December 12, 2019 

By: Franzene Minott

In 2015, Emory solidified its position as a sustainability pioneer after their Strategic Vision outlined the ambitious goal that 75% of food served in the university—and 25% in the hospitals—would be locally or sustainably sourced by 2025. Reaching this target would require an ambitious and innovative plan. 

Meeting these expectations, metro Atlanta’s largest employer engineered a partnership that not only propels their mission forward but makes the support of next-generation agricultural entrepreneurs an integral part of the process. 

With fast rising land values, agricultural and nonagricultural businesses alike face concerns of creeping costs. These rising prices are driving Georgia’s ranking among the top 12 states with the highest conversion rate of farmland to development. Moreover, since families own 96% of existing American farms, the mounting unaffordability makes the opportunity of ownership feel nearly impossible for many farmers—especially those affected by institutional racism, gender discrimination, and other barriers historically targeting underserved communities. 

Through a partnership with The Conservation Fund, Emory will ensure that farmers will be able to afford their farmland many years into the future. Emory’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI), which is led by Director Ciannat Howett, is working with the Conservation Fund to resolve one issue within the ecosystem: Creating a pathway to land ownership for new farmers while guaranteeing a market for their goods. 

The Conservation Fund leads the nation in the fight against today’s most pressing conservation issues. It has already protected nearly 150,000 acres of land in Georgia alone. When describing the motivation behind the collaboration with the Fund’s Working Farms Fund to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Howett states, “We were looking at our options because we weren’t seeing enough local and sustainable food available to get to that goal, at least not in a way that was affordable to us.”

From Georgia Farms to Emory Tables breaks down how the newly formed alliance intends to accomplish this feat. In simple terms, The Conservation Fund has committed to buying viable land within 100 miles of metro-Atlanta, protecting it from development through placed easements, and then leasing the land to farmers over the course of 5-10 years before ultimately selling them the land at the end of the agreement. 

Emory has also committed itself to be a faithful customer to the selected farmers, thus allowing them to focus on their business objectives without the added pressure of developing their own pipeline from scratch. This twofold project not only serves social entrepreneurs while bringing sustainability options to the community, but simultaneously brings Emory closer to achieving their 2025 sourcing goal. 

Expected to launch in 2020, Emory and The Conservation Fund plan on having 50 farmers participate in the program by 2040. In the same AJC article, Stacy Funderburke, co-director of the Working Farms Fund, explains that the criteria used to assess applicants will include “farming experience, markets, business plans, and match with individual farm sites.”

The mutually beneficial outcomes of this strategic partnership are what both Emory and the Conservation Fund hope will prove as an effective blueprint for others across the nation in their own sustainability efforts. In terms of the region, this unification demonstrates how enabling entrepreneurship through innovation can be achieved through the available resources within Georgia’s ecosystem. 


Interested in learning more about Emory University Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI), please visit:

Further Readings:

AP Story via U.S. News & World Report – Emory University Forms Partnership to Buy Local Produce

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From the copy room to the operating room, from the classroom to the residence hall, the Emory Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) guides the efforts to meet the challenges of sustainability across all of Emory’s institutions. Emory OSI carries out this imperative by helping to restore the global ecosystem, fostering healthy living and reducing the University’s impact on the local environment.

Founded in 2006, Emory OSI has firmly established the University’s place as a sustainability leader in higher education.

 

December 5, 2019 

By: Sydney Maier, Carolyn Bero, Avi Scher 

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School recently sent several students across the U.S. to attend conferences on social entrepreneurship, impact investing, and socially responsible investing. Here is what they learned:

MBArk2Boulder Food Leadership Conference (Sydney Maier)

Dedicated to strengthening the relationship between MBAs and the natural foods industry, MBArk hosts three annual conferences: one specifically for students, and two in conjunction with Natural Products Expo (an industry event showcasing new and innovative natural and sustainable food and products).   

The first and smaller of these, Expo East boasts 1500+ companies showcasing new products and trends from mushroom jerky to compostable bandages to CBD-infused everything. Hundreds of suppliers, sales professionals, and grocers attend, so most booths are manned by founders, directors, and C-Suite, who are eager to answer any question asked. In addition to the expo itself, MBArk programming includes several opportunities to engage with industry leaders: a mini case competition with an emerging brand, scheduled floor walks with company heads (ex Beyond Meat, Oatly), and a CEO speed-dating session to name a few!   

