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Ben Thornley
Ben Thornley is the founder and managing director of ICAP Partners, a consultant and collaborator on the business of impact investing, and a strategic advisor to Pacific Community Ventures (PCV) and REDF, two prominent San Francisco-based non-profit organizations deploying debt and philanthropic capital to social enterprises.

Ben was a managing director at PCV prior to creating ICAP Partners, where he led PCV InSight, the global research and consulting practice in impact investing. Ben was responsible for building a number of prominent research partnerships in that position, including on impact investing best practices with CASE at Duke University and ImpactAssets, and on the role of policy in impact investing, with the Initiative for Responsible Investment (IRI) at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University and the World Economic Forum.

He created the Impact Investing Policy Collaborative (IIPC) with the IRI, a global network of researchers and public officials, the Accelerating Impact Investing Initiative with IRI and Enterprise Community Partners, which focuses on developing a US policy platform, and the Global Learning Exchange on Social Impact Investing, an output of the UK’s 2013 presidency of the G8 co-convened by the IIPC, UK Cabinet Office, and World Economic Forum.

Ben continues to advise institutions including CalPERS, Citi, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and The California Endowment through PCV InSight’s work as a prominent third-party evaluator of the social and economic impacts resulting from over $25 billion of investments, across asset classes. Ben is the coauthor with Cathy Clark and Jed Emerson of The Impact Investor: Lessons in Leadership and Strategy for Collaborative Capitalism (Jossey-Bass, October 2014).

Ben sits on the strategy and adoption committee of the Impact Reporting and Investment Standards and holds a Masters of Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley, where he taught leadership and political economy with former US Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich.

Entries by Ben Thornley

Step One in Growing Impact Investing: Prove Social Enterprise Works

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2015 | 4:38 PM

Rigorous evidence of impact is not just about accountability in impact investing. It is an enabler of the field's growth in its own right.

That holds true across the board. Whether its investments in for-profit or non-profit organizations, with philanthropic or commercial impulses, proof of impact attracts attention and gives...

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2014 in Impact Investing: The Big Bang and its Aftermath

(1) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 12:46 PM

Impact investing reached and surpassed the tipping point in 2014, ceasing to be an insiders' game.

From its origins in the closed circles of community finance, philanthropy, and international development, 2014 was a Big Bang for impact investing.

Fragments of ideas and practices scattered far and wide, infiltrating...

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To Grow Impact Investing, Focus on Multilingual Leadership

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 5:22 PM

Co-authored by Cathy Clark, CASE at Duke University.

September 15, 2014, will be remembered for the release of a seminal report on impact investing, care of an international taskforce backed by eight country advisory boards and four topical working groups. The taskforce was led by Sir Ronald Cohen,...

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Impact Investing and Global Finance: The Big Picture

(1) Comments | Posted April 15, 2014 | 5:45 PM

*Co-authored by Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets

One of the interesting and important recent developments in wealth management has been the emergence of a group of clients committed to investing with impact across their entire portfolios, meaning they seek to deliver measurable positive social or environmental benefits with every dollar they put...

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Impact Investing: Building on Strong Foundations in the U.S.

(0) Comments | Posted March 11, 2014 | 3:46 PM

Impact investing in the U.S. has a rich history and established communities of practice -- spanning community finance, socially responsible investment, micro-finance, housing finance, environmental finance, small business finance in underserved "emerging domestic markets," sustainable development and, more recently, social finance, which explicitly ties investment returns to social...

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Success in Impact Investing Through Policy Symbiosis

(0) Comments | Posted February 27, 2014 | 3:57 PM

Co-authored with Cathy Clark and Jed Emerson.

Some may be surprised to hear it, but impact investing would barely exist -- certainly not at its current, modest scale -- but for the support and partnership of government. Government is ubiquitous in all economies, to be sure. But in...

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Impact Investing: It's Time

(0) Comments | Posted January 9, 2014 | 3:25 PM

Imagine a future with an abundance of quality jobs, affordable homes in environmentally sustainable and thriving neighborhoods and continuous innovation in the delivery of basic services that saves taxpayers billions of dollars, all supporting Benjamin Franklin's maxim that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


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Opening the Curtain on the New 2.0 Era of Impact Investing

(0) Comments | Posted November 7, 2013 | 2:49 PM

Co-authored with Jed Emerson

Impact investing has not been growing as quickly as many practitioners might have hoped. Knowledge of what does and does not work in impact investing remains closely held. And because impact investing is unconventional (blending capital market tools, investor motivations, and professional disciplines from the private,...

