Customer Reviews: Impact Investing: Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference
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on September 15, 2011
An insightful, easy-to-digest overview of the burgeoning phenomenon that is impact investing for blended return, described by the authors as "investment strategies that generate financial return while intentionally improving social and environmental conditions." Bugg-Levine and Emerson describe the history and current space of impact investing, noting lessons learned along the way, and identify areas of promise and concern for the future of impact investing.

This is a must-read for current and potential impact investors, social entrepreneurs, the philanthropic community, and policymakers interested in impact investing. I also highly recommend this book to individuals who are simply curious about the topic as it is not only informative, but also an enjoyable read.
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on October 28, 2012
As someone who considers themselves active and engaged in the world of impact investing, I was upset with the lack of tangible information that this book presented. Rather than (what felt like at times in the book) going in circles about the concepts of impact investing and the vision of what the future might hold, I would have found it much more beneficial to dive into the detail and case studies of impact investing from top organizations that are just mentioned in the book like Acumen Fund and Root Capital. I think the details of how these models operated, including their shortcomings, would have been much more beneficial to readers than many concepts the book dwelled on in great detail.

Also, I think the book failed to bring up or provide valuable information about many key aspects of the world of impact investing, such Muhammad Yunus' concept of Social Business which is growing in popularity and the opportunity for a Social Stock Exchange. Perhaps this is because one of the authors was a founder of a very controversial microfinance bank and, from my viewpoint, talking about these topics would go against the values that he believes in which pushed that bank to it's controversial IPO.

Additionally, I believe there were some misstated or under-explained parts of the book which, for me, took away its ability to be a valuable collection of information that I would recommend to my friends interested in this space. One example is that there is a reference in the book that Muhammad Yunus is a supporter of non-profit microfinance, when his for-profit bank (Grameen Bank in Bangladesh) is perhaps the most famous microfinance bank in the world. Also, the author talks lightly about the controversy around the investors in Comportamos and SKS gaining massive amounts of wealth in their IPO's, but doesn't talk about the details of the controversy - such as the interest rates of Comportamos that led to it's profit margins (80-100%) and the cruel collection methods of SKS that contributed to it's rapid expansion, many suicides, and (in part) the Indian microcredit bubble. I can't help but think that the authors left this information out on purpose to present a particular image of impact investing which doesn't accurately represent the entire space.

Lastly - as someone who does have enough wealth to be identified as an "accredited investor," I would have liked to learn more about the current landscape and future potential of retail-level impact investments.
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A cautiously optimistic book about impact investing both as an (emerging) asset class as well as an approach to portfolio management. It strives to bridge the silos between the social sector practitioners and the financial capital markets players without taking ideological positions for or against each side.

For the finance types, this is not a how-to book on impact investing as it does not focus on the pricing and valuation methodologies, rather it's more of a framework for approaching investing that incorporates social objectives into an entire asset management portfolio.

For the social sector practitioners, it's a great primer to help un-demonize the financial markets' role and its potentially huge contribution to the impact investing space and the social sector, if framed appropriately.
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on September 5, 2011
Bugg-Levine and Emerson present a history, a contemporary look, and do some promotional forecasting about impact investing. They credit, appropriately and adequately, the decades of innovation from religious endowments to teachers' pension funds the idea of mixing investing with social returns. The simultaneous pursuit of financial return and social value lie at the heart of the tools now known as impact investing and the outcomes now described as blended value. They also credit the "boundary" systems on either side of Impact Investing - philanthropy and commercial finance. In their words:

"Without philanthropy, modern microfinance would not exist. But without ... integration into the global investment system, microfinance would likely not have exceeded so spectacularly ..." (p. 46)

The closing line of the above paragraph then asks the key question for the entire book: "But at what price?" Emerson and Bugg-Levine tackle the costs and losses that have resulted from the decades of experiments that bring impact investing to this moment. Money has been lost, reputations ruined, lives taken. It has not been a straight line to success and the way forward presents no guarantees. Like any good financial discussion, previous outcomes are no guarantee of future results.

