Home » Archive » Precision – a manifesto for impact investment

, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

Update: This post is co-published with Michael Lewkowitz and introduces our Tumblog – Complexity Rising (#cRising). It’s an experiment, invoking discussion in the run up to SoCap09 (#SoCap09).

Investment is a choice. Precision is the vehicle. Impact is an outcome.

Investment is a choice. An informed choice to deliver a range of returns.

Choice requires precision. Precision in timing, pricing, people, and reason. It’s about getting in at the right time, for the right price, with the right people. It’s about getting out in the right way at the right moment.

Impact is a version of interest. It’s another line of return. It’s among a set of investment intentions.

Impact is simple. Precision is complicated.

You want impact? Find a huge rock. Throw it in a small pond.

Precision? It’s not always intuitive. Take a look at what’s in the pond. Take a look at what’s around the pond. Figure out what feeds it. Find out who needs it.

Drop the rock, forget the splash, solve the problem: save a wetland.

Impact requires more than metrics and evaluation.

Metrics tell us what we’ve done. They measure the past. Evaluation tells us what might be and measures a static future.

Metrics lead to more rocks. Evaluation leads to bigger rocks. We need smarter rocks.

Metrics and evaluation hide the uncertainty of choice. They are accountability tools – not decision tools. They create platforms and benchmarks – slingshots and catapults. We also need targeting systems that deal with evolution and dynamics.

Beyond metrics to sensing and foresight

Our success will be defined by an ability to 1) sense the evolution of now, and 2) anticipate where dynamics will lead us.

Sensing “now” demands a new set of filters and criteria. Today, in a world deluged by data (which change every day), relevancy matters more than volume, frequency and timeliness. Curation counts.

Foresight clarifies “next”. It acknowledges that the future is unknown but leverages fit, character, and ability to absorb new opportunities. It seeks to understand a kind of gravity. These elements attract opportunity. Knowing their gravity and reconciling with emerging demand enables analytical understanding of what might come next.

We live in a fulcrum

Social issues are surging, in the face of a flagging economy. We are global. Our systems have failed. We haven’t yet chosen new ones. A window is open. The world is begging.

Grasping the potential of this moment depends on four key actions:

Deliver returns:

Let’s get clear. This is and must be about money. Without financial return, this won’t fly. The trick is making social values as definitive as cash. And then delivering them too.

Be precise:

To “define”, “benchmark”, and “evaluate” let’s add “sense”, “map”, and “feed”. Precision enables performance and drives impact.

Embrace complexity:

Social issues are complex. They are multi-faceted. Change anything, the rest moves too. There’s no single stream of return – it’s systemic.

Create clarity:

Honor complexity; pillage complication. Let things be inter-connected but do not twist. Money works because its simple. Invest simply, with reason, enabled by precision.

Create a path – recapture the present – sustain the future

We must learn to leverage social value to fortify financial value. It’s critical for mitigating risk. It creates fit. It ensures sustenance. It ensures consistency between systems, activities within systems, and new investments.

Henry David Thoreau, Journal (November 1, 1851)

“It is a rare qualification to be able to state a fact simply and adequately.
To digest some experience cleanly.
To say yes and no with authority – to make a square edge.
To conceive and suffer the truth to pass through us living and intact…”


Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

Allen Taylor

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