While Atlanta is not yet a hub for this industry, it’s growing. Further, only a handful of schools partner with MBArk– Emory is one of the few schools with (heavily subsidized) access to Expo! Pro tip: bring an empty suitcase for all your samples! 

NI19: 2019 Net Impact Conference (Carolyn Bero) 

The Net Impact Conference focuses on exposing undergraduate and graduate students, as well as professionals in corporate social responsibility, nonprofits, academia and government, to a range of social entrepreneurship topics. The conference features areas such as community development, mobility, sustainability, impact investing, and corporate social responsibility and presents these through keynote speakers, panel discussions, and interactive workshops.  

The 2019 Net Impact conference hosted in Detroit was a great way to get a feel for what a career with socially responsible companies look like and to hear from leaders in a range of spaces. But the conference is much more focused on education than career connections. If you’re interested in attending to find your next social impact oriented job, it pays to do your homework ahead of time so that you can set up one-on-one conversations with attendees in your field of interest. Net Impact allows you to search the attendee database ahead of the conference. More information on Net Impact and the schedule from the 2019 conference can be found here! 

SRI30: 2019 SRI Conference (Avi Scher) 

This year, I represented the Goizueta Impact Investors (GII), a student-run impact investment fund at Emory University, at SRI30, the largest gathering of socially responsible investors in the U.S. Over the course of the three days, I attended lectures, panels, and coffee chats with asset managers, entrepreneurs, financial advisors, and students all committed to using private capital to address environmental, social, and economic challenges.   

What stood out was the array of methodologies used towards achieving a common goal. As an example, Gary White, who co-founded Water.org with Matt Damon, is raising a $150M fund through Water Equity Partners to provide financing for low-income residents to purchase water and sanitation devices.   

My key takeaway was stated by Brin Enterkin, Founder of The African Soup, which provides educational support to children in rural Uganda: “As holders of immense amounts of capital, our responsibility is immense.” It is on each and every one of us to continue exploring ways to meet this responsibility while achieving both profits and impact.   

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Social Enterprise at Goizueta ([email protected]), an actionoriented research center within Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, supports the next generation of social innovators through both coursework and hands-on experiences through student club activities including Goizueta Net ImpactGoizueta Impact Investors along with national social impact conferences. To learn more about Goizueta’s next generation of social innovators, please visit [email protected]’s website. 

 

How can nonprofits create sustainable programming? How can impact investors ensure scalability? How can governments spread dollars furthers to actually fix social issues?

Pay for Success answers all three questions at once. Pay For Success (PFS), a financing mechanism that allows public entities to pay only for successful outcomes – according to pre-determined measures. Outside funders front the money for programming until results can be measured, and public dollars pay for the results. If targets are not met, the public entity does not have to pay or pays less. (The Nonprofit Finance Fund put together the handy flow chart above.)

This week, Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) brought Mary Wickersham, Founder of Social Impact Solutions, and Debby Kasemeyer, a Senior Vice President at Northern Trust, to Atlanta to meet with leading foundations and nonprofits, as well as government officials. They have helped with feasibility studies, transaction structuring, providing the investment capital and the implementation of more than half-a-dozen PFS deals around the country.

What we found is that there are three main reasons to consider PFS as a financing option:

1] Pay for Outcomes: Instead of paying for a program up front, the government would only pay for a program that works.

2] Shift Risk and Increase Revenues: Instead of putting all the burden on politicians and government, PFS builds coalitions of individuals and organizations who are committed to solving public problems. PFS aligns priorities and shares responsibility, which provides avenues for better decision-making.

3] Scale Evidence-based Policymaking and Smart Expenditures: Instead of spending large sums of taxpayer dollars on the same problems we had yesterday, with little hope they will be fixed tomorrow, why not leverage others’ money with the confidence that we’ll achieve better outcomes? PFS increases the available capital, by including private and philanthropic investors, to implement evidence-based solutions that work.

PFS ultimately changes how governments consider policies; instead of focusing on input, it focuses on outcomes. PFS pushes governments to pay for preventative, instead of corrective, policies.

It isn’t always “all or nothing”other financing mechanisms, such as Pay-for-Performance (or Progress), include hybrids of payments sources and triggers. These innovative tools are convincing leaders in business, philanthropy and government to explore partnerships and think more collaboratively than ever before.

After all, shouldn’t we all seek to address systemic issues head on instead of relying on band-aids to solve our problems? Maybe then we’ll see some policy successes.

