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

June 18, 2014 by

Paul Eagle
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Investing for the Poor Conference Concludes

ROME, ITALY, June 17, 2014 – Catholic Relief Services and the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, together with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (PCJP), closed its 2-day symposium regarding Impact Investing today.

Some of the highlights included:

  • Dr. Carolyn Woo, President and CEO, Catholic Relief Services, began the day by providing an overview of day one highlights. She discussed the importance of measurement, details and the new framework we must work in to properly design and execute a successful Impact Investment program. Dr. Woo also described the important role, as a moral authority, the Church needs to play moving forward.
  • Sr. Helen J. Alford, O.P., Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum), helped to shed light on Impact Investing in the Light of Evangelii Gaudium.  She explained that “the Church needs impact investors to be reliable, concrete and relevant,” and added, “This is not a new issue—it’s old, it’s part of a bigger movement—creating money and creating social good at the same time.”  Religiously inspired investors among religious communities such as the Methodists and Quakers were among the first to employ social benefit as a criteria in investing. Turning to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, according to Evangelii Gaudium, the number one priority of our mission should be social inclusion. Pope Francis has talked about how exclusion is one of society’s biggest problems.
  • Sean Callahan, Chief Operating Officer, Catholic Relief Services, led a panel on Sectoral Needs and Opportunities.  He made it clear that it’s not a question of whether we do these things—but when and how we do these things—and added that we all must align in the same direction. Shaun Ferris, Director of Agriculture Programming, Catholic Relief Services, described agricultural livelihoods in Latin America and CRS’ Path to Prosperity model, moving beneficiaries from the status of Recovery (highly vulnerable); to Building (vulnerable, yet viable); to Growing (entrepreneurial  and thriving); Tom McPartland, CEO, ELMA Philanthropies Services, described some very successful impact investing programs for health care in Africa; and Paul Polak, Founder and CEO of Windhorse International, presented several case studies about his success designing water programs in India.
  • Dr. Mirza Jahani, CEO, Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., ran a session about Blending Philanthropy and Impact Investments in a Faith-Based Model. He explained the goal of the organization: to improve quality of life through local, permanent institutional development and added that the key to his organization’s success has been in building institutions that take a long-term approach to addressing social issues.  These include banks in Afghanistan, a university in central Asia, a park service in Nairobi, Kenya, and a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, among others.
  • Matt Bannick and Sal Giambanco, from the Omidyar Network, described the important collaboration that must take place between for-profit and non-profit communities.  We all have shared interest here.  We care deeply about the disadvantaged and the poor and our core values are very much aligned with Pope Francis and other universal principles. This begins with respect and ends with humility. They added that the three fundamental keys to profit investment are value, self-sustainability and massive scale.
  • Terry Mollner, Board Member, Calvert Family of Socially Responsible Investment Funds, presented on Emergence of Investing for Good, and Ernest von Freyberg, President of the Holy See’s Institute for Works of Religion, provided Vatican Bank perspective on Impact Investing.  According to Freyberg, the Catholic Church is well positioned to engage with Impact Investing. It has an impact vocation in promoting the dignity of the human person. It has great service providers in its global ministries in health care, education and social services. And the church has great potential impact investors: the Catholic Church in Europe and North America built up tremendous wealth in the 19th and 20th centuries, and as its institutions shrink, church groups are looking to put this patrimony to use.
  • Mark Palmer, Chief Financial Officer, Catholic Relief Services, moderated a panel about the outlook of Catholic institutional investors and introduced Steve Schott, CapTrust Advisors, and Jimmy Ryan from Merrill Lynch/Bank of America. According to Schott, “There is an appetite among my clients to learn more about Impact Investing.”  Ryan explained that none of his clients are engaged in “Catholic sanctioned” Impact Investing vehicles as they do not yet exist, but feels there is a market for this. He added it will be important for everyone to become educated on this topic.
  • Andreas Widmer, Director of Entrepreneurship Programs at The Catholic University of America and President of The Carpenter’s Fund,  explained that we need to find the best entrepreneurs on the ground in the countries to be role models.  He ended by saying the root of evil in companies does not come from the system but resides in individuals making bad decisions. We need to hold our business community to a higher standard and live our Christianity 7 days a week, not just on Sunday. Because as Pope Francis has said, business is a noble vocation.
  • Dr. Patricia Dinneen, Chair, Impact Investing Council, Emerging Markets Private Equity Association, said that the conference had achieved its three objectives: shared learning, networking and discernment.
  • His Eminence, Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, closed the meeting by saying “everything we have done here is a way of responding to the Pope’s call for inclusive economics for the common good. In a very real way our discussion here on Impact Investing is a way of also addressing how we can make market-based business reach out to fashion an inclusive system of economics.” He added that we need to have a strong strategy and competent people on the ground to execute, and he sees CRS as playing a mediating role. The most immediate task is to present all that has been discussed during this conference to the local churches and the local bishops. He gave sincere thanks to all attendees and ended with a blessing for all attendees for safe travel back to their homes and their families.


Conference website: 

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.

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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 or 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
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