a multi-sector platform designed to promote the practice and efficacy of impact investing within national (and now regional) contexts. These entities are, “…tasked in principle with goals of educating specific places about impact investing, promoting the field, and helping to develop public policy environments that support it.” There are currently 33 National Advisory Boards (NABs) operating in countries around the world, with a global secretariat known as the Global Steering Group (GSG) for Impact Investment located in London, UK.

Case Studies

The following countries have been identified as case studies, with a particular focus on peer Latin American jurisdictions. It is believed that these countries have similar cultural, political, social and economic environments, and they also present opportunities for collaboration.

Canada has an active impact investing market with engagement from government, philanthropy, and private investors. Market builders have been engaged for decades in field building, with roots dating back to the credit union movement. There is an ever-widening set of actors which are deploying or raising capital through a range of tools including green bonds, community bonds, and social impact bonds, with the participation of an array of mainstream and specialized intermediaries able to advise, structure, and support these transactions. Impact investing in Canada is a growing industry representing over $20 billion in assets under management.

Key Milestones

  • Formation of Causeway Social Finance as an informal national collaborative focused on social finance in 2007, a project of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), itself a collaborative including J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, MaRS, Plan Institute and University of Waterloo.
  • Launch of the inaugural Social Finance Forum, a national-level convening point, field builder, and catalyzer for the sector in 2007.
  • Formation of the Task Force on Social Finance: Ten (10) members representing a diverse constituency of social finance stakeholders. The Task Force published its groundbreaking report, Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good (2010), a set of policy-driven recommendations to jumpstart the sector and ensure meaningful continuity.
  • A Canadian NAB was designated in 2014, consisting of 24 members including current and new members of the original Task Force, to the global Social Impact Investment Task Force following the 2013 G8 Summit.
  • In 2018, the Canadian government announced the development of an $805 million social finance fund for the ecosystem, including $50 million for investment readiness and $755 million for investment capital.

Governance and Membership
The Canadian Task Force on Social Finance was a single, time bound initiative established primarily to provide advice for the 2010 report. Membership was selected by the convening organization (SiG) based on recommendations from stakeholders and sector experts. Membership was expanded in 2014 and individual members continued to provide advice on an infrequent basis to advise MaRS staff and leadership, who acted as de facto representatives for the GSG with the establishment of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Relevant Resources and Reports

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin America and a key impact investing player in the region. In 2019, Mexico was home to the world’s second highest volume of impact-related private equity and venture capital deals.

Key Milestones

  • Prior to the formation of a NAB, a mapping study was conducted in 2014 by Ashoka. This was the first time that the ecosystem was mapped.
  • In December 2015, Organizations including AMEXCAP, Agora, ANDE, SVX México, New Ventures, Citibank Banamex and Promotora Social México laid the foundations of NAB Mexico. This event took place at FLII, the largest impact investing event in Latin America.
  • In early 2016, the group received a grant from Ford Foundation. This grant covered an initial launch event and research.
  • In October 2018, Ethos Laboratorio de Política Pública launched the research report.
  • Today, the NAB has identified more than 50 organizations and funds that promote the country’s investment sector. The NAB is also assisting the government in developing policies that promote impact investment.

Governance and Membership
The Board includes nine (9) members with representation from different sectors in the ecosystem. An Executive Director (staff) reports to the Board. Working groups include: Strategy and Fundraising; Research; Communications; and Governance. Within each working group, sub-working groups are created as and when needs arise. Each working group has a leader, selected by the President from candidates that volunteer.

Relevant Resources and Reports

The Colombian market has evolved into one of the most active in Latin America, alongside Mexico and Brazil. There is an active landscape of impact investing funds with over $86 million in capital. The sectors that received the greatest number of deals in Colombia were agriculture (58%), financial services (11%), and microfinance (9%). When looking at capital disbursed, ICT moves to the top of the list at 37% of total funds invested in Colombia from 2018–2019.

