Education Needed to Grow Impact Investing, Study Finds

Education Needed to Grow Impact Investing, Study Finds

Growing the field of impact investing will require investments in building an educational infrastructure, making education and training more affordable, and developing an evidence base around effective strategies, a report from the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University finds.

Funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the report, From Innovation to Practice: Impact Investing Education and Training (106 pages, PDF), examined the current state of impact investing education and found that demand is high for accessible, practical impact investing training and education. According to the study, existing offerings — mostly university-based or designed for large institutions and high-net-worth individuals — need to be expanded to include more affordable and accessible programs and to fill gaps in training in areas such as impact evaluation and financial analysis. Stakeholders also expressed interest in more intentional efforts to share knowledge related to the use of specific investment mechanisms, including crowdfunding, community development finance, and "pay for success" strategies; programs tailored to specific social impact sectors, with attention to investment mechanisms best suited for specific issue areas; and specialized training aimed at professionalizing the field.

The study also highlights four overarching challenges: allowing for adaptability and iteration in an evolving field; fostering cross-sectoral collaboration; striking the right balance between specialization and inclusivity so as to support multidisciplinary innovation and learning; and developing micro- and macro-level skills needed for transformative change. In addition to analyses of educational resources and gaps in training content and availability, the report includes recommendations for effective training delivery methods, including hands-on, applied learning, collaborative learning opportunities, and funder-subsidized curriculum development and scholarships.

"Being the first-ever comprehensive landscape and gap analysis of the impact investing executive education sector," said Beeck Center executive director Sonal Shah, "Innovation to Practice will provide a much-needed north star to scale up and grow this important field."

"An increasing number of investors are interested in impact," said Debra Schwartz, the managing director of impact investments at the MacArthur Foundation, which has awarded $500 million in impact investments since 1986. "But translating that interest into effective action is nowhere near as simple as some would think. Sound, evidence-based education is essential, both for sharing knowledge with new entrants and for deepening the contributions of those already active in the field."

"New Report Release on the Current State of Impact Investing Education." Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation Press Release 08/04/2016. "From Innovation to Practice: Impact Investing Education and Training." Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation Report 08/04/2016.