However, the enthusiasm surrounding impact investing is not shared by everyone. A growing debate has emerged around the basic foundation of impact investing: is it possible to achieve financial returns and meaningful social impact at the same time? How can you adequately demonstrate social impact, and at what point are you prioritizing financial return over social impact?
On Friday, May 5, 2017 Aga Khan Foundation Canada held its second Executive Masterclass, which used the case method to allow participants to actively engage on development issues that cut across sectors and expertise. This masterclass addressed the challenges of impact investing, using the Harvard Business School case study, Acumen Fund: Measurement in Impact Investing (A). The masterclass led participants in a dynamic, interactive exploration of whether Acumen should invest in two innovative new projects in Kenya aimed at delivering services to the poor. With a specific focus on identifying key performance metrics to measure social impact, participants determined whether the two projects met Acumenâ€™s social and financial investment criteria.
The masterclass was facilitated by the author of the case, Alnoor Ebrahim, Associate Professor of Business Administration, Tufts University and featured special insights and commentary from Acumen Fund.
Alnoor Ebrahim is an Associate Professor in the General Management Unit, and in the Social Enterprise Initiative, at the Harvard Business School. His research and teaching focus on the challenges of performance management, accountability, and governance facing social sector organizations. He is also a principal of Harvard Universityâ€™s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations.
Prior to joining the faculty of the Harvard Business School, Alnoor Ebrahim was the Wyss Visiting Scholar at HBS, and a Visiting Associate Professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He also taught at Virginia Tech for several years, where he was a founding co-director of the Institute for Governance and Accountabilities. He holds a BSc degree from MIT (1991) in civil and environmental engineering, and a PhD from Stanford University (1999), where he studied environmental planning and management.