The past decade has witnessed growing optimism for
finding commercially viable market-based solutions
to global development challenges. Such solutions
are attractive from a development perspective because they
promise to expand the resources and skills deployed in
development efforts, propagate innovative products and business models, and provide a proven sustainable route—market
forces—to take these to scale. Clean cookstoves, community
water, microfinance and mobile money are examples that
vividly demonstrate this potential.
While private firms and social enterprises are busy
developing these solutions, a cadre of enlightened investors
is playing an important catalytic role. These impact investors
include development financial institutions such as the U.S.
Overseas Private Investment Corporation, investment banks
such as J.P. Morgan, retirement funds such as TIAA-CREF,
foundations such as the Skoll Foundation and investment funds
such as Root Capital. Today, impact investing is emerging
as a standalone asset class, with an estimated value of $50
billion. The participants in the Brookings Blum Roundtable
discussed the growing pains associated with this asset class,
which provide some useful insights on the broader challenges
confronting market-based development solutions.