Impact Investing Symposium 2017

Last month, the Impact Investing Symposium returned to Olin. In it’s second year, the Symposium brought together professionals in finance, foundations, social justice, and government to discuss the potential for impact investing in St. Louis. What a turnout: 180 attendees across industries and experience of impact investing.

The afternoon began with a keynote interview with Nicole Hudson, exploring the work of the Ferguson Commission and what types of projects are ripe for investment in St. Louis. The Ferguson Commission was crucial in advancing a community understanding, response, action plan and forward steps after the shooting of Michael Brown in North St. Louis. Like all community action, the initiative needed tangible measures for impact as well as buy-in from an entire community, across backgrounds and city/county lines.

The necessity for common language and common ground is paramount for impact investing: we need voices of the under-served, perspectives of the financiers, and mediators who can find the common goals. That’s what makes the Impact Investing Symposium unique. It’s a rarity to get folks of these industries in the same room, having a conversation, exchanging dialogue, looking forward.

This year’s panel expanded on a discussion of last year: why impact investing is imminent. Mike Eggleston shared community survey results from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis while David Desai-Ramirez articulated ways for individuals and institutions to take direct action in impact investing: speak with a conduit social enterprise like IFF or Justine PETERSEN. Symposium veteran Tim Coffin shared the traditional finance mechanisms in place for investing with impact and Heather Cameron contributed macro level understandings of community impact. Jake Barnett, mediator, delivered a final parting challenge: “integrity is the proximity of one’s values to their actions.”

The conversation on changing mindsets and redefining “return” will continue – but the Symposium is ready for it’s next iteration: what are actionable steps? How can Olin be at the forefront of impact investing? Where should St. Louis focus it’s resources, intellect, and innovation?

We left the Symposium with the following directive: what projects can we support as individuals, investors, and community members? Have ideas? Be in touch – we’re ready to move forward: impactinvest@wustl.edu.

The Impact Investing Symposium was founded, organized and implemented by socially-minded Olin MBA students. We intend to keep this mission alive at Olin: bridging finance and social impact. To support this initiative or make further inquiry regarding potential future sponsorship, please contact impactinvest@wustl.edu. This event was sponsored by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation and hosted by Net Impact, the Weston Career Center, and Olin Business School.

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