2016: The Social Impact Year in Review

MIINT 2016

Each new year, we are filled with possibility. Some make resolutions, some set major goals, and some are just excited to return to the campus routine once more. As we begin what is sure to be a busy spring semester, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the events, stories, and milestones that helped expand Wharton’s social impact mission in 2016.

New Reports

Africa is home to many of the fastest growing economies in the world—and naturally, we’re interested. Knowledge@Wharton and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative traveled to Morocco to meet with leading entrepreneurs spurring Africa’s current growth. The resulting special edition report, published last March, introduces 18 entrepreneurs, executives who are leading, launching, scaling, and supporting businesses across the continent.

Then in August, we published “Innovative Finance: Mobilizing Capital for Maximum Impact,” a special report in collaboration with Knowledge@Wharton, with support from The Rockefeller Foundation. Building upon a convening at Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy, and insights from leading experts from the worlds of finance, international development, philanthropy, and academia, this report look at the history of innovative finance and current efforts underway to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Excellence in Teaching

Vice Dean Katherine Klein received an Excellence in Teaching Award for her undergraduate management course, “Knowledge for Social Impact.” These awards recognize curricular innovation, innovative use of technology within the classroom, and exceptional devotion to students.

The cross-disciplinary group dives deep into pressing social issues—poverty, food insecurity, access to education—and explores different strategies and approaches to solving those problems.

Student responses:

“This class pushed me to think differently about the concept of social impact, especially how it could be applied in the for-profit space, and how business approaches could be applied in the non-profit space.”

“I don’t think I could have picked a better class…I gained a much greater understanding through this class of the potential power of the private sector to drive social change.”

MIINT turns five

The MBA Impact Investing Network and Training program (MIINT) returned last spring for the fifth year—its largest ever, encompassing more than 620 MBA and graduate students from 25 top business schools around the globe.

We were thrilled to host the international impact investing competition, drawing hundreds of students to Huntsman Hall to pitch deals and compete for a potential investment for their chosen company. Co-run by Wharton Social Impact Initiative and UK fund manager Bridges Ventures, MIINT is an experiential learning lab that mimics the real-life process of sourcing, conducting diligence, pitching, and investing in social impact enterprises.

Investing in Women series

Our investing in women series interviewed and introduced thought leaders and executives from across industries. The goal? To explore solutions for a more gender informed economy.

In this video with Jackie VanderBrug, Managing Director at U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, we discussed gender lens investing’s pertinence to all investors: “large and small, even those not focused on advancing women specifically.”


University Collaborations

We launched two exciting projects last year with other centers at Penn.

In collaboration with Penn’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy, WSII began a research project to better understand the dynamics of public equity funds that market themselves as having a focus on women. This research will help us to better understand how funds are tracking gender-related factors, what indicators might improve the lives of women and girls.

And then, building on our ongoing impact investing research, we’ve been working with Penn Law’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic. Our collaboration explores the legal aspects of impact investing private equity, providing new insights from the funds’ transaction documents, including impact targets, legal structures, and reporting.

Introducing WIIP

Wharton’s student-led impact investing group entered the fall semester with a fresh face. After eight years, five investments, and numerous awards, the Wharton Impact Investing Partners launched a rebrand to better reflect where the organization is going and growing. Operating under the WSII umbrella, the group has grown to become one of the most sought-after student organizations on campus.

“This development marks both a commitment to our traditional model — sourcing, conducting diligence, and investing in early-stage companies pursuing both financial and social returns — as well as to more broadly embrace and advance the impact investing sector,” says co-president Jennifer Wong, WG’17.

Read more about the group’s approach to investment on their blog, where WIIP has released the first of several detailed and highly researched “sector maps”.

Derek Handley

During his social innovator residency at Wharton, author, entrepreneur, and investor Derek Handley met with students, appeared on “Dollars and Change” on SiriusXM, and officially launched his latest venture: Aera VC, a global fund for social entrepreneurs.

In the video above, we spoke with Handley about impact investing, leadership, and finding purpose.

And finally…100!

At the very end of 2016, we reached a major milestone in our impact investing research: we now have 100 impact investing private equity funds in the Wharton Impact Research and Evaluation Database (WIRED).

In a new blog post, Senior Director Nick Ashburn reflects on recent strides in investment research and analysis, and looks ahead to some “big hairy audacious goals” for the year ahead.

Want more?

Read Wharton’s Year In Review to learn more about Wharton San Francisco, online education, and new Penn Wharton Budget Model, and more.