Stories and Profiles

Mission-Related Investing: Exploring Philanthropy’s Possibilities

22 February 2016

At NoVo, we believe that experimentation, flexibility, and patience are essential to developing long-term approaches to deep-seated challenges like violence, discrimination and injustice. We embrace the opportunity we have to think creatively about how to make use of philanthropic funds to help advance our mission.

As a part of that effort, we’ve begun a small, focused examination of mission-related investing (MRI) to help us understand more about ways to expand our philanthropic toolkit. Mission-related investments may offer opportunities to supplement our traditional grant making through investment in for-profit or non-profit ventures that also advance our mission and values.

One partner in this very early stage of learning and experimentation is Future/Perfect Ventures (FPV). NoVo is working with FPV to provide small investments in projects that target underserved markets.

jj_lgLed by the dynamic Jalak Jobanputra (pictured left), Future/Perfect Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in technological innovation, including financial inclusion for those living in some of the most underserved communities of the world. NoVo’s partnership with FPV is fueled by our shared set of values, including: the development of local economies, strengthening communities, gender equity, and economic empowerment.

The initial collaboration between values-based investment fund Future/Perfect Ventures and NoVo can provide early stage investing in small enterprises, often led by women, with strong community ties to underserved markets. We seek to learn more about the process of mission-related investments through this collaboration; including ways to advance gender and racial justice through MRIs. The potential benefits of mission-related investing are often financial and social: helping to infuse values by, for example, increasing the number of women and other marginalized populations on boards and senior management teams; facilitating technological innovations that enable broader access and skills for those in the Global South; and developing products and services for underserved populations.

NoVo’s inquiry into mission-related investing is also focused on FPV’s current investments. FPV’s portfolio of projects includes an array of innovative, community-led projects, from Open Garden, a wireless mesh network used by protestors in Hong Kong, to Bitpesa, a female-founded remittance network connecting diaspora communities to Kenyans (pictured below). Together these projects reflect and harness the power of low-income entrepreneurs, particularly minority entrepreneurs, who are more likelybitpesa than not to set up shop in their neighborhoods and hire from their communities.

FPV also acts as an advocate for greater gender equality within the world of venture capitalism and technology itself. In an environment where most venture capitalist firms are led by men (less than four percent of VC general partners are women), Jobanputra’s FPV is forging a new path to gender equality—not just inside VC firms, but within the broader world of technology enterprises.

In today’s rapidly changing world, philanthropy has a unique opportunity—and responsibility—to take chances and seek out new ways to advance lasting change. Our early stage experimentation with MRIs allows us to explore creative opportunities to address the world’s most pressing problems. We’re proud to partner with Future/Perfect Ventures as we continue to learn more about mission-related investing.