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Impact Investment Summit highlights: Women driving the impact revolution

Stories /16 December 2019

More than a hundred speakers and conversation catalysts from Australia and other parts of the globe gathered in Sydney in November for the Impact Investment Summit Asia Pacific.

Four women leaders who are taking revolutionary strides in the impact investing space shared their inspiring stories during the session, Pushing the Boundaries: Global Women Leading the Impact Revolution.

Audette Exel, Founder of the ADARA Group; Kimberly Gire, Founder of Global Women Leaders; Avary Kent, Executive Director of Conveners.org; and Durreen Shahnaz, Founder and CEO of Impact Investment Exchange (IIX); discussed the highlights of their impact investing journeys and imparted valuable lessons they learned throughout their careers.

Investing in Women CEO Julia Newton-Howes moderated the discussion.

Striking a balance

As the founder of Adara, Audette is exposed to both development and investment projects. One arm of Adara delivers financial services to clients, while the other engages in international development.

“Philanthropists are the first risk takers, and the world of impact investing rests on their shoulders,” said Audette.

At Adara, revenue garnered from corporate advisory clients is used to fund philanthropic projects. This approach works for the organisation, as there has always been a measured balance in its practice of impact investing and philanthropy.

Audette also challenged the way organisations conduct impact measurement, saying, “Maybe we should stop asking as much about outputs and outcomes, and start asking—are we shifting power?”

Kimberly walked the audience through her journey from the corporate world to the development sector. The former Chief Financial Officer for the retail, business and private banking divisions of Westpac has also lent her services to capital markets, treasury and structured finance endeavours in support of humanitarian and development organisations. She now empowers women across the world to leverage their skills in tackling pressing development issues through her platform, Global Women Leaders.

Her advice for impact investing stakeholders: Exercise objectivity when engaging in conversations around philanthropy and impact investment—both can produce tangible and sustainable social impact.

Risk and innovation

Durreen is the founder and CEO of IIX, an organisation that empowers impact enterprises and mobilises capital for social and environmental change. She has worked with entrepreneurs, investors, governments and impact stakeholders towards sustainable development and women’s empowerment.

She believes in taking risks and does not see it as a problem. “‘RISK is a four-letter word we need to love,” said Durreen during her keynote presentation. “We need to redefine how we value women as a risk. See women as a solution to drive economic vitality, rather than a victim.”

Durreen opened a discussion on impact washing. She warned the audience against organisations that flash large numbers while deceptively making impact-focused claims, but without delivering the expected social or environmental impact. She also called for accountability and discipline to counter unethical practices in the impact investing space.

Avary talked about her journey across different sectors: with an innovation-led company focused on tech and engineering; a behaviour science and psychology focused business; an organisation focused on delivering impact sector journalism; down to her current organisation that focuses on building powerful communities.

The social entrepreneur stressed the role of innovation in the success of any project. Innovation, according to her, is necessary if one wants to achieve scale—something she has proven throughout her career.

In closing, Julia encouraged the women in the audience to be more assertive yet inclusive throughout their impact journey.

Helping women access capital and economic opportunities to create sustainable social impact requires a gender-inclusive approach that entails unified efforts not just from women, but also from men.

“Include men while building gender narrative. Kick the doors. Shift the power to create equitable opportunities for women and take women along in our own journeys of leadership,” she said.

Investing in Women has forged a four-year partnership with Impact Asia Pacific as its gender lens investing partner. Through this partnership, Investing in Women hopes to accelerate the growth of impact investments with a gender lens from Australia to South East Asia by through the summit’s network and audience.

Organised by Impact Asia Pacific, the Impact Investment Summit was held at the Doltone House in Darling Island Wharf, Sydney from 13 to 14 November.

Want to learn more about Impact Investing? Check out these case studies.

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