Six Lessons from Impact Investors: Highlights of All-in Impact Gathering 2020
Alongside sector partners, SVX convened the All-in Impact Gathering in November 2020, an annual conference targeted at mission-driven investors and philanthropists seeking to fully mobilize their assets and wealth towards high impact investing and philanthropy. Similar to last year, the investor gathering convened a working group of investors from across Canada looking to take the next step in their impact investing journey. The event was co-created by our investor attendees and supported by sector leaders.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s gathering hosted storytelling and case study sessions virtually on a weekly basis every Thursday in November for a two hour session. Peers and sector leaders shared experiences and insights on the topics of sustainable food systems and climate action, gender and racial equity, and place-based impact investing. The sessions were interactive and allow peer-to-peer discussions during regular breakout sessions.
- There were 52 total participants including individuals, families, foundations, institutions, and faith-based organizations;
- 312 connections were created or maintained at the Gathering;
- Participants represented organizations and institutions with a total asset value of over $2 billion;
- There were 16 storytellers and case study panelists including representatives from Ottawa Community Foundation, Canvas Foundation, Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada, Dragonfly Ventures, Genus Capital Management, Inspirit Foundation, Nia Community Impact, SETSI, Dao Foods, Investeco, Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), Vancouver Community Investment Bank (VCIB), Upper Canada Equity Fund, VERGE Capital, Blueprint Local, and the Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing (S3i).
- Partners bringing together the All-in Impact Gathering included SVX, Upper Canada Equity Fund, Genus Capital Management, Toniic, VERGE Capital, Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), and Make Way.
What were Key Takeaways from Storytellers?
We identified six key takeaways from stories told by peer impact investors:
- You can build your investment portfolio with companies that go beyond doing no harm and have a net positive impact on people and planet. Lina Bowden invited us to consider how we put value and cost to the work that we do, and make sure that is regenerative and not exploitive. Capital is a huge mobilizer for starting and scaling impact, and we must finance enterprises that have been created to tackle our most pressing problems. Business has a critical to play in sustaining our planet.
- Start somewhere that is comfortable and continuously advocate for your work in impact investing. Sister Margo Ritchie of the Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph Canada put it simply into words, “Just start, don’t wait until you have every answer in place, start somewhere and that will take you to the next step.” The congregation of the Saint Joseph Sisters has started with dedicating eight (8) per cent of their endowment to impact investing. They have committed to building capacity and raising awareness around impact investing among other sisters. Their finance committee recently organized a roadshow to share learning outcomes, best practices, cost structure and strategy that shapes their investment approach.
- Companies that show commitment to impact across their value chain and in their proactive response to our world’s biggest problems are strong financial performers. By focusing on this 360-degree impact approach, the Inspirit Foundation has been able to move ambitiously to a 100 per cent impact investing portfolio. Jory Cohen identifies companies with such commitments as better long-term bets. Indeed, their ability to make an impact is coupled with strong financial performance, as they grow market share from an increasing number of consumers who have a preference for products, services that generate economic, environmental and social value.
- Community wealth can mobilize community change. Community foundations have a valuable and transformational role in creating more sustainable livelihoods, communities, and ecosystems. Tracey Clark from the Ottawa Community Foundation outlined the role of community foundations as key players in driving the impact investing agenda forward. Indeed, this type of organization can have a wide and comprehensive impact at the neighborhood and regional levels by mobilizing their assets more intentionally to solve problems from inequality to climate change.
- Release what is beyond enough for you and build a picture of what you want your money to do. Annabelle White of Dragonfly Ventures explained that she considered the gap between what is enough and what she is willing to let go of as the investment opportunity. She asked, “How much do I need for my life and how much I can let go of?” She recounted learning how to release the money as her journey in impact investing progressed. Then, she worked with a business coach to draw her truths and values and create the mission driving her investment strategy and her work at Dragonfly Ventures today.
- Develop an integrated capital strategy for your investment portfolio. Annabelle invited all impact investors to use all of the diverse resources at their disposal to amplify their impact. In order to achieve their impact goals, impact investors can leverage their philanthropic resources and non-financial assets to drive change, including social capital, expert advice, and time.
Now that the All-in Impact Gathering has come to a close in 2020, we are looking forward to the following activities:
- Impact United. It is clear that there is growing momentum and interest in impact investing amongst investors. Alongside partners, we will be seeking to co-design and launch Impact United in early 2021 as a broad-based community and movement of individual investors, families, and private and community foundations across Canada that seek to mobilize their investment capital towards social, economic and environmental justice.
- All-in Impact Gathering(s) 2021. We’re also looking forward to future community convenings in 2021 including regional and issue specific conversations, and we hope to be able to return to gather as a full community in-person (in Prince Edward County, perhaps) by the time next fall comes around.