discussion 3 editedHow might pension fund trustees consider inequality, financial complexity, good jobs, and other responsible investment issues? These were themes that ran through the two days of discussion at the Trustee Leadership Forum for Retirement Security’s 5th Annual Convening earlier this month. Hosted each June at the Harvard Kennedy School by the Initiative for Responsible Investment, the TLF Annual Convening brings together a diverse group of pension trustees, representing funds from across the country, as well as capital stewardship allies from a number of labor organizations.

This year our conversations were informed by a number of engaging talks, including Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute, and Zeynep Ton, from MIT. They shared their recent work, engaging attendees in dialogue and prompting them to consider questions like “Have changing fiduciary rules had a chilling effect on the ability of funds to think about long term value?” and “How do we think about the effects of our investments on the world beyond short term returns?”

Treasurer Kurt Summers of Chicago also joined attendees for dinner at the Harvard Faculty Club. He shared his work and insights on aggregating fees across ten Chicago-area benefit plans. He credited LA and Chicago trustee networks for inspiring his work in this area.
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Domestic Policy 2015 coverOver the past few years, impact investing policy in the U.S. has benefited from renewed interest in thinking about using policy tools to leverage private capital in support of public purpose. With our colleagues Enterprise Community Partners and Pacific Community Ventures, the IRI has been engaged in research to better understand the existing policy landscape, and come up with a way to evaluate proposals moving forward. In Financing Social Innovation: Analyzing Domestic Impact Investing Policy in the United States, we have pulled together the results of our work to date.

We’ve written this paper as a discussion draft, and would love to hear your comments and thoughts at katie_grace@hks.harvard.edu.


On May 14, IRI Director David Wood was one of a group of stakeholders invited to MIT to discuss the potential for impact investing to “catalyze local, mission-driven innovation and translate research breakthroughs into positive social impact.” Though the speakers, including former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, came from a range of backgrounds, their messages were similar: social impact projects currently face significant challenges to securing financial support and to calculating their impacts. MIT News quoted David about the lack of framework for measuring the benefits of infrastructure investment, a focus of the IRI’s capital absorption work and our work with the NRDC’s Urban Solutions program on high road infrastructure. Given the importance of overcoming these challenges to achieving positive impact, we’re pleased and excited to continue to have a role in developing the frameworks and systems to support increased investment with social purpose.