The U.S. State Department held its Global Impact Economy Forum last week and every one from billionaires to institutional portfolio managers to activists, academics and even a famous actress showed up. (http://www.state.gov/s/partnerships/impact/)
This begs the question of whether impact investing is becoming he financial services industry equivalent of the Occupy Wall Street movement: many voices, no leader, no one cause.
It is, and that's a good thing.
People who view Occupy Wall Street in a pejorative light, miss the point that it energized the masses. If nothing else, it got peoplethinking and motivated and they took action.
Getting anybody to do anything is arduous. Ask any sales and marketing executive how difficult it is to capture people's attentions and they'll likely agree.
As impact investing sweeps the landscape, from the newly titled SRI in the Rockies conference (now curiously held in Connecticut) that enlists the "impact investing" descriptor to Morgan Stanley Smith Barney's launch of the Investing with Impact Platform to the various crowd funding sites promulgated by the JOBS Act, myriad agendas are being brought forward and taking shape.
What a pottery business that is being supported by Prince Charles has to do with data-driven, wonky reporting and investments standards is not an easy question to answer. But the overarching banner under which both subjects fall is producing social impact with financial return. (Prince Charles supports the Jamrock crafts social enterprise in Kingston Jamaica; IRIS reporting standards ensure proper accounting and financial reporting of such businesses.)
Sure it's a bit zany to envelope within the same definition the investment techniques employed by pension funds with the investment techniques employed by a kid with fifty bucks who decides to invest in a microfinance business. But, hey, it gets people talking and wondering...and perhaps even taking action. Not a bad thing that bouncing ball that breeds connections.
By way of a personal example, I just returned from interviewing a billionaire social entrepreneur in Jamaica. There I learned about an organization called Mustard Seed (www.mustardseed.com). Check it out.
The path that got me there is incidental. Just as the many paths that comprise impact investing are incidental. It's all about getting capital into good hands.
How a movement begins is less important than how it ends.