If you ask Cory Donovan, executive director of ImpactPHL, how he knows the five-year-old social impact investing organization is making progress, he’s likely to give you one of several examples that basically go like this:
I recently talked to an African American CEO about his company’s 401(k), and we looked at the funds his financial advisor has invested employees’ money in for years. He noted that it gets a good return for him and his employees. But then I pointed out what I knew he didn’t realize: Through his 401k, he was inadvertently investing his, his company’s and his employees’ money in businesses that support the prison industrial complex. He was shocked. That was not something he believed in, and he had no idea that he was doing it. Next time we talked, he’d told his advisor to change the company’s 401k plan so it better reflects his values. Oh, and by the way, he’s still getting a good return on his investment.
That message — that you can do good for your wallet while also doing good for your city — is at the heart of the work that ImpactPHL does, and it’s the overarching theme of next week’s Total Impact Summit: Investing for New Economies. It’s the organization’s first in-person summit since 2019, and is, Donovan says, a reflection of the ways in which the world has shifted in the last three years.
“We’re coming out of the perfect storm of Covid, climate change that we saw turn Vine Street into a river, George Floyd’s murder — and people want to do something,” he says. “We’ve donated more, volunteered more, voted our issues more. But money is the biggest and most powerful tool many of us have, and over and over people don’t realize their money is creating harm at a faster rate than they’re doing good.”
As in other years, Total Impact brings to Philly asset managers, investors, bank leaders and others in the finance world to learn and share their experiences using big-dollar investments to create economic and social change in their communities. The two days include panels on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG); divestment and advocacy; diverse leadership; systems changes; public-private partnerships; and several conversations to help participants understand how to integrate social impact investments into their portfolios. (See the full schedule here.)
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the term “social impact investing,” the increasingly popular practice of aligning financial assets with desired social outcomes that ImpactPHL says has reached $1 trillion in global investments. Philadelphia, in no small part because of Impact PHL, is a centerpiece for social impact investing nationwide, with no fewer than a dozen different funds that allow qualified investors to put their money to good use.
A few panels at Total Impact will address this with local leaders in the field. For example: B Lab co-founders Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan will talk with Enterprise Center CEO Della Clark and others about the state of the social impact investing 15 years on; the President/CEO of Alliance for Health Equity will talk about the former Brandywine Health Foundation’s work to be more mission-aligned with their investments; Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ Margaret Berger Bradley and CDFI Friendly America co-founder Mark Pinsky will talk about the state of place-based investing.
And, for the first time this year, the summit ends with a special afternoon session that focuses on real-life Philly impact investment funds, and how they are making change in the city. Participants will be able to choose to hear from people working in two of four different social impact sectors: startups, with Sylvester Mobley’s Plain Sight Capital, De-Carceration Fund and others; affordable housing and other real estate investments, with The Collective and Kensington Corridor Trust; CDFIs and community investment, with The Reinvestment Fund and GRIT; and financing for BIPOC entrepreneurs, including Founders First and the Enterprise Center’s Innovate Capital.
That will be followed by a cocktail reception, allowing attendees to follow up with any of the speakers for more information and even, perhaps, to talk about future investment. That, after all, is the underlying mission for everything ImpactPHL does.
“This event is not exclusive to Philadelphia, the content is applicable more broadly and people are coming here from all over,” Donovan says. “But at ImpactPHL we’ve always said we do this because we want to build a local economy that is inclusive, resilient and sustainable for Philadelphia to achieve its potential. This is another way to get at that.”
Monday May 16 and Tuesday May 17, 8:30am to 6 pm, Convene CityView, 30 South 17th Street, Philadelphia, $400 to $1,000, register here.
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