March 26, 2019

By: Ashani C. O’Mard, Senior Director of Capital Development at the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership

Atlanta is home to several inspiring placed-based models of community revitalization – from the transformative work in East Lake to the more recent efforts underway in the city’s Westside neighborhoods of Vine City, English Avenue, Ashview Heights and the AUC. But what about suburban neighborhoods in decline? The Brookings Institution’s “Suburbanization of Poverty” notes that from 2000-2015, poverty in metropolitan Atlanta suburbs increased 126 percent. In fact, 88 percent of the region’s poor now live in Atlanta’s suburbs. Thanks in part to social impact investments from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s GoATL Fund, a suburban placed-based pilot effort is underway in South DeKalb County, Georgia.

For many urban communities, decades of disinvestment, the foreclosure crisis, and resurgent gentrification have compounded issues of homeownership, wealth creation and equity. The very successful East Lake model championed by Purpose Built Communities has changed the financial trajectory of thousands of its residents. A very similar approach is developing right before our eyes in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods with Westside Future Fund at the helm. In fact, Purpose Built Communities is now replicating its model in 18 locations – including Grove Park – around the United States. These in-town community development and revitalization efforts are critical to scores of families and small businesses.

Building upon the lessons learned by these “Community Quarterbacks,” Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, Inc. (ANDP) has kicked off its three-year initiative in South DeKalb County. Home South DeKalb is a three-year initiative that aims to lift homeownership rates, restore family wealth, increase neighborhood stability, encourage community engagement and participation, and improve resident health and wellness outcomes in South DeKalb. In doing so, ANDP will leverage two of the most important community development tenants in South DeKalb – collaboration and investment.

Through the initiative, ANDP will invest $20 million of its existing and new capital to improve areas hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis, especially those neighborhoods impacted by the lingering effects of negative equity – while seeking to encourage broader investment in the region by other community development stakeholders.

A critical component of ANDP’s Home South DeKalb initiative is the innovative partnership with DeKalb County Government. ANDP and DeKalb County are aligning resources to make the most positive community and neighborhood impact. Specifically, the initiative will coordinate with DeKalb County to ensure that county programs and services are leveraged to improve resident quality of life and neighborhood stability.

“The Home South DeKalb initiative complements the county’s renewed commitment to eradicating blight, improving affordable housing opportunities and enhancing quality life for all DeKalb County residents,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond at the launch of the initiative in July 2018.

Beyond providing affordable housing, ANDP is working with a wide array of stakeholders to improve health, education, and employment outcomes in South DeKalb. We are partnering with the Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement, for instance, on the DeKalb Youth Prosperity Initiative – a four-year initiative launched in 2017 that is bringing together various stakeholders from across the health, housing, education, and community engagement sectors to target school clusters from across DeKalb County and support vulnerable children.

Stabilizing communities and improving the resilience, equity of its residents in suburban communities will require increased investment in innovative and collaborative models. Support from GoATL Fund for our Home South DeKalb initiative – and the growth of social impact investing in general –  is perfectly timed and mission-aligned.

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Ashani C. O’Mard is the Senior Director of Capital Development at ANDP, of which the mission is to promote, create and preserve mixed-income communities through direct development, lending, policy research and advocacy that result in the equitable distribution of affordable housing throughout the metropolitan Atlanta region.

ANDP was created in 1991 as a result of the merger of the Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Housing Resource Center and the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation’s Neighborhood Development Department. The impetus for ANDP’s creation was to address the diminishing supply of affordable housing in the Metropolitan Atlanta region as well as to help reclaim declining neighborhoods in its core. Throughout its history, ANDP has supported the creation of more than 11,000 units of housing for people of low-to-moderate incomes.

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) provides resources to connect, educate and inspire stakeholders for the purpose of accelerating the development of Georgia’s impact investing ecosystem. Recently, GSIC announced the launch of the Georgia Social Impact Map (the “Map”), an interactive platform designed to connect and educate stakeholders interested in accelerating impact investing for social outcomes. Intended as a resource for communities around the state, the Map connects new forms of capital to sustaining and scaling solutions to social challenges. GSIC also provides workshops and programming for training specific groups of stakeholders on ways to leverage impact investing to achieve their impact goals, such as the workshop described below, which was attended by 30 leaders of some of GA’s top social enterprises and nonprofits.