The book comes at in important time for impact investors (and for Emerson and Bugg-Levine themselves, both of whom have just taken on new jobs). SoCAP 11, the fourth annual conference that has become almost synonymous with Impact Investing opens this week in San Francisco. The first SoCAP conference launched one month to the day after the 158 year old Lehman Brothers investment bank went bankrupt. The disarray, panic, and anger from that scary time have raised and ruined political careers, redrawn the global map of economic powerbases, and given rise to bestselling books and award winning movies. They've also opened wider the window of opportunity for new concepts of capitalism, new measures of profit, and more widespread conversations about sustainable enterprise.

Bugg-Levine and Emerson tell this story from the inside. Bugg-Levine led a grantmaking portfolio at The Rockefeller Foundation for several years that poured tens of millions of dollars into the infrastructure of impact investing. Emerson has staffed and consulted to several investor-side enterprises over the years. They present the historical roots of the ideas and give numerous examples from across the globe of the roles and permutations of development finance, microfinance, socially responsible investing and philanthropy that merge, as streams into a river and then as rivers into the sea (a favorite metaphor of theirs). Their direct involvement in building and promoting these tools and values are strong credentials for the two authors - and they tell a good story. There is (thankfully) no glorifying or covering up - people they know made mistakes and experiments went wrong. The authors are emphatic to this point, impact investing is not a silver bullet.

For my purposes, the more interesting section of the book comes in part two - what will the future hold? They address this in two ways - the practical and the predictive. They identify several sectors where impact investing opportunities are likely to grow and offer guidance for interested investors to pursue such opportunities.

(Read the rest of this review at (...)
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on January 20, 2013
I had heard about the concept of Impact Investing and was looking for a book to explain it in more detail. Anthony Bugg-Levine and Jed Emerson do a great job at breaking down the concept and delving into its application in the real world. It is a timely publication considering the change in investor interest currently and with any luck Impact Investing will soon be a household name. Certainly worth the read for anyone interested in the concept of blended value and how we all can make informed investment choices that help make a difference in the world.
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on December 12, 2011
Emerson and Bugg-Levine have done a great job in de-mystifying impact investing. Their book provides a clear, concise and articulate roadmap for understanding this nascent field. With humor, style and insight, they take the reader from "the confines of established routines and secure homes" and provide a clear roadmap to a place with "building structures of beauty that could not have been imagined".

Impact investing is complicated. It is also essential, given the magnitude of the issues the world is facing and the relatively limited resources of philanthropic capital. Their comprehensive overview with clear examples and their direct, candid approach, not only provides the reader with a sense of the opportunities and challenges, it also creates a sense of excitement and possibility of the potential for impact investing in challenging our current investment paradigms.

Clearly, the capital markets as we know them have some extraordinary challenges The authors make a very compelling argument that there is an increasingly important place for impact investing and innovative approaches to finance which impact investing represents. In short, this book is a very compelling read which I highly recommend.
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on October 19, 2011
Jed Emerson and Antony Bugg-Levine lead the reader on a journey that begins with the evolution of Impact Investing and ends with the potential promise of a healthier, more prosperous planet that Impact Investing can help create.

The authors explain, however, that it will not be a journey without challenges, and they do an excellent job of articulating what the challenges are and offer options for meeting them head on.

Presented is a veritable roadmap for both individuals and institutions who are interested in learning about and investing in impact investments.

Impact investing is a brave new world that is breaking done barriers, constructing new platforms, and building on the hard work of many individuals, many profiled in the book, who have been laying the groundwork for the success of social finance.

Finally, it should be said that Impact Investing - Transforming How We Make Money While Making a Difference, captures the passion and excitement that many are looking for in business today. It is a wave worth catching.
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on September 8, 2011
As one of the best - and oldest?! - voices on impact investing (or blended value, or whatever it's called these days) I can't think of anyone better than Jed Emerson to learn the path ahead.

Teaming up with Antony Bugg-Levine is a stroke of genius, since he can really speak to the enormous challenge of putting the great ideas behind impact investing into practice.

I'm not quite through reading it in its entirety, but can already see what an immensely valuable resource this is - for myself, and anyone else exploring the idea of "typical" capital investment applied in atypical - and exciting - new ways...
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on October 6, 2011
A must read for everyone interested in people-planet-profit projects. Be up to date with what is going on: get inspired and informed about opportunities and obstacles. The Netherlands, Alcanne Houtzaager Impact Investing News(blog) in Dutch (sorry)
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on September 8, 2011
Informative, insightful and a great read! I'd highly recommend this book to anyone interested in exploring how sound investments can also solve some of the world's most pressing problems.
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