Five lessons we learned from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Investor Forum in the Netherlands

Above: A presentation from the GIIN Investor Forum

My colleague Vymala Thuron and I were pleased to attend the GIIN Forum 2022 as MEDA representatives. For MEDA, using finance for social and environmental change is critical as we work in agri-food systems where we need to ensure these considerations are mainstreamed in each of our interventions including when deploying capital.

Gender equality and climate action were at the center of every conversation this past week. Everyone at the conference (regardless of the sector, region, or size of the funds) believes that gender and climate must be a part of the business model. However, as Colleen Ostrowski from Visa Foundation mentioned, translating these concepts to achieve meaningful and comprehensive integration in the investment decision-making process is still a work in progress.

Here are five lessons that I learned from the event

1. Building community requires radical collaboration and intentionality

Amit Bouri from GIIN explicitly requested everyone in the room to make a commitment to help each other to achieve success even with small actions. GIIN is a large network and looking at the diversity of participants at the event was promising. It is clear that to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we need collective effort, shared goals and values, and partnerships that use creative delivery models.

2. Redefining impact is necessary

We need to redefine what impact means for each business and how we will refine the strategy to achieve and measure impact. Concrete results are critical to illustrate impact but also recognize that it is a journey, and the journey is different for everyone. Yet, we need clear roadmaps and ambitious goals to push ourselves to be bold and better every day. Erica Orton from the Fair Food Network shared how impact goals at the level of each person/family are critical when it is related to food security and agriculture. When small-scale producers earn living wages and their families can secure basic services, this change can make a concrete difference in their communities and future.

3. Standardization is relevant, and simplicity is best

It was clear that we need to develop principles and indicators that could apply to the industry as a whole and that we can all align with not only benchmarking but to improve our models and have shared guidelines to shape our interventions. Maria Teresa Zappia from Blue Orchard emphasized how donors and investors can find data overwhelming. Lean data can do a better job of showcasing impact and illustrating the progress that is being made.

4. More demand side participation and conversations are needed

Conversations are happening with an authentic desire to meaningfully contribute with investments to create a better and sustainable world but still within the offer side (capital providers). I would love to see more active and intentional participation from the demand side and the women-led businesses and producers that are accessing or not accessing capital voices from the Global South. Being intentional in bringing these voices to conversations will help to deploy capital in different ways, such as capital that is used to transition to sustainable agriculture.

5. Localization matters

Promoting and catalyzing local capital is critical for low-and middle-income countries to prosper. Most funds are still located in Europe or North America, and hopefully, we can incentivize local capital providers and decision makers to develop policies and regulations to promote more local capital. Organizations like the Collaborative for Frontier Finance (CFF) are doing a great job of promoting local capital in Africa.

Congratulations to the GIIN team for this event and its thoughtful agenda. We learned from diverse experiences around the world about how impact investing is making a difference in the lives of many people, especially in emerging markets.

If you’re looking for something else to read, look no further. The Storehouse is packed with content that discusses how entrepreneurship can improve businesses and livelihoods for businesspeople and farmers in the Global South.

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  • Jessica Villanueva

    Jessica Villanueva is MEDA’s Senior Director of Technical Areas of Practice with more than 20 years of management experience, focusing on agri-food market systems, financial inclusion, impact investment, and gender and climate lens investment projects in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

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