Many impact investing experts agree that the sector can’t become a mainstream powerhouse until it produces standardized, vetted methods for impact data availability, metrics and measurement. Not that sexy, but crucial infrastructure for expansion of the field.
With that in mind, the Tipping Point Fund on Impact Investing (TPF) just announced it’s awarding about $3.3 million in grants to 16 organizations working on related projects.
“We’re trying to build up the infrastructure around impact so that capital can flow more efficiently and transparently, and the impact is understood by a range of stakeholders,” says Fran Seegull, executive director of the TPF and president of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.
TPF developed a set of five vertical areas to guide its grantmaking. They range from “impact standards alignment and harmonization” to creating data platforms that can support impact measurement and ensure data is consistent, comparable and shareable among companies and funds world-wide.
On the Ground
While the setting of global standards tends to be a top-down process, two of the organizations stand out because they focus on collecting data from people in the trenches, according to Seegull. One is 60 Decibels, a social enterprise which uses mobile, voice-based data collection to gather feedback on the ground in developing countries. It’s going to develop a public index of customer-level impact data for up to 100 financial inclusion companies.
She also points to Adasina Social Capital, a registered investment advisory firm with its own social justice-oriented investment strategy. With TPF funding, Adasina will write a case study on its approach to working with social justice movements to develop impact metrics and build what they’re calling a Social Justice Impact Database platform to consolidate existing social justice data sets and impact metrics.
Other recipients include such heavy hitters as B Lab, Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Toniic Institute
TPF was launched in December 2019 as a donor collaborative vehicle, with an initial raise of $14.2 million in pooled philanthropic grants. The goal: helping to strengthen and boost impact investing by supporting key areas within the sector in need of more funding and unlikely to find financing through market activity alone. That means public policy, including such areas as policy development and implementation, and impact measurement and management standardization. In July 2020, TPF awarded $752,000 in grants to eight organizations to help demonstrate how U.S. federal policy could catalyze the flow of private capital towards addressing social, economic and environmental problems.
Participants include the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, McArthur Foundation and Omidyar Network, among others, all long-time supporters of the impact sector. Seegull hopes that organizations other than the usual suspects will also join in. “We need to diversify the number of players and show the importance of this infrastructure,” she says.