PCV Executive Director Beth Sirull on Impact Investing

Nov 12, 2012 · Amelia Pentecost

This blog was written by Beth Sirull,  Executive Director of Pacific Community Ventures.

This past Friday, I was honored to testify at a hearing held by California Assemblymember Nora Campos who represents San Jose.  Assemblywoman Campos, along with Sunne McPeak, currently CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund and former Secretary of the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, gathered a group of community organizers, investors and policymakers to discuss how California state government could better support impact investing in the state. 

Kudos to Assemblywoman Campos for understanding that government and philanthropy combined do not have enough resources to address our state’s pressing social, environmental and economic issues.  We need to harness private dollars to address these issues.  We all know that private dollars go where they can earn a financial return.  Thus, leveraging private investment for the public good means furthering impact investing, the idea that financially driven investors can invest for financial return while also having a demonstrable social impact.  In my comments at the hearing, I made the following core points:

  1. State policymakers must think about the role of government in building the supply of capital, creating quality demand for capital and facilitating transactions.  We need policy that is balanced across all three.
  2. Expand upon the concept of place.  Remember that we are truly investing for the benefit of low income neighborhoods, not just in them.
  3. Insist on impact accountability.  Impact investing is still relatively new.  The only way we will learn about what works for BOTH financial and social return is if we track both.
  4. Use existing structures in California.  The California Organized Investment Network (COIN) is in place.  Leverage it.  CalPERS and CalSTRS are working hard to develop and implement investment programs that invest in California.  Work with them.

You can read the full text of my comments here.

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