Key Milestones

  • Preliminary conversations took place beginning in 2017 with sector leaders, including actors such as SEAF, ColCapital, and Compartamos con Colombia.
  • Global Affairs Canada (GAC) worked with stakeholders and SVX starting in 2018 to map the ecosystem, convene actors, and develop recommendations for ecosystem development, including the creation of a National Advisory Board on impact investing.
  • Building a Colombian National Advisory Board for Impact Investing, was released in October 2019, outlining priorities, structure and alignments to be considered for GSG membership.
  • Compartamos con Colombia has since developed a governance and membership strategy and structure, and with the support of Global Affairs Canada (GAC), facilitated the start-up of the body, and developed a sustainable business model and revenue generation strategy.
  • The NAB was officially formed and announced in mid-2020.

Governance and Membership
The Colombian NAB has an advisory board with 13 members hailing from across the impact investing ecosystem (academia, government, private, foundations, and international development organizations), supported by an Executive Director. The NAB also includes a secretariat, an executive Board of Directors, and working tables.

Relevant Resources and Reports

Argentina and Uruguay are regional economic powerhouses, and among the region’s leaders on international indexes measuring well-being. However, in comparison to other Latin American countries, Argentina and Uruguay (along with Paraguay and Chile) are at an earlier stage in the development of their impact investing ecosystem.

Key Milestones

  • In March 2016, partners gathered inspired by similar initiatives in the United Kingdom and Brazil, starting with preliminary analysis, designating leaders per country and for teams.
  • In December 2016, team convening in Montevideo with a defined action plan for 2017
  • B Corp legislation was passed by congress in 2017.
  • The 2017 Report published by the Impact Investing Task Force: Inversión de Impacto en Argentina 2017 — Oportunidades y desafíos

Governance and Membership
Argentina and Uruguay have joined forces in the creation of a National Advisory Board to represent both states, which is also known as El Grupo de Inversión de Impacto Cono Sur or the Impact Investment Task Force. The NAB has 65 key member stakeholders representing government, private capital and investors (PE, VC, HNWIs), banks, small medium enterprises associations, Civil Society Organisations, social innovation organisations, government bodies, corporate foundations, incubators, accelerators of entrepreneurs, and multilateral credit agencies from Argentina and Uruguay. The NAB has an Argentinian lead (Acrux Partners) and an Uruguay lead (academia and ProMujer) and has a board made up of Uruguayan and Argentinian board members.

Relevant Resources and Reports

There is a significant amount of impact investing activity in Brazil, as one of the regional leaders for the sector. In 2019, the sector had US$ 785 million in assets under management. The country has also been amongst the leaders in cross-sectoral organizing. The Brazil NAB, known as the Aliança pelos Investimentos e Negócios de Impacto, was launched in 2014.

Key Milestones

  • In Brazil, a Task Force undertook early field engagement to map the field and develop an agenda to build support for a NAB and join the GSG starting in 2014. The Task Force was organized by the Instituto de Cidadania Empresarial (ICE).
  • The local Task Force engaged in work including market research, consultations, and the launch of the NAB and market report in October 2015 through a seminar “Social Finance- Global Trends and Recommendations for Brazil.”
  • Launch of several publications directly linked to socio-environmental impact. Some examples: “National Survey on Business Acceleration of Impact: A look at current practices”, “Knowledge Management in the Impact Business Ecosystem in Brazil”, and “Portrait of Small Inclusive and Impact Business in Brazil.”
  • NAB launched the Academia ICE program that mobilizes professors from Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) for teaching, research and extension on the topics of investments and impact business.
  • Introduction of Presidential Decree №9244/2017 which instituted the National Investment and Impact Business Strategy (Enimpacto) as a State policy, with a ten-year term for implementation.

Governance and Membership
Since the beginning NAB Brazil has been hosted by ICE, a 21-year old nonprofit body that works as a backbone organisation for social innovation and impact investing in Brazil. NAB has eight members in its advisory board (as of November 2020), comprising entrepreneurs, asset managers, government representatives and investors. A secretariat of four employees — including a Chair, CEO, analyst, and coordinator — manage the day-to-day operations of the NAB.

