Gaining Experience in Impact Investing

Berkeley-Haas Education Team at MIINT

Berkeley-Haas Education Team at MIINT

A Move into Impact Investing

My momentous experience with the Haas Impact Investing Network (“HIIN”) started in late September. I came to Berkeley-Haas to pursue a career in impact investing, so HIIN was an obvious decision. At work, I was frustrated with the nonprofit funding model – I had an undergrad degree in finance and I wanted to incorporate social impact into my work – a career in impact investing was a natural fit. However, I neither had the experience nor the tools to make this change. I quickly learned that HIIN was much more than just another case competition. My HIIN experience provide the tools I needed to make a career switch into impact investing.

HIIN is the Berkeley part of an experiential training program called the MBA Impact Investing Network & Training (“MIINT”). It’s an international competition where MBA teams from the US and Europe spend 6 months going through the impact investing process. Teams identify, conduct due diligence on, and recommend for investment an existing early stage for-profit organization that is building social impact into its business model and is looking to raise funding in order to scale up. The winning companies receive seed investments as part of an existing funding round. In addition to the competition component, MIINT provided access to various online and in person trainings on the stages and nuances of impact investing. The competition provided access to professionals in the industry both in formal speaker and panel settings to informal lunches and coffee chats. Furthermore, the competition provided access to networking both internal and external to Berkeley-Haas. I was able to connect with fellow students interested in the same topic. Soon it became an addendum to my MBA curriculum.

Focusing on Education

I joined the MIINT education team based on my personal interests. The first step was to source a company that fit a robust set of criteria. Our team assessed over 50 companies in the education space. I was doing research for the competition that allowed me to learn more about the education industry in the US. I learned about various tools for students, teachers, administrators, professionals, etc. Kickup-logoI learned about trends such a mass open online courses (MOOCs) and adaptive learning platforms. Ultimately we decided to work with an organization named KickUp, an analytics platform for school district directors to better tailor the professional development teachers. We worked closely with Jeremy Rogof, the founder and CEO, to analyze the market, understand the value proposition, conduct financial and social due diligence. Through this deep dive into the company, I came to understand the challenges of creating a company that provides a differentiated value and a social benefit in a market that is willing to pay for this product.

Haas Impact Investing Network Fellows 2016

Haas Impact Investing Network Fellows 2016

My first wake up call came when we presented the company at the Berkeley-Haas investment committee presentations. We believed the company was strong, the team was qualified and the product and impact were clear. However, the probing 20-minute Q&A following our presentation strongly challenged our assumptions and highlighted weaknesses which we had failed to discover. Ultimately, KickUp’s strong value proposition that addressed a massive problem in public school education today allowed us to win the local round. We represented Berkeley-Haas at the final round at Wharton. We spent the next three weeks engrossed in research, interviews and further analysis to develop answers to the gaps the judges had identified. Our further work proved to us that KickUp was a strong investment and we presented the company to a group of investors at Wharton.

The MIINT Finals at Wharton

The two day competition in Philadelphia was a fantastic experience for the whole team. The first day consisted of coffee chats and networking events where we met the other teams and judges. Their credentials and level of commitment to the tournament were impressive. The second day consisted of the final investment presentations. We spent weeks honing our presentation and were excited to show it to the judges. In our final presentation we felt we did a good job describing the company and answering the tough questions that followed.

In the end, we were not victorious. As the day wrapped up, we were awed with a presentation which showed what happened with previous winners, including Learnsprout who were acquired in a multi-million dollar deal by Apple earlier this year. Even though it didn’t win, hopefully KickUp will enjoy similar success!

Although we did not win, the experience was invaluable. Our team learned a great deal about the impact investing space, how investments are sourced, studied and eventually executed. Classes are great at providing concepts, tools and frameworks, but it is opportunities such as these that allow students to take their learnings and apply them in the real world. It was also wonderful to work closely with passionate MBAs from four continents, as well as an inspiring entrepreneur, and learning so much in the process. It is countless such activities that makes Berkeley-Haas a truly experiential program.

 

Cross-Sector Leaders Needed: Highlights from the 2016 Global Philanthropy Forum

By Kate Chadwick

East Bay Center for the Performing Arts

Members of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts at GPF 2016
Credit: Global Philanthropy Forum

The 2016 Global Philanthropy Forum took place on April 4th through 6th in Redwood City, California. A mix of donors, humanitarian aid actors, development practitioners, government officials, and corporate representatives descended on Silicon Valley in the hopes of sharing knowledge and igniting partnerships to address the current migrant crisis taking place globally. Whether for security, economic, political, cultural or environmental reasons, currently 250 million people are on the move globally. Sixty million of those individuals are migrating in search of safety.

As a Berkeley-Haas CSSL Philanthropy Fellow with The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and UC Berkeley Master of Development Practice (MDP) alumna, I had the opportunity to attend the Forum. Together, conference participants tackled issues such as peace & security, humanitarian assistance & refugees, and strategic philanthropy. Session themes like “Philanthropy’s Role: Solving for Crisis While Taking the Long View” cross-cut sectors, requiring multi-dimensional solutions. Donors explained how they partner with civil society organizations to respond to crises, including the current wave of migrants fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, and other countries, while also addressing the associated development issues such as education, health & nutrition, and food security. At the same time, field-based aid and development practitioners described their first-hand experiences providing essential support services to individuals and communities forced to migrate, or forced to consider migration as a means for survival.

