Practical Experience with an Influential Impact Investing Leader

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By Alicia Eerenstein (C19)

Published 9.2.14

As a millennial, the approximately 80 million U.S. individuals born between 1980-2000, I am part of the 85% who wants work that makes a positive difference and that is enriching to myself but also enriching to the world.[1] To some, our generation may be interpreted as wanting it all, quickly and efficiently. Millennials did grow up in the era of rapid technological innovation; however, it is with a thoughtful and interconnected mindset that we, along with other generations, approach the world.

It was the aforementioned ambition that led me to pursue an MBA at Presidio Graduate School. The program is a leader in graduate education for sustainable management, a concept that integrates economic prosperity, social equity and environmental quality in all aspects of business and public policy. As such, in my first year, I was introduced to an entirely new ecosystem of emerging economies, innovative industries, and inspiring social enterprises. All of which followed the blended value approach,[2] leading me to one industry that I found particularly compelling, impact investing.

Even though impact investing is not a new industry, my introduction led to the immediate interest in its prospect – building a new market and vision of investing that provides not only financial returns but real, sustainable impact for people and the planet. After a year, gaining a theoretical understanding of impact investing, I was grateful to the Fink Foundation for sponsoring an impact investing summer fellowship for two PGS students. Through this fellowship program, I was able to gain practical experience with an influential leader in the impact investing space, ImpactAssets.

ImpactAssets is a nonprofit financial services firm committed to increasing the flow of capital into investments that deliver financial, social and environmental returns. During my internship, as an investment team fellow, I had the valuable opportunity to contribute and learn in an analyst capacity. Over the 10-week period, I was able to delve into the investments practice by supporting the annual donor advised fund assessment process of the private debt and equity funds and large individual deals. I also supported the due diligence process of an individual deal recommended by a donor advisor.

In addition to these responsibilities, I managed the development of and co-authored the content for the 2013 Impact Report and authored the impact case studies featured in the Global Impact Ventures 2-page briefs.[3]. Through the combined quantitative and qualitative experience, I was able to gain perspective on the full breadth of ImpactAssets’ impact.

To highlight, there are two aspects of ImpactAssets’ field building and investment’s business that I found particularly important and inspiring.

As an impact investing steward committed to impact reporting and measurement, ImpactAssets is playing a critical role in driving the industry to measure and track its impact. The organization has rolled out a financial and impact reporting standards policy for their private debt and equity funds and individual investments. Inclusion on the ImpactAssets’ Giving Fund is contingent upon organizations meeting the set reporting requirements, which promote the use of Impact Reporting and Investing Standards (IRIS) metrics. During my fellowship, I was privy to ImpactAssets’ influential role in this process. There were a few funds that had not completed impact reporting in the past and in order to comply with ImpactAssets’ policy, have started in 2014. Pioneers like Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) have established industry standards in impact measurement and it is with the support of organizations like ImpactAssets that industry measurement and reporting standardization and impact transparency will be advanced.

ImpactAssets is committed to lowering minimum investment amounts, leading to the democratization of impact investing and introducing innovative products to grow participation in the field. One offering that exemplifies both goals is the Seed Ventures Platform (SVP). Added to ImpactAssets’ Giving Fund in 2013, SVP enables donors to recommend investments of as little as $2,500 in seed-stage impact ventures. It is an inspiring platform that meets a key market challenge by bridging the gap between investors and very early-stage impact entrepreneurs. Investments in these very early stage ventures are essential to scale the field and support emerging impact entrepreneurs who are dedicated to addressing critical world issues.

As a millennial, I am keenly aware of the social and environmental challenges of the world. Following my fellowship with ImpactAssets, I have confidence in the role impact investing is playing to foster the progressive action needed, and I encourage others to participate. A great way to start is to educate yourself through ImpactAssets’ Publications and Insights.

[1] http://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2013/09/17/do-millennials-think-differently-about-money-and-career/

[2] http://www.blendedvalue.org

[3] The Global Impact Ventures platform is a portfolio of the ImpactAssets Giving Fund and includes impact-first private debt and equity funds.

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Alicia Eerenstein (C19)

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