815 impact leaders attending over 110 meetings with one common theme: the need for collaboration. After 2.5 years of online gatherings, EVPA’s Annual Conference has successfully brought the audience that pre-pandemic sense of togetherness and highlighted the fierce urgency of working together and doing more now. The well-being of future generations is in our hands, and impact leaders must do their work at scale to create the future that is longed for and needed.
Over the last decade there has been a significant shift in the impact ecosystem, where businesses increasingly prioritise their impact over a pure economic gain and there’s a widespread recognition of venture capital’s philanthropic role to successfully scale market-based solutions to combat some of society’s most complex challenges. Venture philanthropists tend to go where no one dares to go, and they are all trying to move the needle to ease inequalities, enable a net-zero economy, and crowd in more capital for true social transformation.
Philanthropy tends to be driven by the heart, from a place of urgency, but to make the true difference in our societal challenges, we need to act more intelligently about deploying capital. Amongst others, impact investors need to build more alliances like the ‘Community of Practice in Health’, a group of fifteen funders, steered by We Share Forward Foundation, Bayer Foundation and other corporate partners, working together to accelerate access to health. Their reason for collaboration is simple: So many of us are supporting scalable social enterprises that don’t deserve to spend their valuable time writing eight different impact reports. By working together, more can be achieved than the sum of the parts. The entrepreneurs – the heroes who are trying to create a better, more sustainable, tomorrow – need to be empowered and by working separately they are actually slowed down. One of the areas where we truly can’t afford to lose any momentum is the climate crisis and the road to net-zero.
Investing in the climate zone is lonely
As global emissions continue to rise, we need to act faster and more vigorously. The urgency of the climate crisis and environmental degradation is unprecedented. While scientists have been ringing the alarm bell since the early 1990’s, complacency by key stakeholders in markets, public policy and within investment and philanthropic circles impedes the necessary urgency that this crisis demands. Even though there is a very narrow window to address the pressing climate change, it is difficult for early-stage entrepreneurs to find support for innovative climate solutions due to risk perceptions, investor preferences and limited philanthropic capital. Investing in the climate space is lonely and there is a great need for innovations and catalytic patient capital. As a sector, we have not risen to the challenge (yet).
Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation (DRK) plays an unusual role bridging a capital gap between philanthropic funders and climate investors by providing early-stage catalytic financial support and long term intensive operational support for social entrepreneurs to rapidly scale promising and innovative solutions. DRK meets the urgency of the climate crisis head on by accelerating early-stage solutions, closing a capital gap for social enterprises, and bringing new family offices and investors to the climate arena, thereby ensuring more capital is made available for this urgent issue. For example, DRK has invested $6 million of its own risk capital in eight climate organisations and has crowded in an additional $39 million for these organisations.
Subsidising the bad, and disabling the good
Decarbonising the economy is honestly the biggest challenge of the century. To successfully meet this challenge, we all have a crucial role to play in enabling the market mechanisms that accelerate our journey to net-zero emissions. The bad is still being subsidised, whilst the good is not enabled to the extent it needs nor deserves. It is evident that the climate crisis is a broader systemic issue and during the Annual Conference the panel on net-zero prosperity, moderated by Leslie Johnston (CEO Laudes Foundation, Chair of EVPA), sought to answer questions about how net-zero prosperity is linked to our broader economic system, what systemic enablers need to be in place to increase the level of investment into net-zero prosperity and the important role investors for impact play in seeding and growing those innovative companies.
The bumpy road to net-zero
There is a tendency to forget acknowledging and thanking those already making the difference in the climate space, yet the question remains: are we doing enough? To keep us within the 1.5 degrees required by the Paris Agreement, we need to increase climate finance to over $4 trillion and philanthropy is currently crowding in $1 trillion. It is apparent that we need to unlock more philanthropic, patient, and commercial capital, to collaborate at a higher level and support the heroic social entrepreneurs at every stage to replicate and scale their innovations. For systematic change to happen, all of us need to do what we can to catalyze change and to leave the world in a slightly better way than how we’ve found it.
Cheyenne Kooijman is Partnership Associate at Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation. DRK Foundation is a global venture philanthropy firm working across multiple sectors and geographies. They find, fund, and support social impact entrepreneurs who are solving some of the world’s most pressing inequities and changing the status quo for those who are most vulnerable. Collectively, 300 million lives have been impacted by the 200 portfolio organisations.