As a brand new organization, 2014 was a year of exploration and learning for us. Taking a broad and opportunistic perspective, we engaged in a variety of transactions across a number of sectors with varying risk and impact profiles. These investments, PRIs, and grants gave us insight into the wide range of interventions that we, as an office and foundation with flexible capital, can pursue. It also gave us an appreciation for the complexity of the problems in sectors such as energy, agriculture, and healthcare that we hope to help solve.
Our engagement with a diverse set of investors, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and grassroots organizations also led us to reflect on our core mission as an organization. With the growing popularity of the impact investment field, it is easy to begin believing that “investing” itself is the goal. There is an allure to the implication that one can invest to solve the world’s most challenging social problems and, in doing so, can earn a market rate return.
We have come to believe that the reality of the world is not that simple. Acknowledging the complexity of the sectors and geographies where we aim to intervene and the tensions that exist in attempting to invest money in challenging problems, we have come to a strategic, reformulation of our mission and our plan for execution.
While investing money for commercial returns is a “means” that our office will use, it is not the “end” that we hope to achieve. Our mission as an office and foundation is to fund scalable solutions to the world’s big challenges. Ultimately, the long-term measures of success for us as an organization will be the direct impacts that we have on problem areas, not the financial returns to our portfolio.
This does not imply that we will not scrutinize financial returns. There will be significant portions of our portfolio where financial returns are expected, and there will be investments, even in frontier markets, where a rigorous commercial approach is warranted. That said, we will ultimately be focused on the pursuit of social and community outcomes as the result of these commercial activities.
We hope to use this blog as a way of highlighting our activities, our successes and our failures, in pursuit of these outcomes. We will endeavor to offer candid assessments on our own progress and on the markets where we intervene. We are excited that as we pass our first anniversary as an organization that we can launch this website and blog as a way to begin interacting more thoughtfully in search of collaborators!