One of the more contestable issues at the conference is the influence of the for-profit sector on the impact agenda.
The Investing in Better Nutrition panel at the end of Day one openly canvassed corporate motivations for partnering on nutrition initiatives and appeared to imply that a for-profit orientation often impeded progress at best and might be exploitative at worst.
Larry Kramer, President, Hewlett Foundation, in is his keynote yesterday afternoon strongly expressed his concern regarding a recurrent theme at the conference that not-for-profits should behave more like business – and then went onto emphasize the differences that matter – suggesting that those working in NFP’s have fundamentally different motivations and need to be managed differently, that in comparison to the corporate sector the metrics for impact are not easy to quantify and fundamentally different and that the business community is motivated by success at the expense of the competition, which may be oppositional to building collaborations for impact.
This emphasis on metrics and accountability was further underscored in the numerous discussions regarding impact investment and the challenges of increasing available capital by a factor of 5/annum to have any chance of meeting the UN’s SDG goals. One of the key take-outs from these conversations is the need for better impact metrics and a call out for the development of a standardized report card to drive mainstream capital towards impact investing – a very corporate requirement which is oppositional to the notion that metrics regarding humanitarian impact platforms are often more intangible.
Despite this the common thread is a clear understanding that the world needs to find new ways of working across sectors to solve global challenges. The old ways of thinking and working are not getting us there fast enough.
My takeout is that this orientation is too siloed – rather than challenging the influence of the for-profit on impact agendas, we need to more boldly step into these spaces. The very difference in motivations and operational approaches of the different sectors provides the parameters within which to explore new ways of working to drive initiatives for impact.
My most profound insight from Day two – Amit Bouri’s, CEO, Global Impact Investing Network, comment that we need to move from Impact Investing to Investing for Impact – a subtle but clear call to move out of our respective bunkers and the associated cultural cringe and into truly collaborative conversations.
Liz Gillies is CEO Menzies Foundation