Total Impact Philadelphia 2019 Convenes 350+ Local & National Impact Stakeholders

The 2nd annual conference — hosted by ImpactPHL + Good Capital Project — covered themes from public equity ESG integration to racial equity to Opportunity Zone investments

Total Impact Philadelphia 2019 // Photo credit: Chris Kendig


Total Impact Philadelphia 2019 convened 350+ thought leaders and practitioners from diverse sectors and geographies across the United States for a two-day exchange of connections, conversations, insights, and best practices at the forefront of a growing, global impact investing field.

The conference was hosted by ImpactPHL and Good Capital Project in partnership with Wharton Social Impact Initiative, Toniic, Intentional Endowment Network, and CFA Society Philadelphia at Convene in Center City Philadelphia on May 1–2, 2019.

Read on for event context, a summary, and a snapshot.

Roy Swan of Ford Foundation and Fran Seegull of U.S. Impact Investing Alliance kick-off Total Impact Philadelphia 2019.

Addressing our 21st-century need for capitalism’s evolution

The context for an emerging, global impact investing field and the Total Impact Philadelphia 2019 conference is clear: 20th-century capitalism is failing our communities and planet. In the face of growing, urgent challenges — from vast wealth disparities to climate change, education to health — impact investing has evolved as a field within capitalism to divest from harmful investments and invest in positive solutions for our well-being in the 21st-century and beyond.

As the impact investing field continues to mature, impact is moving from anecdotal storytelling to rigorous data, from innovation to best practices, from niche to mainstream markets. Accordingly, cross-sections of stakeholders are eager to understand the field and how to leverage a diverse spectrum of capital initiatives, products, and services in moving trillions to achieve their desired financial and impact outcomes.

The growing field signifies what could be a seismic shift in our global economic system’s evolution — and, consequently, the outlook for generations of life on planet earth — if it’s able to scale into the mainstream market with integrity and retain its pioneers’ founding purpose: positive outcomes for all people and planet. It is this opportunity that brought 350+ regional and national stakeholders — from San Francisco and Greensboro, Austin and Boston — to Total Impact Philadelphia 2019 in May for two days.

Highlighting impact investing’s opportunity and challenges

Field leaders, Roy Swan of the Ford Foundation and Fran Seegull of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, kicked off day one with a nod to impact investing’s opportunity but quickly tempered the conversation to focus on the field’s serious responsibilities and challenges for practitioners to overcome.

As trillions in capital moves to seek both financial and impact returns, Swan and Seegull echoed a growing chorus of leaders who warn of critical barriers to success, namely — perpetuating inequities of our current capitalist system or ensuring that capital seeking impact is truly creating positive outcomes (vs. “impact-washing”).

Swan recounted the racially biased bank practices, discrimination, and redlining that contributed to today’s dismal investment and investment manager numbers for people of color — a gap that Ford Foundation is actively trying to bridge (see also Kresge Foundation’s commitment to place 25% of U.S. assets under the control of women- and minority-owned firms by 2025). Seegull spoke of the important role that data will play in ensuring that the Opportunity Zone tax benefit will center Opportunity Zone residents as the ultimate beneficiaries —in part guided by a reporting framework U.S. Impact Alliance launched with the Beeck Center for Social Innovation.

Indeed, for impact investing to truly be a pathway of enlightened and evolved capitalism, it must directly solve for root causes of inequitable wealth and investments in the United States and ensure we’re all accountable to creating a new paradigm and culture for investment and outcomes moving forward.

Toward that end, field leaders such as Nathalie Molina Niño of BRAVA Investments, Catherine Berman of CNote, and others spoke of the overlooked opportunity for investing in women and the current state of gender lens investment practices. Locals, Della Clark of The Enterprise Center and Ryan Bowers of Activest, joined Los Angeles and Boston pioneers, Kim Folsom of Founders First Capital and Mark Watson of Boston Capital Initiative, for a conversation on leading-edge models for investing in racial equity and social justice. Another panel of experts explored different city strategies for equitable Opportunity Zones development in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

With wisdom and expertise both on the stage and in the crowd, participants sought and shared insights, asked poignant questions of each other, agreed and disagreed, and shared how the event’s conversations moved their thinking forward or changed their perception.

