At October’s SOCAP Conference in San Francisco, a panel discussed MBA demand for impact investing education and training programs like the MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network and Training).

A team of Yale students had a lot to be excited about when they won first place at last April’s MIINT competition. Co-produced by Wharton Social Impact and Bridges Impact Foundation, the MIINT is a leading impact investing training program and competition for business school students around the world. The Yale team beat student teams from more than 30 other business schools and secured a $50K investment in the impact company they pitched (EVmatch, a peer-to-peer network for electric vehicle charging).

Six months later, at the SOCAP conference, the Yale MIINT team reconvened and joined Heather Hochrein (Founder of EVmatch), Jennifer Walske (Assistant Professor and MIINT advisor at UCLA), Adwoa Asare (MIINT Program Manager at Bridges Impact Foundation) and Sandi Hunt (Managing Director of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative) to speak on a panel about the importance of impact investing education.

Reflecting on the MIINT, the Yale team said that the competition was about more than winning a trophy. It provided these students (and 600 of their business school peers from all over the world) a competitive edge and deep knowledge for a career in impact investing. “MIINT was an extremely rigorous program,” said Martha Deeds, Yale MBA for Executives student. “I especially appreciated how experiential the MIINT was, taking us through the entire deal flow and sourcing process. It was very helpful in reinforcing the theory and concepts I learned in the classroom.”

“I can definitely say that, had I not gone through the MIINT curriculum, I would not have known half the language used on the first day of my internship,” said Leah Yablonka, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies alum. “I really can’t speak enough of the rigor of this curriculum. And now, as I think about my full-time job, what’s top of mind for me is how I can contribute to fostering this pipeline for other students.”

But the MIINT’s value wasn’t limited to students — entrepreneurs from the companies that were pitched benefitted, too. Looking beyond the obvious perk of receiving a $50K investment into her company, EVmatch’s Heather Hochrein said: “The due diligence was quite comprehensive. They of course used documents I already had prepared, like our pitch deck, P&L statement, financial statements. But there were also some new things that I had to put together for them — a few appendices, various tables, certain things that they needed. These documents have been particularly useful for me for other due diligence.”

She added: “It was useful to see how they wrote about my company in their investment memo. It made me think about how I could recycle some of that language and framing, and how maybe I could position the work we do in different ways for different audiences.”

The Panel

Left to right: Leah Yablonka (Yale), John Palfreyman (Yale), Jennifer Walske (UCLA), Heather Hochrein (EVmatch), Martha Deeds (Yale), Vinnie Caruso (Yale). Top row: Sandi Hunt (Wharton Social Impact Initiative), Adwoa Asare (Bridges Impact Foundation).

Student demand for impact investing experience continues to soar, but not all schools offer impact investing classes or programs. Adwoa Asare from Bridges Impact Foundation discussed how the MIINT continues to expand globally. Starting with just Wharton and Harvard in 2011, the MIINT now has over 30 participating schools all over the world, including NYU, Oxford, Yale, UCLA, INSEAD, London School of Economics, and more.

The list of schools participating in the MIINT is impressive — yet also limited by the current size of the MIINT program. The panel discussed how receiving this impact investing training was a transformative opportunity, and how students beyond these 30+ schools might be interested in accessing that opportunity and the benefits it provides. “Participating in the MIINT was a real privilege,” said Yablonka. “It came from the fact that I had the opportunity to go to Yale, also a massive privilege. So, I’m thinking about how to help build an impact investing talent pipeline especially for folks that maybe didn’t have that exceptional privilege to practice these skills in school.”

“MIINT is the best program I never heard about when I was in graduate school,” joked Asare, who attended the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, which was not a MIINT participant school. “I basically bootstrapped my own MIINT. I got my professors to put on a seminar for impact investing. I pulled together a program that sort of looked like the MIINT without the structure or academic support.”

Asare also discussed the power of bringing impact investing education to students who typically don’t have access to programs like the MIINT. “I want to find those students who were like me at their schools, who either didn’t go to a very large school or didn’t have access to impact investing education,” she said.

Asare has been attending conferences (including the National Black MBA Conference and Prospanica Conference) and talking with students about impact investing. She believes that even just increasing word of mouth about the field of impact investing will help close the knowledge gap about it — it’s the knowledge gap that creates the access barrier, she said.

It’s not just a barrier to access impact investing education. There is also a barrier to land an impact investing career. Even if all business school students around the world receive impact investing education, the fact is that the number of jobs in impact investing, especially impact venture capital, is quite limited.

Because of this reality, many graduates work in traditional finance or consulting before pivoting to a career in impact. And many other graduates don’t pivot at all. Regardless, impact investing training can still benefit students who don’t land impact careers.

“Even if students don’t work in impact investing after graduation, we believe that students who participate in the MIINT or learn about impact investing are more likely to bring an impact lens into their career,” said Sandi Hunt, managing director of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. “Change will happen as more and more people consider, even prioritize, impact — whatever industry, role, or company they’re working in.”

Visit Wharton Social Impact to learn more about impact investing.

— Nisa Nejadi

Posted: November 26, 2019

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