Building an Impact Investment movement

After nearly 4 years, I’m soon wrapping up my life at the GSG. After only having recently jotted down some reflections for my three year anniversary, I have one more that hope my colleagues, friends and National Advisory Boards will enjoy:

It’s about peer-to-peer learning (and copying)

Part of our work is to develop new market building organisations (NABs). We would arrive in countries armed with convincing arguments:

What did I actually find was the most effective tool in building this movement?

What others are doing. Specifically, what neighbours are doing. But it’s about so much more than ‘keeping up with the Jones’.

In nascent and fast developing sectors, good ideas are plentiful, but what really matters is execution. It’s always scary to be the first to do something, and in Impact Investment, many of the new developments were firsts not that long ago — think Social Impact Bonds: 2010, Impact Investment Wholesalers: 2011, Sustainability linked bonds 2019(!) — as examples.

Peer to peer learning (and peer to peer copying) is so important. That’s why we developed tools such as databases of best practices, a buddy programme, a visual and easy to use skills sharing map and regular curated regional roundtables.

These tools helped bring people together. As I learnt in the recently published ‘impact networks’ book, building trust by sharing stories and meals create the links between the nodes of a community.

They are the precursors to eventually ground breaking projects we witnessed, like the development of the Green Outcomes Fund in South Africa in 2020 — which incentivises investment in green Small, Medium and Micro-sized Enterprises (SMMEs) or the GSG’s first of its kind European market sizing project from this year (2021).

In all this, I’ve had the privilege to see the GSG grow from 4 staff and 14 NABs to 21 staff and 28 NABs. This leaves me with an understanding of how a strong vision can be translated into reality, how company cultures can emerge, and how to create the operational structures to make things happen — and so proud to say that I contributed to all these, and more.

I'm probably more interested in what impact your savings have on the planet than I should be - but give me an hour and i'll convert you too 💪