Altvia’s Charlie Kuhn recently attended SOCAP ’11, the Social Capital Markets’ annual conference that challenges its attendees to contemplate the future of the impact investing space.  Here are Charlie’s thoughts after returning home.

By Charlie Kuhn, Altvia

When I think back to my week at SOCAP I am slapped in the face by one emotion: it was overwhelming.  It is important to remove the negative connotation from the word for there were no negative feelings at the conference; the people, ideas, conversations, innovations, and amount of effort at the conference were truly amazing.  More than 1500 individuals from nearly 75 countries all came together to grapple with what happens when “money and meaning intersect.”   Think about that–75 countries!  That’s a lot of different perspectives.

Not every moment was spent listening to panels or hearing about new creative ways to better the world at the “Innovation Showcase.”  Thoughtfully, the SOCAP schedulers build in plenty of time to speak with fellow attendees.  To me, that is the best aspect of the conference.

Representing Altvia, I felt I was coming into SOCAP—and the impact ecosystem as a whole—with a unique point of view.  As the PULSE manager, we sit between the money and the impact investors.  Our job, and the job of PULSE, is to make sense of this complex and often frenetic corner of the investment world.  To what initiative is all that money going?  How much good comes out of that investment?  And how does the efficacy of one impact investment compare to another?  I was proud to be able to say that PULSE has helped many of our clients realize that the answers to these questions can be found in their data.

A reoccurring theme I heard throughout the conference was the need for alignment and consistency within the section.  Attendees were calling for industry-wide benchmarks, defined metrics that every organization could use to quantify the effectiveness of their investments, and more visibility into the performance of their capital.  I was struck by how much of this can be accomplished using PULSE.  Aligned with the Global Impact Investing Network’s (The GIIN) Impact Reporting and Investing Standards (IRIS), PULSE adds validity and confidence in this growing asset class.  I’m not at all suggesting PULSE has the ability to single-handedly solve every issue in the impact space but through PULSE, we are further on the way down the path.

SOCAP was rejuvenating, thought provoking, engaging, and most of all, an opportunity to share time with the true innovators in the world trying to make this a better place—for everybody.