 

Aid and Development Organizations Must Collaborate

2016 Global Philanthropy Forum

Haas Philanthropy Fellow, Kate Chadwick (far right), participates in the 2016 Global Philanthropy Forum.
Credit: Global Philanthropy Forum

One major theme emerging from the conference was the need for better collaboration between aid and development organizations to create sustainable solutions to migration challenges. Professor Alexander Betts, the Leopold Muller Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, discussed his work on ‘refugees as a resource’, and the fact that most refugees have an alternative source of income and are not fully dependent on international aid. Professor Betts suggests an innovative solution to humanitarian aid contexts that blur into development challenges, specifically related to long-term refugee situations. That solution is incubator cities made up of semi-permanent infrastructure designed to provide housing, health, educational and economic support services and opportunities to populations in transition. Professor Betts’ inspiration for such cities are university campuses, which manage a fluctuating and transitioning population annually.

Professor Alexander Betts at 2016 Global Philanthropy Forum

Professor Alexander Betts discusses meeting the immediate and long-term needs of the displaced.
Credit: Global Philanthropy Forum

Proposed solutions such as those provided by Professor Betts cannot be left to aid and development practitioners alone. There is a necessary role for donors, governments, corporations, and civil society actors, as well. The organizers of the Forum, the World Affairs Council, had the foresight to provide seats for all such actors at the conference table. Relatedly, it was suggested that one major role of philanthropy is that of the convener; or in other words, to support civil society organizations while bringing together major players such as businesses and government agencies to jointly tackle social and environmental issues.

 

Local Support is Key to Overall Success

Another common theme that emerged from the Forum was the immense benefit of participation by local community members in developing and managing community driven solutions to migration challenges. It was proposed that all parties working to address such issues should engage and include the local voice from the very start in the design phase of a project. One such participant of the Forum was Ursula Rakova, Executive Director of Tulele Peisa, a local non-governmental organization (NGO) working to relocate Tulun/Carterets Atoll Islanders who are currently threatened by rising sea levels associated with climate change.

Ursula Rakova at 2016 Global Philanthropy Forum

Ursula Rakova discusses the plight of climate refugees.
Credit: Global Philanthropy Forum

Ms. Rakova gave an emotional account of the work conducted by local community members in her birthplace, with support of the Catholic Church and other local and international NGOs, to relocate and resettle the island population to the nearby Papua New Guinea mainland. Participating in the conference gave Ms. Rakova an opportunity to share her story, and learn from and connect with other organizations also working on climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. The need for all actors working on such issues to anticipate, mitigate, and adapt to social and environmental crises was another overarching theme of the conference. In addition to climate mitigation and adaptation, other examples of organizations anticipating versus simply responding to crises, include conflict resolution and building systems of effective governance.

 

The Need for a Social Impact Infrastructure

Additional major conference themes as summarized by Forum President and CEO, Jane Wales, include: building/nurturing/sustaining the infrastructure of social impact that includes a vibrant civil society; the role of youth and the need to invest in them across all conference issue areas; the importance of the open data movement as it relates to program evaluation and sector learning; and that the ultimate role of philanthropy should be to provide people with dignity.

“The ultimate role of philanthropy should be to provide people with dignity.”

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Global Philanthropy Forum President and CEO, Jane Wales

Global Philanthropy Forum President and CEO, Jane Wales, welcomes Forum participants to the stage.
Credit: Global Philanthropy Forum

 

As the Forum was organized around the overarching topic of global philanthropy, the multiple roles of philanthropy were discussed throughout the event, including:

 

  • providing financial resources to civil society organizations;
  • convening major players to address social and environmental challenges;
  • advancing the democratic process;
  • providing rigorous monitoring & evaluation of interventions and open data;
  • supporting the capacity building of local organizations;
  • acting as a laboratory for social justice;
  • incubating and accelerating solutions to social and environmental challenges;
  • integrating culture into such solutions;
  • providing a voice for civil society through advocacy grantmaking and participatory research design;
  • supporting innovation and entrepreneurship;
  • developing human capital through management and training;
  • acting as an endorser to attract additional investments towards potential solutions; and
  • as it was stated several times over the course of the Forum, the idea that ultimately, foundations have the capacity to take on risk and thus, take on the role of risk-taker.

 

As a former humanitarian aid actor, development practitioner, and now grantmaker, it was an honor to participate in a conference that brought together so many like-minded individuals to share their knowledge and experience. Ultimately, woven through my own career is the thread of positive social and environmental impact, and I felt that that thread was stripped apart and thoroughly examined at the Forum.

Students Helping Students Helping the Community

Every year, the Haas Social Impact Fund (HSIF) awards fellowships to first year full-time Haas MBA students taking summer internships at organizations in the non-profit or social sectors as well as for-profit social enterprises that have specific social impact goals. “The HSIF allows students to put their MBA skills toward great organizations and great causes without internship salary factoring as much into their decision,” said Robbie Heath (MBA16). Robbie is the MBA Association (MBAA) VP of Community, a position that traditionally leads the fundraising and award process. He got involved due to a desire to contribute: “I believe that a focus on social impact is something quite unique to the Haas culture. It is reflected in how we carry ourselves in our classes, conversations, clubs, events, etc., and the HSIF is just one way of ensuring that tradition of social focus continues.”

When students contribute to the HSIF, they are not directing their donation to specific organizations or causes. Rather, they are supporting classmates whose internships in the social sector offer a salary that is below average for MBA students. As Robbie explained, “Contributing to the HSIF is completely voluntary and allows classmates to support an entire portfolio of great candidates and projects that will really make a difference to these organizations and to the world.” Last year, there were 12 HSIF Fellows. Read about some of their experiences on the CSSL blog. Continue reading