America has been waging a “war on poverty” at home and abroad for decades, spending trillions of dollars on social programs and aid packages. Despite all of this investment, chronic social problems like homelessness and economic insecurity persist. Innovative new strategies are being developed and tested around the country to holistically address these problems.
The Sorenson Impact Center at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business is one of the premier academic centers of excellence in this new social impact and innovation movement. The Center’s mission is to facilitate policies, programs, and investments that have measurably positive impacts in disadvantaged communities in America and around the world. The Center works with committed stakeholders from the private sector, government, philanthropy, nonprofits and academia to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to society’s most complex social, health and environmental issues.
The Center is now the world’s largest educational impact investing center and operates across four platforms: impact investing, policy innovation, impact venture fund and applied academics.
The impact investing program has now given 80 student associates Wall Street-style training in venture investing to provide needed human capital to social entrepreneurs, foundations, and early stage impact investors. Over 300 social entrepreneurs have been assisted, $100 million in impact deals have been facilitated (spanning 150 unique investments), and these students have 100-percent job placement at 56-percent higher compensation rates than their peers.
Another pillar of the Center’s activities is in the area of policy. The Center was awarded a multiyear grant from the White House’s Social Innovation Fund in 2014, and has grown rapidly to create a center of excellence focused on assisting governments and non-profits around the country to implement high-quality projects aimed at using data, research, and innovation to address challenging social problems. Among other things, the policy team helps jurisdictions through the various stages of “Pay for Success” projects by assessing feasibility, providing technical assistance, and developing capacity to enable these exciting, emerging initiatives to become a reality. Project issue areas include, homelessness, mass incarceration, home energy efficiency in low-income communities, early education, maternal and child health, juvenile justice, and workforce development.
The University Venture Fund II provides students an experiential education in venture investing, but is focused on making impact investments. With $15 million in committed capital so far, UVF II is carefully structured to meet the investment mandates of the CRA and Program Related Investment criteria for private foundations. UVF II provides a great impact investing vehicle for local communities and an unparalleled education and real life experience and career track for students.
On academics and research, seven impact courses have been taught to date, 140 students have enrolled, and now four more courses are in development. The academic program at the Center will enable the concepts and applications of impact investing to be taught to thousands of students from a variety of disciplines and fields of interest.
The Center is geared towards giving students an experiential education in the world of social impact. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
- Sign up for one of our classes: ENTP 5775, ENTP 5850-002, and ENTP 6850-002
- Apply to be a student associate with the Global Impact Investing program
- Apply to be a student associate with the policy arm of the Sorenson Center
- Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on upcoming events and news in the social finance space
- Follow us on Twitter @sorensoncenter