Lisa Hall, Senior Fellow of the Beeck Center and the Case Foundation
Tell us about the Beeck Center, what you do, and why your work matters?
The Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation is an experiential hub at Georgetown University that trains students and incubates scalable, leading edge ideas for social change. Our work centers on re-defining incentive structures and aligning them to improved outcomes for individuals and society.
Impact at scale requires the courage to think and behave differently. I am focusing my time on fresh thinking and new, bold ideas for community development. We are still working under legislation that was created in the 40s. For example, the inconstant Section 8 Rental Certificate Program was issued through the U.S. Housing Act of 1937, dating back 82 years. Certainly the needs of communities, particularly underserved ones, have changed. So our policies have to change as well, to stay relevant to people’s lives.
Tell us about yourself and the role your organization plays in the impact investing space?
I currently serve as a Fellow in Residence at the Beeck Center where I’m bringing together my experience in the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors to reimagine community investing and community development in underserved, overlooked and underestimated places and people in the United States.
I have dedicated my 25-year career to economic justice, social impact and community development. Using the tools of impact investing and philanthropy, I have served in executive roles across multiple sectors in the United States and abroad. My work has included time as President and CEO of Calvert Impact Capital (formerly Calvert Foundation) and as Managing Director at Anthos Asset Management, headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands where I launched a new, proprietary impact investing initiative for a large European family office. I also served as a policy advisor at the National Economic Council where I worked on the creation of the New Markets Tax Credit program.
Over the past year I have been working with community development practitioners, investors and other stakeholders to successfully implement the benefits of Opportunity Zones and Opportunity Funds. Zones has become a hot topic among investors. But the legislation has no guard rails to protect communities and the people living in these zones. There is a real fear that such an unbolted process could lead to displacement and one-way benefits for developers as opposed to neighborhood revitalization.
I am inspired to think broadly, creatively and expansively with freedom granted in an academic setting. Being based in Washington, DC and sitting within a university, we work with influencers across the public, private and social sectors. We don’t think answers sit only in corporate, or only in government. We are working across sectors to scale impact by thinking differently about outcomes. This includes how we can value our investments differently by promoting investing for outcomes and how using the right data to influence decisions can lead to better outcomes.
What ways is impact investing making headway and where is it lagging?
Opportunity Zone investors and community development stakeholders are seeking ways to leverage this new federal legislation for profit and for purpose. The Beeck Center has been at the forefront of these discussions, as a convener and as a leading voice for incorporating impact objectives and reporting. These conversations are begging for insights from past experience and calling for a boldness to address the most intractable problems and challenges facing low-income and marginalized communities.
Mission driven constituencies are bringing enthusiasm, creativity and innovation to the table as they explore placed-based, investment and community development. That is new and exciting. Radical policy ideas that would have been dismissed in previous eras are garnering attention, promoted by new, assertive legislators that are “unbought and unbossed” in the words of the legendary Shirley Chisolm.
What challenges do you see for the future of purpose-driven finance?
Being truly inclusive and equitable in our work remains one of the biggest challenges for the field. As an African-American and a woman I’m especially cognizant of the need to include more people of color and diverse backgrounds in our field. I am mindful of the racial and socio-economic bias we bring to our work. And as a believer in the democratization of impact investing, I believe it is critical that we are factoring in the needs and perspectives of not only investors, but also the users and beneficiaries of impact investing.