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Omidyar Network Investing In Development

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By: Trent Van Alfen (MBA’15)

As the Global Network Manager at Omidyar Network, Rachel Flynn leverages the organization’s vast network and organizes efforts to amplify their impact and that of their partners.

How have you transferred and applied resources, skills, or knowledge you brought from your career in international development to Omidyar’s investment work?

The time that I’ve spent living and working in the developing world – what the financial services professionals and venture capitalists call emerging markets – has been invaluable. I have an enormous amount of respect and appreciation for the entrepreneurs who are working in these markets because the markets they’re serving – either as a business or as a non-profit organization – are localized, nuanced, and often just downright difficult. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Since transitioning into the philanthropy and impact investing sector, what is one of the most important things you have learned about social impact work?

It sounds obvious now, but I’ve learned about the enormous potential of the private sector to have a powerful and positive impact. Before I joined Omidyar Network, I had only ever worked at non-profit organizations, where the general agreement was that it was impossible to do good and to make money and that while we had chosen to do good, they (in the private sector) had chosen to make money. I take it all back. The social impact sector is full of talented, driven, compassionate people who yes, could be making more money elsewhere, but have chosen to apply their skills to tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges. I’ve learned that applying rigorous, profit-driven business models and ethos to work that’s been more traditionally managed by the non-profit sector can produce encouraging results.

What are some patterns of collaboration you are seeing in the field of venture philanthropy and impact investing?

There are a few recent and exciting developments that I’d note, and in which Omidyar Network has been involved. First, Matt Bannick, Omidyar Network’s Managing Partner, has been appointed to, and is now serving as the co-chair of, the United States National Advisory Board (NAB) to the Social Impact Investment Task Force, launched at the United Kingdom’s G8 Social Impact Investment Forum in June 2013. This is a major milestone in the field of impact investing and, as you can imagine, a critical collaboration for all partners involved.

We’re also excited by – and involved in – a number of innovative public private partnerships (PPP). For example, with support from Omidyar Network, USAID and DFID have finalized the preliminary design of G-DIV, a global investment vehicle that will address the most pressing development problems by investing debt, equity and/or grant capital in solutions that deliver outsized impact at a fraction of the incumbent cost.

Finally, I’m encouraged by the recent launch of “Impact Investing 2.0: The Way Forward.” The report, created in partnership between Insight at PCV, CASE at Duke University, and Impact Assets, identifies twelve high-performing funds that have seen both financial and social returns on their investments.

The Georgetown Social Enterprise Initiative strives to leverage Georgetown’s strengths and network to create cross-sector partnerships that can lead to increased understanding and practice of social enterprise. What are some of your thoughts on the importance of cross-sector alliances to effect positive social change?

As our world becomes more interconnected and as challenges once limited to specific geographies or populations become more global, it’s critical that we work across sectors to develop solutions. There’s no time for everyone to become an expert in a new field, especially while local organizations, multinational corporations, academics, governments, and investors have done so much of the work already. These partnerships need to be transparent, flexible and nimble.