How to Fund Impact: a Systems Architecture for Success

Despite the availability of capital for solutions-oriented and values-driven initiatives in the realm of sustainable development, healthcare, renewable energy and more, many projects remain unfunded. The solution to this disconnect is actually quite simple from a systems-theory perspective. If we look at innovators, investors, and consumers as all being integral parts of an economic and social ecosystem, each with distinct needs and gifts to offer, then we can address weak links within this community network. Luckily technology has advanced to a place where bridging the gap will be simple, inclusive, and most of all, fun.

“There is an issue in donor communities where they struggle to donate in ways that align with their mission. A big part of this problem is tracking exactly how effective donations are. Donors want to “Give Better” — they want to have impact and ways to measure their effectiveness so they can fine-tune their giving and improve upon it. There are estimates in the trillions of dollars of funds available if we can meet the needs of these asset owners.” -Kris DiPaola

Measuring Impact: When we refer to impact we mean “positive impact” for our environment, for workers etc. Impact is one of the most important things for values-driven investors yet it can be difficult, costly, and time-consuming to measure. When someone puts money into something and is not impressed with the results, they are not likely to continue investing in that project. Meanwhile it is often a burden, and frequently a conflict of interest, for the recipient of funds to remain the one who quantifies the success of the venture. For a more detailed dive into this subject-matter please read my previous piece, Impact Investing, Philanthropy, Humanitarian Aid and Blockchain.

“Blockchain allows reciprocal exchanges to occur in real time, transparently through a secure dashboard that cuts out middle-men, and lag-time for reporting. The transparency also does a number of other amazing things for all involved parties. For one it can cut out expenses and time spent on reporting necessary data/statistics back to investors or donors. It can also restore investor, donor confidence, which will open the gates for more funding. It also makes all transactions easy to review and compare, allowing best practices to emerge across competitive markets. The end result is a public, transparent assessment of cost-to-impact-ratio for non-profit executives, investors, and donors to chart and maximize efficiency.” -Impact Investing, Philanthropy, Humanitarian Aid, and Blockchain

Quantifying Impact with Sensors: Soon to be an essential tool for any game-changing enterprise, sensor technology is becoming more sophisticated, affordable, and capable of reporting real-time data. Machine learning with statistical and graph-based algorithms designed to analyze massive data sets collected by various sensors is at the heart of the PlanIT Urban Operating System™, a product offering of LivingPlanIT®. I recently had the pleasure of working on a Smart Cities Book with Chief Data Scientist at Living-PlanIT, Oliver Chikumbo. Though they are primarily focusing on smart cities, sensor technology is a huge breakthrough for quantifying impact that can be applied to any number of projects including Sustainable Development Goals. The company has many collaborations in the works and is actively inviting creative partnerships.

“The PlanIT UOS enables systems such as energy, water, waste management, transportation, telecommunication, healthcare, security and potentially everything around you to communicate intelligently with each other — and with a world of ever-proliferating sensors and devices. And because we do this in ways that make obvious bottom-line sense, almost everything is about to change.” -Living PlanIT Website

Quantifying Impact the Old-Fashioned Way… Profit: Impact can equate to profit for values-driven businesses. As millennials continue to shape the market, values-driven businesses are known to outperform traditional businesses. Consumers are becoming more conscious about the environmental and social ethics and voting with their dollars. This phenomena of supporting businesses that align with one’s own values allows for the impact of a company to be measured by profit. This equation has investors and startups increasingly interested in businesses that focus on impact by addressing Sustainable Development Goals and regional regenerative initiatives.

“We have aggregated certification data globally on MSMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) across all areas of sustainability and proven through our partnership with D&B that sustainably-committed MSMEs are on average three times more creditworthy than their peers. Our goal is to leverage these insights to drive greater access to capital and more reasonable financing rates to these sustainable MSMEs globally and further prove that sustainable business is good business.” -HealRWorld

New Tools for Measuring Social Impact: We are living in a whole new era of data thanks to social media. Companies like Cambridge Analytica made big news during the 2016 election for data-mining to influence the election. Now values-driven and solutions-oriented initiatives can also employ these tools to quantify their impact in the social realm.

