11 Oct Impetus-PEF: September 2015 Happy Hour with Daniela Barones Soares, Former CEO of Impetus-PEF
Finance Matters was pleased to welcome Daniela Barones Soares, Former CEO at Impetus–PEF for our September Happy Hour at the Borough Barista. The discussion was a stimulating one, centered around the topic of venture philanthropy – funding charities a bit like a venture capitalist would do.
As a way of background, Daniela was Chief Executive Officer of venture philanthropy organisation Impetus–PEF (and its predecessor, Impetus Trust) from 2006 to 2015. During these nine years, annual income grew ten-fold, delivering £70m in value to 55 partner charities, which helped over a million disadvantaged people. Daniela was also instrumental in leading several partnerships with corporations, trusts & foundations and government, including the successful joint bid for and management of UK government’s £135m Education Endowment Foundation, with the Sutton Trust, where she served as a Founding Trustee. During her tenure, Impetus and its partner charities won several prestigious awards. Much of her previous career has been in private equity and venture capital, with BancBoston Capital in the United States, Europe and in the UK. She also worked for Citibank in Brazil and Goldman Sachs in New York. Prior to joining Impetus, Daniela worked for Save the Children in the UK.
Daniela started by explaining how the venture philanthropy sector was a very traditional one at the time she first started working within the field, so she and the team had to sculpt it themselves. She underlined three main drivers of their intervention and success: (i) Strategic funding, which means unrestricted (a rarity still today) and based around a solid business plan and milestones to be achieved; (ii) In house expertise, with an “investment” director dedicated to and closely following the progress of each partner charity; and (iii) Pro-bono support, thanks to the large number of professional organizations providing these valuable resources through Impetus-PEF. The team had to build a deep expertise in their area of intervention, hence the decision to focus on 11-24-years old people form disadvantaged backgrounds, who would be supported through to education or employment.
Daniela explained how the process that Impetus-PEF goes through with each of their partner charities, starting from due diligence to testing and refining the social value proposition, was often an invasive and transformational one. Once a program is created, multiple iterative feedback loops follow, until outcomes can be evidenced independently and, only then, the program can be scaled. Despite this -often eye-opening- process, ultimately the intervention is always welcome with enthusiasm by the charities’ leadership as, this way, outcomes can finally be attributed with accuracy and maximised for effectively. All the organizations are different, but here’s a piece of advice that experience shows applies to most of them: focus, as you’re probably doing too many things. A number of interesting questions from the audience followed, and Daniela was kind enough to give us her perspective with enthusiasm and openness.
To conclude on the inspiring discussion, Daniela underlined that the venture philanthropy model could be applied to several sectors, if structured appropriately. The main factors to take into consideration remain to: a) provide a strong support to the management team, b) look at sources of income generation, and c) clearly set out objectives and levers for change. Daniela however emphasized the importance of being very clear on where you want to be positioned, and then consistently sticking to it.