Conversations on sector best practices to place-based insights

Conversations continued throughout the two days on leading practices across the field — from getting serious about risk to intermediary initiatives that are advancing the field. In international public markets, impact investing is on the rise, achieving “materiality” as described by Bank of America’s Head of Sustainable Impact Investment Strategy, Jackie Vanderbrug, and affirmed by a panel of experts looking at “driving impact at scale through public equities” via strategies like ESG integration and shareholder engagement.

Shareholder engagement is something that local Philadelphian, Sister Nora Nash of Sisters of St. Francis, knows intimately. Sister Nora made headlines last year when she led an engagement urging Wells Fargo to reevaluate its investments in private prisons. Kicking off day two of Total Impact in conversation with Margaret Berger Bradley of Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Sister Nora Nash grounded the day in a call to live our values and a reminder of the early activism and impact investing by religious communities in the Greater Philadelphia Region.

The home region of Total Impact Philadelphia faces seemingly intractable challenges that local leaders are hoping impact investing might help to progress in the right direction. For instance, the Shift Neighborhood Fund — a $70M fund by Shift Capital — using real estate as a tool for equity or PIDC’s collaboration with the City to attract equity impact capital for 82 Opportunity Zones in Philadelphia. Using a blended finance approach, a $6.3M collaborative investment between foundations, CDFIs, The City of Philadelphia, and angel investors from Social Venture Circle brought First Step Staffing to Philadelphia — a social enterprise that exceeded their targets in employing individuals experiencing homelessness and returning citizens in their first year of operations.

The ties between national and Philadelphia impact leadership continued as day two wrapped with a conversation on scaling and optimizing place-based investing between Philadelphia-based, Jamie Rantanen of U.S. Trust, and Oakland-based, Rodney Foxworth, who runs BALLE (Business Alliance of Local Living Economies) — a 15-year old national organization founded by local impact icon, Judy Wicks. The day closed with a message from former B Lab executive turned Pennsylvania U.S. Representative, Chrissy Houlihan, who called on participants to “be the best version” of themselves and to consistently ask what we’re doing to leave our communities, commonwealth, country, and planet better off. “Together, we can make meaningful change — ” she offered “change that sticks.”

Moving forward to make change that sticks

As the impact investing field matures on a global scale, Philadelphia hopes to be a pioneering U.S. city that actively works to align our region’s capital to achieve the highest good for all of our communities and planet — here and beyond. There’s a lot of work ahead, but we’re hopeful. Now the question: What meaningful change — change that sticks — can we achieve together by Total Impact Philadelphia 2020?



View moments from the two days of keynotes, sessions, networking, and the Total Impact Portfolio Challenge.

>>> See photos on Total Impact Philadelphia 2019


See coverage of the event by national and local media outlets.

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MBA students face off in challenge to create the next best impact investing idea. >>>Read more on CNBC


Key stats inform the opportunity and challenges of impact investing from various lenses. A few includes:

More than $12 trillion is invested in socially responsible ways — 1 out of 4 of the total assets under management in the U.S. (source)

The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) estimates the current size of the global impact investing market to be $502 billion. (source)

A large majority of affluent millennials (77%) and Generation X investors (72%) have made an impact investment. (source)

Nearly every S&P 500 firm now issues a sustainability report. (source)

The top 0.1% of the U.S. population possesses close to 20% of the wealth in the country — more than the bottom 80% of the population combined. (source)

In 2016, the median wealth for black and Hispanic families was $17,600 and $20,700, respectively, compared with white families’ median wealth of $171,000. (source)

Investment firms owned by women and people of color manage <1% of $70 trillion in assets under management in the U.S. despite making up ~70% of the population. (source)

Less than 5% of investments in the United States went to female founders, and less than 1% went to companies started by African-Americans and Latinos. (source)

In Philadelphia, black people make up 43% of the city’s population yet only own 2.5% of the businesses. Meanwhile, white people make up just 34% of the population yet own 76% of businesses. (source)

In 2015, 78% of startup investment in the United States — and half of all startup investment in the world — went to three states: Massachusetts, New York, and California. (source)

Opportunities Zones are estimated to have a potential $6 trillion invested long-term in low-income U.S. communities. (source)