Global investing program having an impact

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 5:10 p.m. MDT

The issues addressed through the center run the social gamut from poverty to health care to the environment, education, housing, sustainable and green energy, and agriculture.

The goal of the Sorenson Center is to serve as a growth platform for the University Impact Fund — a joint venture launched in 2010 by the David Eccles School of Business, the Melvin J. Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance at BYU, Sorenson and fellow global impact investor Geoff Woolley.

The center is designed to accelerate the work of the University Impact Fund, which cultivates impact investment expertise in students through real-world experience while providing consulting and advisory services in the social entrepreneurship and impact investment sectors.

"These investments will serve to close funding gaps, helping social enterprises to prove out their businesses, with the additional benefit of cultivating impact investing expertise in students," Sorenson said. "I hope that our efforts will accelerate the growth of the sector at-large and help lead to improved societal change on a global scale."

Along with Liberty & Justice, other companies receiving SIF investments include Copia, a Kenya-based consumer catalog and rural distribution company; as well as three India-based entities — Kinara Capital, ­a financing company for micro and small enterprises; Simpa Networks, a pay-as-you-go solar financing company; and World Haus, an affordable housing construction company.

At the SGII Center, students work to address both the supply and demand barriers to impact investing through a broad range of services offered. Students often travel to locations around the world to help prepare businesses for capital infusion by providing early stage services, as well as continued post-investment support and assistance in measurement and monitoring of social impact.

"The opportunity to play an active role in combating these crucial societal issues is very rewarding," said Brandon Koch, a finance and computer science student at the David Eccles School of Business who spent three months in India working for Kinara Capital. "The hands-on experience I gained at the SGII Center has been invaluable, and I look forward to continuing to apply these skills in the real world to create sustainable change."

The number of impact investing funds is on the rise and has grown the past five years. A 2009 report from the Monitor Group research firm estimated the impact investing industry could grow from approximately $50 billion in assets to $500 billion over the next decade.

Since its inception, the SGII Center has facilitated approximately $5 million in investments, according to director Lewis Hower.

"Our key focus as a center is to increase the engagement of foundations and early stage impact investors to facilitate scalable and sustainable impact investments in promising social enterprises while providing students a unique and rewarding experiential education and career path," Hower said.

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