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Impact Fund at Georgetown?

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By Kimberly Lam (MBA’14)

As Georgetown and the McDonough School of Business remain at the forefront of business and society, students continue to push the limits to make Georgetown a preeminent institution specifically in the social impact space. While a formal proposal is still taking shape and a pilot year is in the works, Rob Wright EP ’14 has taken the reins on creating Georgetown’s Social Impact Fund and is pushing the project from concept to reality.

“Anyone with money can start a fund and allocate capital, but we’re committed to building something that will last for generations to come,” Wright noted.

Wright and his team, which include faculty, executives in residence and current students from MSB, SFS and the Law School, hope that a fund will have a lasting impact on not only investors, but the university as a whole.

“Georgetown’s ethos of being ‘men and women for others’ calls us to do something transformative in the world. Of course you can do this in any kind of career, but our team has always been convinced that impact investing, social enterprise, sustainability, and social impact assessment present the opportunity to do that in a more direct way,” commented Wright. “The fund will be an outlet to put those lessons to good use.”

The goal of the 2013-14 pilot year is to gather final research to ensure that the project is sustainable. According to initial research, a number of other MBA programs have launched funds that have struggled in various ways. The team working with Wright will rely on pulling information from founders of failed and successful funds, as well as advice from many local impact investing firms and consultants, to shape the project accordingly.

The pilot will help the team explore these issues to get a better sense of the market. It will also help the team find opportunities to develop relationships with groups such as the Calvert Foundation, Ashoka, DC Community Ventures. “For the moment we’re focusing on finding ways to build up the program, curriculum, and relationships. While we’d obviously love to jump right in, we’re trying to make sure we have real expertise and experience in social impact assessment that will add value to any future portfolio companies,” Wright said.

Creation of a fund at Georgetown originated when a group of then full-time students including Dom Cronshaw (M13), Laura Baker (M13) and Jeff Weston (M12), were concluding an impact investing tutorial. The final deliverable recommended creating a Georgetown Social Impact fund. Tutorial advisor Professor John Whitman, connected Wright to Weston, and they spent the summer conducting informational interviews on impact investing with many constituents including McKinsey, GIIRS, Calvert, and others. In the Spring of 2013, Wright and Cronshaw recruited Professors Melissa Bradley, Ed Soule and GSEI’s Ladan Manteghi as advisors, and presented a proposal to Dean Thomas.

While planning is still underway, Wright and the student team are exploring ways for alumni and students to get involved – through student leadership opportunities, curriculum, research, focus groups and consulting engagements. Wright, who graduates this December is also recruiting and training a new team of student leaders to continue this endeavor which from inception has been student driven.