In July, an alliance of organizations, investors and entrepreneurs launched ImpactPHL, an initiative to strengthen and grow Philadelphia’s impact economy. It’s a growing movement in which for-profit enterprises work to address significant social or environmental needs.
Philadelphia is already home to a group of emerging impact companies, advisors and intermediaries (private, nonprofit and academic), and an enthusiastic group of investors. No region can yet claim to be the center of impact investing, but part of ImpactPHL’s mission is to make the case for Philadelphia as a powerhouse in the field.
So why Philadelphia? At the ImpactPHL launch event — held at the offices of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA — the new coalition unveiled a study by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia that dug deeper into the potential for impact investing in the region.
The values around impact investing are built into the region’s DNA.John Moore, ImpactPHL Executive Chair
“The values around impact investing are built into the region’s DNA,” says ImpactPHL Executive Chair John Moore. “Look at Benjamin Franklin, who was one of America’s original impact investors and entrepreneurs. He was the original boundary crosser. He was ‘doing well by doing good,’ working between the private, civic and governmental sectors to improve the city and the nation from the very start.”
Other strategic advantages include:
Location: Philadelphia sits between the global financial capital of New York and the political powerhouse of Washington, D.C. — ideal for the development of this new segment of our economy. The region is affordable and accessible for a startup, yet large enough to shine nationally and internationally.
Human & Financial Capital: As a large, diverse region on the dense Mid-Atlantic Corridor, Greater Philadelphia has access to the human capital, financial capital and business development resources necessary to nurture growing impact companies.
A Center for Wealth and Higher Education: Greater Philadelphia is a major center for wealth and investment management, and a leader in developing new vehicles for individual and institutional investors. Packed with world class universities, it’s also one of the richest intellectual regions in the world. This provides an environment teeming with ideas, the ability to test and evaluate new concepts, and a potential workforce eager to solve the problems of the region and the world.
Potential Customers: Philadelphia’s geographic proximity to a diverse set of local and state government bodies — many in need of new solutions to significant social challenges — is another major advantage. Coupled with private and nonprofit partners, this makes the region a perfect proving ground for innovations, technologies and ideas.
Governmental Leadership: Philadelphia has traditionally been a leader in using the government to catalyze the impact economy. The Benefit Corporation (B-corp legal structure) was created in the region, enabling companies to include the impact on all stakeholders in their strategic decision making and governance process. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware were among the first states to recognize the B-corp legal entity. Governor Wolf’s administration has issued a request for “Pay for Success” proposals to support the state’s efforts in early learning, environmental protection, public safety, workforce development and health care.
So with all Philadelphia’s assets, what is the role of ImpactPHL? Connecting the community is the first step.
When you broadcast to the world that your business is not only about making money, but about making a difference, that’s a valuable thing for customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders.John Moore
“There are many different components to this ecosystem: social entrepreneurs, impact investors, capital managers, civic leaders,” explains Moore. “So many individuals and organizations are doing great work, but getting the community connected is critical. Build a true community and the story gets louder. When you broadcast to the world that your business is not only about making money, but about making a difference, that’s a valuable thing for customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders.”
The ImpactPHL team identified these primary objectives to increase investment in Philadelphia-area impact companies and organizations:
- Strengthen connections and collaboration among the various components of Greater Philadelphia’s Impact Economy.
- Increase the number of successful, growing impact enterprises.
- Attract a higher number of regional individual and institutional investors who make significant impact investments.
- Increase awareness among and participation by established enterprises and organizations in impact objectives.
- Position Philadelphia as a leading international center of impact economy activity and knowledge.
To meet those objectives, ImpactPHL has already announced grand plans for year one. Ben Franklin is developing a fund for early-stage impact-oriented companies. Village Capital and Ben Franklin are bringing health and fintech-focused accelerator programs to Philadelphia. The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and B Lab are working on vehicles to celebrate social and sustainable efforts for companies of all scales and industries. Threshold Group is working with the Wharton Social Impact Initiative to analyze the region’s investment opportunities for social enterprise. Halloran Philanthropies and A Way to Donate are leading a Social Investment Breakfast Series to activate new capital in social entrepreneurship.
That sounds like a busy year.
“It is certainly an ambitious start,” notes Moore. “We’ve already seen several examples where ImpactPHL had connected its partners around an initiative and enabled them to create a new impact initiative for the region.”
“The powerful thing about the impact ecosystem is the amazing amount of energy and passion that people bring to this effort,” he continues. “This has helped us make significant progress on these initiatives and will enable us to successfully advance the region’s impact ecosystem.”