Culturintel is an example of one such organization that uses social data to address Sustainable Development Goal (SDG #3, Health and Wellness). They were one of the sponsors for the Media for Social Impact event at the United Nations I recently attended. You can read more about that here.

Though the landscape for mining people’s personal data is shifting quickly with new GDPR rules, it seems that a more distributed network with more personal control over data is inevitable. In areas of collective effort to address challenges with solutions people may be more willing to consent to sharing important data. This is a very dynamic and rapidly-changing landscape that will require new innovations towards SDG #17, Partnerships for the Goals.

“This is social, digital and cultural intelligence; a deep level of insight which takes into account the reach of the conversation, proper mapping of who is taking part in that conversation, and exactly what they are saying, all put through behavioral, contextual and demographic filters.” -Culturintel Website

Climate Change Impact: Though science is able to measure that we have over 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon in our atmosphere, it has been a bit more challenging to determine how much we can sequester. At the People’s Climate Summit I had the pleasure to spend time with Peter Fiekowsky and Ilan Mandel, both of the Foundation for Climate Restoration. They have developed a machine that literally captures carbon out of the air and turns it into cement.

Since we currently have many gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere achieving carbon-neutral will not be enough, we will need to sequester huge amounts to get us back to pre-industrial levels of CO2. It was a visceral feeling to hold sequestered CO2 in my hand, to feel the weight and solidness of it.

This is an example of a technology that has a measuring process built right into it as we can place the sequestered carbon on a scale and weigh it. Considering the urgency of our current situation, the notion that individuals like this are spending time trying to raise money to scale their invention is ludicrous. The clock is ticking…

Making Impact Inclusive and Fun: Though data, technology, and money each play major roles in quantifying impact, at the core of every successful endeavor are vitally important real human stories. Whether it is a group of women in a small village starting a business with one sewing machine or a startup that empowers indigenous farmers, media is the vehicle through which impact is conveyed to consumers and investors. Storytelling is how we translate numbers and facts into a meaningful expression and media allows us to share this information far and wide.

Inspiration is contagious and people instinctively want to participate in being part of the solution no matter which role they play in a community. This includes the consumer who wants to buy a company’s product, the worker who wants to be employed by that company, the entrepreneur who is inspired to start a business that positively impacts their community, or the investor who wants to see their money go towards making a better world. HealRWorld has gathered an enormous collection of SME’s who are making a real difference on our planet, these stories need to be told. Who will tell them?

In a world full of successful and popular reality television programs, there is clearly a market for inspiring stories about entrepreneurs who are creating a better future. Michele Bongiovanni, Founder of HealRWorld, has taken this concept and turned it into a brilliant television show. As the movement of media for social impact continues gain traction, the possibilities for including, engaging, educating, and inspiring the general public are endless!

“A reality series that promotes the efforts of social impact companies and drives awareness while inviting the audience to support and invest. “The Angels” program showcases the new PEOPLE, PLANET, PROFIT business paradigm to the American public to spotlight the importance of a new corporate mission & engage them to embrace it in their own lives.” -Michele Bongiovanni, Founder of HealRWorld

Technology and values-driven businesses are changing the world for the better and now we have many tools to measure this impact. Media can tell these meaningful stories and help shape a culture built on the principles of social, economic, and environmental justice. Collaborations between organizations like Unify Earth, Living PlanIT, and HealRWorld are exemplifying a systems-model of cooperation towards shared Sustainable Development Goals. Partnerships that integrate business, technology, and human communities with entrepreneurs, cultural creatives, and impact investors are offering us all a glimpse of a better future.

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Jacob Devaney

Cultural-Creative, Media-Maker, Dreamer, Musician. Technology, Art, Science, Health, Spirituality, Culture, Community, Environment. UNIFY Co-Founder