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The Question of Mainstreaming Impact Investing

(0) Comments | Posted September 20, 2013 | 12:19 PM

The process of mainstreaming impact investing is, quite literally, about asking the right questions, and having the right answers ready to provide.

On the buy side, where the questions originate, investors including pension funds and other fiduciaries are wrestling with what it means to invest sustainably; a difficult proposition in...

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Impact Investing 2.0 -- What $3 Billion Tells Us About the Next $300 Billion

(1) Comments | Posted September 4, 2013 | 4:58 PM

Co-authored with Jed Emerson of Impact Assets

Earlier this month in the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), Paul Brest and Kelly Born wrote a very thoughtful piece about the difficulty of achieving real impact alongside financial returns for impact investors. Their thesis was so provocative that over 18...

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An Impact Investing Milestone: The London Principles

(0) Comments | Posted July 16, 2013 | 8:14 PM

The Impact Investing Policy Collaborative (IIPC) London Principles -- a critical piece of market infrastructure -- have just been launched at an international conference in the UK.

The Principles are a statement of intent and integrity. Impact investing has emerged as one the most important new instruments for...

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Five Takeaways: The G8 and Social Impact Investing

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2013 | 9:22 PM

The UK government planted the Union Jack squarely at the center of social impact investing at the dedicated G8 meeting June 6 - hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron in concert with Cabinet visionary Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, and Sir Ronald Cohen, who in...

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Closing in on the Crux of Impact Investing

(0) Comments | Posted June 4, 2013 | 10:23 AM

Co-authored with Cathy Clark, Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) at Duke University

The surge of interest in impact investing is a relatively recent phenomenon, although the practice of deploying capital with the intent to create measurable social and environmental benefits encompasses and builds on decades...

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The New Era of Public Innovation: Part II

(0) Comments | Posted May 16, 2013 | 3:36 PM

A new era of public innovation started in earnest at the Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Summit last month in Lima, Peru.

As part one of this article explained, public officials from across Latin America are ready and willing to collaborate with the private sector on new...

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The New Era of Public Innovation: Part One

(0) Comments | Posted May 1, 2013 | 6:03 PM

The Schwab Foundation Social Innovation Summit, held last week in Lima, Peru, was a breakthrough moment.

As the first international, ministerial-level convening focused on the role of government in enabling and growing social enterprise, it ushered in a new era of public innovation.

There is broad agreement,...

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Impact Investing Gets Real at the Skoll World Forum

(3) Comments | Posted April 15, 2013 | 11:18 AM

Oxford, UK

The Skoll World Forum should be commended this year for showcasing impact investing in a refreshingly vulnerable light, making an important contribution to the difficult task of matching barriers with solutions.

Impact investing is a broad field of practice. Deploying capital for measurable social impact...

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Big Government. Big Impact. Big Data. Big Lessons.

(0) Comments | Posted March 20, 2013 | 3:45 PM

One of the great, unsung heroes of impact investing is the U.S. Small Business Administration and its Small Business Investment Company program (SBIC).

That's right -- a government agency.

Since 1958, the SBIC program has been providing publicly-guaranteed leverage to privately-owned and managed investment funds for the purpose of capitalizing...

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10 Ideas for Scaling Impact Investing

(0) Comments | Posted December 17, 2012 | 11:07 AM

When the Global Impact Investing Network is awarded over GDP10 million to grow impact investing in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa - and adds almost 100 new "network members" in the space of a month, including institutions as large and diverse as asset manager Northern...

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The Facts on U.S. Social Enterprise

(1) Comments | Posted November 8, 2012 | 9:54 AM

Social enterprises in the U.S. are small on average, by revenue and number of employees, an even mix of for-profits and non-profits and are scattered throughout the land. Over 90 percent are focused on solving problems here at home rather than overseas.

These are findings from the first responses to...

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The Pioneering Impact Investor

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2012 | 10:44 PM

Impact investing is not for the faint of heart.

The practice is unconventional and unpredictable. It requires key actors to step outside their comfort zones, in underdeveloped markets.


  • Rather than just find and invest in funds, investors/asset owners are creating intermediaries from scratch and working much like...

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