"How can we finance the next 15 years of development work? In what ways should true innovators be engaged in the development process? How viable is impact investment for business and governments alike?" - these were only a few of the many questions discussed at the very first global summit on impact investment for development, held in Yerevan on March 21-22. The summit, has been hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Armenia and INSEAD's Social Impact Initiative as a knowledge partner. Together they have brought together some of the world's leading social entrepreneurs, impact investors and development practitioners.
During the two-day event UNDP officials, social entrepreneurs, impact business leaders, representatives of the government and academia held interactive thematic discussions exploring the potential of leveraging impact investment, social enterprise, and impact business to achieve the universally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 and pushing global development to a new qualitative level. The participants of the Summit also attended the TEDxSalon event, with Karen Karapetyan, Prime Minister of Armenia, as a key speaker.
In the past decade, the field of impact investing has mushroomed. J.P. Morgan's 2015 survey of the sector found that 60 billion USD of impact investments are under management by the firms surveyed. 41 % of those investing were making long-term investments (over 10 years). The sector is experiencing a 16 % growth rate with a full 45% of investors willing to forgo market rate returns for social impact. While 90 % of investment assets are invested by those in developed countries, over half of those investments are deployed in emerging and less developed markets.
"Impact investment has gained worldwide traction as a method of solving development problems in a more sustainable way. UNDP is moving towards adopting social entrepreneurship and impact investment principles in the development work. Recognising the potential of these principles as a new way of addressing development challenges, we are in the process of embedding many of them in UNDP programming, thus making a huge impact on the sustainability, scalability and effectiveness of our work at all levels," said Magdy Martínez-Solimán, Assistant UN Secretary General, Assistant UNDP Administrator, Director of UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support.
According to Bradley Busetto, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Armenia, this project is truly ground-breaking both for UNDP and for Armenia. "We are frontrunners in the innovation sphere. We recognise the value of engaging innovators in the development process and creating spaces for experimentation, sharing of ideas, thus allowing success to flourish – this Summit is just one of these spaces. All our partners, INSEAD, Impact Hub Yerevan, TEDxYerevan, European Venture Philanthropy Association, the European Fund for Southeast Europe, AGBU Armenia, and the TUMO Centre for Creative Technologies, have immense contribution in this success, inspiring the country with creativity and entrepreneurism," he noted.
"The importance of bringing the key stakeholders committed to carrying out specific initiatives to attain the SDGs cannot be underestimated," Hans H. Wahl, INSEAD's Social Impact Initiative Director noted. "Bringing impact business and social enterprises, development organisations, governments and multitude of incubators, accelerators and academics together around a single table and using the leverage generated by impact-oriented investors holds the potential to transform the manner in which development initiatives are carried out. Doing so in such a focused manner holds the promise of deeper engagement, collaboration, innovation, and the opportunity to truly assess the impact generated for the beneficiaries."
Non-conventional approaches to development are vital to the achievement of the Agenda 2030, in particular the commitment to leave no one behind. UNDP and the Government Armenia have already taken the first step in this direction. It is expected that the government-affiliated Center for Strategic Initiatives, the government's own "reform accelerator", will host the first-of-its-kind national SDG Lab in Armenia, with the support of UNDP and the Stanford Change Labs. The SDG Lab within the Center will bring together a cross section of bright minds, who have the capacity to think "out of the box" and propose new ways of addressing Armenia's most entrenched socio-economic and environmental challenges.