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, written by Jeremy. Read the commentary.

I’ll be attending SoCap09 next week in San Francisco. It’s been a mad-dash to get ready.

The madness is made of three priorities:

– Get a grip on what’s going on in impact investment
– Figure out who to meet at the conference
– Decide which arcs to ride in the conversations

Gripping Impact

Social investment/social capital/impact investment are three names for the same space. That there are three (and many others) illustrates the current state of affairs – striving for clarity, rigor, and discipline.

In spite of some superficial ambiguity, there’s rich texture underneath. That refined capacity was aptly showcased in recent conversations with Stephen Huddart, VP of J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Thomas K. Reis, Director at W.K. Kellogg Foundation. These are sophisticated investors.

My earlier “manifesto” wasn’t near as respectful as it could have been. There’s a thin line between provocation and maverick ignorance. I think I dodged the later, but not by much.

Precision is indeed necessary but, perhaps, not precisely where I placed it. Decisions, at least initial choices, are carefully made. Lots of rigorous tools help identify targets and investment process: logic models, developmental evaluation, causal loops, and network maps.

Just a few of the key resources in this area include the following videos (both from SoCap08) and articles:

Katherine Fulton, President of Monitor Institute – video.

Panel moderated by Kevin Doyle Jones and carried by Jed Emerson of Blended Value, Matthew Bishop of “The Economist”, and David Chen of Equilibrium Capital – video.

Investing for Social and Environmental Impact by Monitor Institute – PDF.

Who To Meet?

There’s almost 800 people attending the conference. It’s tough to pick where to focus the conversation. So far we’ve got meetings with:

Jed EmersonBlended Value
PÃ¥l DaleVoxtra Foundation
Greg BerryNuance Intelligence
Luis Calderon – University of Michigan Social Venture Fund
Andrew MillerForesta Capital
Kelly Clarkmaramanie
Sean Stannard-StocktonTactical Philanthropy
Glen MehnBoot Partners
IDEO
Damien NewmanFuture of Fish
VanCity Capital
Jonathan JenkinsUnLtd
Sara OlsenSVT Group

Story Arcs

So far it looks like there’s an interesting story around portfolio management. We’ve already done work to create an analytical portfolio management framework. An ability to:

1) Understand done deals and their evolution and emerging needs/opportunities
2) Reconcile early investments with investments currently on the table
3) Leverage early and current investments to call for future opportunities

Achieving this capacity requires:

1) Sensitivity tools to monitor and capture organic information and market dynamics related to current investment positions and their ecosystems
2) Create room within the due diligence on current deals to handle volatile information coming from previous deals so that new investments stack on, compliment, and fortify past positions
3) Run analytical foresight, scenario planning, and scanning to anticipate potential future opportunities and use current deals to take options on probable futures

I think the story to ride is this:

Making decisions is only part of investment success. Monitoring and leveraging the systemic layers influencing portfolio performance builds up value, mitigates risk, tailors future interests. The tools of impact management aren’t sensitive to these dynamics. They lag.

There’s an opportunity for a simple, bold process that links lagging metrics with real-time systemic evolution and future options. We’ve got key elements in hand. We’re looking for more.

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