Relevant Resources and Reports

Key Insights

There are a number of key insights we can draw from the experience of other countries:

  • Lead organization(s): Most countries have designated a single leading organization or small set of organizations to host/co-host their NAB. A shared ownership model with core organizations is a best practice model. Although connected to key stakeholders, the body should be independent.
  • Leadership approach: Successful efforts have been the result of a collaborative approach by lead organizations and the staff secretariat.
  • Good governance: NABs should follow standard practices of good governance, including independence, transparency, and leadership rotation.
  • Cross-sectoral: Successful National Advisory Boards (NAB) include cross-sectoral representation from business, government, financial services and philanthropy, alongside core sector representatives.
  • Resourcing: There is a need to have sufficient resources for the start-up and initial operations of the NAB through a combination of sources that may include philanthropy, government contributions, membership fees, and in-kind support.
  • Multi-country operations: Some countries, including Argentina and Uruguay, have pursued a multi-country model of operations to increase efficiency, impact and collaboration.
  • Ecosystem infrastructure vs. policy infrastructure: In Latin America, it would appear that there is a greater focus on the development of ecosystem infrastructure and collaboration compared to a greater focus on policy change in the Global North (eg. Canada and UK, which was the basis for Canada’s efforts).

Benefits: There are a number of key benefits to organizing a NAB:

Increases the profile and awareness of impact investing amongst leaders in business, government and finance, as well as the general public.

Provides a productive platform for the sector to drive influence and action. Many ecosystems have been able to achieve public policy change or engagement of mainstream players.

Provides an opportunity for the sector to engage in data collection, knowledge exchange, and collaborative efforts that can improve the understanding, capacity and effectiveness of the sector. Many NABs have catalyzed the building or acquisition of sector infrastructure as a result of their efforts.

Provides a rallying and convening point for sector leaders.

For additional insights on models and approaches to National Advisory Boards (NABs), there are a number of great resources:

Key Questions

Key questions for consideration by impact investing ecosystem stakeholders in Peru to factor in the design of a local NAB include:

  • What guiding principles will help to provide direction to the proposed NAB?
  • Who are potential lead partners for the NAB, including funders?
  • What is the ideal governance structure and membership?
  • What is a reasonable framework for the operations and budget of the proposed NAB?
  • What will the core mandate and programs be for the proposed NAB?

It will take some time to develop and gain feedback on answers to the questions above, but it is possible to start with some initial principles that would guide the NAB in Peru:

  • Accessible: Ensure that engagement and participation in the National Advisory Board (NAB) is accessible to stakeholders, without financial or other barriers to entry.
  • Representative: Although not a democratic body, the overall NAB governance should seek to be as representative as possible of the range of ecosystem actors, as well as seek balanced representation that includes women, indigeneous, and racialized communities.
  • Low-cost / efficient: The budget and operations of the National Advisory Board will need to be low cost and efficient, leveraging in-kind support of partners and stakeholders.
  • Influence: Seek to engage mainstream actors, including those in finance and government, to build their understanding, interest and activity in impact investing.
  • Neutral Convenor: The NAB should seek to act as an independent, multi-sector convenor to help catalyze the development of the impact investing ecosystem in Peru. It is not intended to be an ecosystem actor, investor, funder, product developer, or service provider.
  • Locally shaped: Seek to organize the NAB and its activities in line with the shape and stage of the impact investing ecosystem in Peru.
  • Cross-sectoral: Alongside core sector representatives, invite participation from academia, mainstream financial services, and government to participate in the National Advisory Board.
  • Long term culture / systems change: The NAB should seek to support and advance cultural change in the approach of capital markets, government, and the general public to investing and enterprise.
  • Transparent: The NAB should have an, “Impartial, inclusive and transparent selection process for NAB membership.”
  • Non-hierarchical / horizontal: Adopt a horizontal approach to the management and governance of the NAB.

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