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ImpactPHL is a year old. Here’s what it’s achieved — and what it’s still working on

Philadelphia. August 18, 2017 Category: FeatureFeaturedLongResults
A lot has changed in the past year.

For the sake of saving ourselves a political headache, we’ll stick with a few items of local social enterprise news:

June marked a year since the official launch of ImpactPHL, the impact investing advocacy organization that seeks to, as we put it then, revolutionize capitalism by increasing the amount of venture capital put toward mission-minded for-profits in the Philadelphia area.

At the time, we called the team out for being about as diverse as you’d expect a bunch of venture capitalists to be — which is to say, not very diverse at all.

From our Partners

More on that later. Here’s what’s been going on since, and what’s planned for 2018.


The organization has launched two big initiatives in the past year. One is Best for PHL, a campaign that challenges Philly companies (not just self-identified social enterprises) to analyze their business practices in areas such as sustainability and hiring and commit to bettering them with its guidance.

Almost 150 area companies have participated in the program’s workshops, which works off of a B Lab-created assessment tool, in its first three months.

Then last month, ImpactPHL unveiled its ImpactPHL Ventures program. The funding initiative — don’t call it a fund — gathered $15 million from eight partners to be pushed into the “impact investing ecosystem” via investments in local social enterprises. The initiative is overseen by ImpactPHL founding partner Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

According to John Moore, an angel investor and ImpactPHL’s executive chair, the group’s second year will be an amplification of the first in “using business as a force for good.”

ImpactPHL hasn’t yet set a goal for how many businesses it wants to participate in the 2018 Best For PHL program, but it’s hoping to scale it dramatically, possibly by creating an online component — though Moore admits that could reduce the feeling of “community” that comes from in-person meetings.

Plus, that Ventures money needs to be deployed. Moore said that $15 million is meant to encourage social enterprises to either start or come to Philadelphia and will likely be deployed as seed funding.

More venture capitalists getting comfortable with the idea of impact investing = more money for social good.

More generally, ImpactPHL wants to do more community building around the impact ecosystem, which could involve physical convenings, education of stakeholders and the like.

The idea is that the more comfortable traditional venture capitalists can get with the idea of impact investing, the more money that will be generated for social good.

“People are on different spots with their investments,” Moore said — some are all-in with impact investing, some are interested but not knowledgeable yet, and some are only concerned with financial returns, not mission. “The whole idea of ImpactPHL is to shift everyone on that spectrum.”

ImpactPHL’s direct focus will be on those who are closer on the spectrum to action.

“We can help them deploy their capital faster” than ImpactPHL would trying to help people get comfortable with the idea in the first place, Moore said.


A few other changes have bubbled over the past year. GreenLight Fund Philadelphia’s Omar Woodard has joined ImpactPHL’s steering committee, and Urban Affairs Coalition’s Arun Prabhakaran has joined its advisory committee.

And the group has been “intentional” about considering that aforementioned diversity and inclusion piece, Moore said, supporting what he told us after we first brought it up.

“Being intentional for ImpactPHL comes from multiple perspectives: engaging the right perspectives to shape our growth, through participation of our advisory committee and its members; building collaborative vehicles for engagement, like ImpactPHL Ventures; and encouraging the region’s businesses forward though our Best For PHL program,” he wrote in a follow-up email.

Moore said the organization has set and hit goals in increasing diversity in its ranks and programs, especially in the type of company represented by Best for PHL.

“In addition to several of the participating companies identifying diversity and inclusion as the area of impact they are going to improve, fully one-third of the companies in the Best For PHL program to date are owned by historically underrepresented communities,” he said. “We believe that supporting and promoting social entrepreneurs will organically lead to increased diversity within the business community.”

That, he thinks, will help with increasing the diversity of venture capitalists in the future — which could in turn help the entire industry perform better.

“In the long run some of those successful founders will become investors,” he said. “It’s not necessarily a fast approach: a room full of investors today might not look tremendously different than it did a year ago, but we’re setting an open table to encourage progress.”



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