Public Policy

The impact investing ecosystem is heavily influenced by public policies, which can discourage or incentivize impact investing practice by investors, funds and companies, and the intermediaries that bring them together. As a research program based at a public policy school, the IRI has a special interest in understanding the design and implementation of policies that lead to more robust and effective impact investing markets.

The IRI’s formal work on public policy began in 2010 through a partnership with InSight at Pacific Community Ventures, funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, to develop an initial framework for impact investing policy design and analysis. This work was followed by a report in 2011 that looked specifically at impact investing policy relevant for institutional investors in the U.S.

IRI and InSight also collaborated on the development of two multi-stakeholder platforms that aimed to support cross-border learning on impact investing policy. The Impact Investing Policy Collaborative was a research-oriented global community of researchers and policymakers, and the Global Learning Exchange (GLE) leveraged the G8 Social Investment Taskforce and the World Economic Forum to support multi-stakeholder education and action-oriented dialogue on social impact investing.  In partnership with the WEF and the Schwab Foundation, the IRI contributed to a sector-specific report that looked at impact investing policy and social enterprise.

Focusing in on the U.S., the IRI has provided research support to InSight and Enterprise Community Partners in their Accelerating Impact Investing Initiative (AI3) and serves as a resource for U.S. policymakers, foundations, and other stakeholders who are interested in policy changes that would support the impact investing market. The IRI remains committed to exploring the important role that policy plays in the development of the impact investing market, both domestically and globally.



Recent Activity


Impact Investing Club Speaker Series

Over the past couple of years, the Impact Investing Club, in collaboration with SEE PIC and B&G PIC, has hosted leaders from the Impact Investing field to educate and discuss the field. Topics have ranged from the overall landscape and financial practice of impact investing to the tension and collaboration between private markets and government policy. 

Past Events and Speakers:

HKS Alumni in Action Social Mixer

Impact in International Development

Hiromichi Mizuno, Exec. MD and CIO of Government Pension Investment...

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The Just Transition

As the world begins its much needed transition from high-carbon to low-carbon economies, investors will have to take a holistic view. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has been working with investors on the carbon performance of their portfolios and assisting them to engage with the companies they invest in, particularly the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide, on their transition plans. We also need to look beyond these physical environmental issues and consider the social aspects: what is called the ‘just transition’.

~ Fiona Reynolds, CEO,...

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Financing Social Innovation: Analyzing Domestic Impact Investing Policy in the United States

Following our first eighteen months of research with colleagues Enterprise Community Partners and InSight at Pacific Community Ventures, we’ve released this summary of our work to date. A working draft meant to catalyze discussion of how to stimulate impact investing policy reform, the paper includes a review of existing policy levers for investment as well as a framework for designing and evaluating new policies.

Impact Investing Policy in 2014: A Snapshot of Global Activity

2014 (102 pages)
17-page summary available here.
This report is a first-of-its-kind publication from the IIPC focusing on country- or issue-areas relevant to impact investing. The report offers a range of insights, from conceptual pieces on the development and mapping of the policy system, to examples of specific policies that have supported market development, and insights from private firms into how impact investing intersects with other key market areas such as international development and infrastructure investment.

Impact Investing in Development Finance

Coauthored with the IIPC, this snapshot report provides insight into how a range of development finance institutions (DFIs) self-define their work in the impact investing space. The report lays the groundwork for discussions among and between DFIs, and the broader impact investing community, regarding crucial issues like geographic and mission focus, product design and development, cross-sector partnerships, standardized terminology and measurement, and the often fraught relationship between impact investing and investment return expectations.

Breaking the Binary: Policy Guide for Social Innovation

Co-authored with the Schwab Foundation for Social Enterpreneurship, InSight at Pacific Community Ventures, and SK Group, this report focuses on policies that support the development of social enterprises globally, with the first half providing a framework for government policy action, supported by case studies, and the second profiling leading social enterprises as a way to illustrate models of social innovation.