In July I attended a two-day thought leadership summit, Philanthropy Transforming Finance: Building an Impact Economy. The summit was part of a larger initiative identifying the need for funders to work collaboratively to place longer-term, adaptive resources to fund and accelerate scalable solutions targeting systemic changes focused on pressing global issues. I was inspired by the innovation and creativity that flows from open, interactive dialogue. I hoped to learn how the foundation community views the “sustainability sector” and what impediments the fiduciaries of these family offices and foundations are seeking to overcome in order to have greater impact in their investment and philanthropic goals.

Impact Entrepreneur reports on the summit:


Impact Entrepreneur Center and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors have produced a report on their recent international leadership summit, Philanthropy Transforming Finance: Building an Impact Economy. The summit drew four dozen individuals from three continents who are leaders across the themes of systems thinking, philanthropy, impact investing and “new economy” models.

Co-leads for the summit and report, Rockefeller’s Heather Grady and Impact Entrepreneur’s Laurie Lane-Zucker, framed the report in these terms:

Many organizations today are helping to solve seemingly intractable problems, and demonstrating the possibility of moving beyond incremental change to real transformation. But their success rests in their ability to shift the complex systems in which those problems exist—and that is influenced by many factors, not least how they are funded, the strength and efficacy of their networks, and whether collectively organizations are intervening in different ways that together add up to a meaningful transition to a new status quo. On the funding side, to date, the contributions that financial capital is making to anything more than incremental change is limited. Viewed and deployed using a wider, systemic perspective, with a more ambitious and courageous agenda, and with an emphasis on transformation, the philanthropy and impact investing sectors’ resources can do much more to build an impact economy.

In our days together, the summit participants explored the challenges facing us and developed plans for collaborative action to encourage and expand investment into our collective vision for the future. We mapped, analyzed and made progress on the path to creating an impact economy that delivers on critical agendas. This report details much of that work.

In keeping with the report’s title, a main call to action from the summit was specifically aimed at philanthropic organizations to: 1) use their capital in a manner more directly supporting the investments described in this report, and 2) align their investments and actions overall with the underlying values inherent in an impact economy. Key elements of a manifesto were discussed as a roadmap for philanthropic organizations to use in understanding how to get involved in this process.

The participants challenged philanthropists and philanthropic organizations to:

  • Commit a minimum of 1% of total assets (grants and investments) towards building an impact economy, either through impact investments or building the field.
  • Use an integrated finance model via grants or social impact investing, among other mechanisms, to expend the capital raised.
  • Support and follow a roadmap of how to deploy philanthropic dollars, including de-risking investment, thought leadership, education and training, policy and infrastructure, internal talent and culture, data and industry mapping, and building a pre-investment pipeline of early stage social enterprises.
  • Use donor advised funds as a source of capital for these efforts.
  • Supply more risk-tolerant funding for early stage initiatives, and embrace a spirit of experimentation and innovation. The institutions and individuals in philanthropy should become more entrepreneurial, which constitutes a radical change in the culture of many organizations and individuals in the sector.