State of the Art: Impact Investing’s Evolution & Future

Fireside Chat with The Case Foundation’s Jean Case & Impact Engine’s Jessica Droste Yagan

On Tuesday, November 15th, the University of Chicago Polsky Center, Social Enterprise Initiative and Impact Engine hosted Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, for a lunchtime discussion on the evolution and future of impact investing with Impact Engine CEO, Jessica Droste Yagan. Together they discussed philanthropy’s role as a catalyst for social change, how millennials will shape the sector moving forward, and the Case Foundation’s new impact investing visualization tool that provides both investors and entrepreneurs with more knowledge on this growing marketplace. Each attendee received the Case Foundation’s concise and informative A Short Guide to Impact Investing, which outlines impact investing for both new and seasoned investors.  You can check out a video of the entire session or read below for some key takeaways.

The Importance of Impact Investing

Jean Case and her husband Steve founded the Case Foundation in 1997 to reflect their family’s commitment to giving back. The foundation is committed to creating programs and investing in people and organizations that use entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and collaboration to have an exponential social impact. While all investment has an impact, the Case Foundation believes impact investments should be intentional, transparent, measurable and used as a tool to align capital investment with one’s values. The Case Foundation has become a national leader of the impact investing movement, creating pathways to impact investing through “educating, inspiring and activating” current investors to think critically about their investments. For those new to the field, Jean challenged investors to analyze the impact of their current investments, figure out what they’re passionate about and ask what kind of impact they’re looking to have.

Inclusivity of Entrepreneurship

A common theme of the conversation was diversity, inclusivity and the role of impact investing in venture capital. Of the 100 top venture capital firms, 93 investment managers are men. Only 10% of major VC-backed startups have a female founder and 1% have an African American founder. Additionally, Jean pointed out that there are significantly fewer traditional wealth advisors and VC firms that offer impact investing as an option. “We have a powerful opportunity to seize,” remarked Jean, who said impact investing closes these gaps and brings a diversity of investors, mentor, founders to the innovation space.

Impact Investing & Policy Change

The Case Foundation also works to change policy on the national level through its support of the US National Advisory Board on Impact Investing. “Policy can be a powerful tool to work across administrations to build the impact investing movement,” noted Jean, who has lead strategic public-private efforts as an advisor to the U.S. National Advisory Board to the Social Impact Investing Task Force and Chair of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation. Yet there is still much to be done on the policy side. Jean spoke about the disappointing lack of impact investments by mission-based foundations. While foundations focus their philanthropy efforts in the social sector, they often ignore their mission-driven framework in their endowments and invest without consideration of social impact. The Case Foundation is working with the National Advisory Board to move the needle on impact investing policy by recommending executive and legislative action to support the sector’s growth.

The Future of Impact Investing

Looking to the future, Jean Case shared her excitement about the new generation of entrepreneurs and changemakers. “Across the board, young people are influencing behavior and attitude towards social impact,” said Jean. Millennials are passionate about making an impact with their money and finding new ways to do so without having to create their own social impact startups. The Case Foundation also hopes to change the future of impact investing with its newest project, the Impact Investing Network Map. This data visualization tool helps explore relationships between companies, funds and investors in the impact space. Jean Case and the Case Foundation, alongside Impact Engine, are proud to continue supporting the growth of the impact investing movement.

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