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Investing for the Poor Conference: Summary of First Day of Sessions

June 17, 2014 by

IN ROME:
Paul Eagle
Text +1. 410.370.8171
paul.eagle@crs.org

Highlights include a meeting with the Holy Father in the Vatican
and presentations from 
Dr. Rajiv Shah from USAID and Sir Ronald Cohen,
head of the Social Impact Investment Task Force established by the G8

ROME, ITALY, June 16, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, together with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), convened its 2-day symposium regarding impact investing today just outside the Vatican in Rome, Italy.

Some of the highlights included:

  • A private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.  The Holy Father addressed all 100 participants of the conference and then met and shook hands with each attendee. “I offer you a warm welcome and I express my gratitude and appreciation for your conference, which offers an important contribution to the search for timely and realistic strategies to ensure greater social equality,” Pope Frances told the conference participants. “A sense of solidarity with the poor and the marginalized has led you to reflect on impact investing as one emerging form of responsible investment.”
  • Dr. Carolyn Woo, CEO & President of CRS, called the gathering “a conference of high church and high finance.”  Regarding the issue of why we are engaging in impact investing, she added, “We must, we can and we will. Our faith tells us we must do this, major studies prove that we can eradicate poverty and today we will learn how to do it effectively.”
  • Dr. Filipe Santos, Academic Director, INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship Initiative, started the conference by introducing the concept and context of impact investing. He defined impact investing as “the purposeful allocation of financial resources to initiatives that can deliver measurable societal impact (social and environmental) alongside financial returns.” He noted that society is divided into three sectors: the commercial sector, the public sector (government) and the charity sector (foundations and philanthropy). The trend over the past 10 to 15 years has seen the public and charity shrink while the commercial sector has grown exponentially. At the same time, there has been an increased dissatisfaction with the role of both the financial system and the commercial sector in allocating resources in a productive way, and the inequality that results from a concentration of wealth. This has provided a motivation for the rise of impact investing. He also noted that in order to pursue impact investing, we must let go of prejudices, such as the discomfort many feel at seeing an entrepreneur who helps the poor receive high compensation.
  • Dr. Pat Dinneen, Chair, Impact Investing Council, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, introduced three speakers who described successful impact investment projects that include insurance, health care and microfinance already taking place in Brazil, Nicaragua, Southeast Asia and several countries in Africa.
  • Sir Ronald Cohen, Head of the Social Impact Investment Task Force established by the G8, said we are on the brink of a revolution that will help developing countries. He described more than 26 Social Impact Bonds—in which investors fund social services and are paid back by the government from its savings if certain benchmarks are achieved—that are already working around the world to help prisoners, hospitals and microfinance.  Official aid is being dwarfed by private investors, and it’s time for us to step up and reshape the concept of philanthropy.
  • Father Seamus Finn, OMI, Vice Chair of the Board, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, presented the concept of impact investing through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching. He described the responsibility of the Church as laid out in Catholic Social Teaching to help promote the common good. He noted that, historically, church communities such as monasteries and universities created cultural “spaces” in which new ideas could be tried, and that the Catholic Church might provide such a space for impact investing. He also described some of the challenges of the model, such as reputational risk and skepticism in some Church circles toward the corporate sector, as well as adherence to the precautionary principle, that this new approach must have a reasonable prospect of success without doing a lot of harm, especially to the poor, should it fail.
  • Margie Sullivan, COO Chief of Staff, USAID, moderated the next panel.  She said that 30 years ago, 90% of development was generated by the government and 10% from private investors.  Today it is the inverse, as the role and scale of government shrinks. The panel included Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who said his $20 billion agency with a staff of 10,000 should use its resources in a catalytic way. “We can achieve transformational changes,” he said. Other panelists included Tom Steyer, founder of NextGen Climate and John Rogers, Executive Vice President, Chief of Staff, and Secretary to the Board of Goldman Sachs.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Conference website: 
www.investingforthepoor.org 

Media contacts:
Catholic Relief Services
Mendoza Business College

A daily summary will be posted on the conference website.

Speaker bios and high resolution photos of the conference will be made available on the media link found on the conference website during the seminar.

# # #

About Catholic Relief Services
Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency eases suffering and provides assistance to people in need in 93 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. For more information, visit www.crs.org or  www.crsespanol.org and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief and @CRSnews,  Google+Pinterest and YouTube.

About the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame
For more information, please visit business.nd.edu.

 

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