My Journey to Kingdom Impact Investing Through Microfinance
By David Simms, Managing Director at Impact Foundation & Olive Tree Investments
In the spring of 1984 my wife and I were standing in a field in Guatemala on an insight trip led by Opportunity International. I understood for the first time the power of business to accelerate the Great Commandment. I knew empirically and from experience that charity alone cannot eliminate extreme poverty; it's a critical piece of the puzzle, but insufficient on its own. That moment in Guatemala crystallized for me the desire to devote my life to serving the poor with sustainable, finance-driven solutions: not just to make the poor a little less poor but to partner with God in His work of redeeming the world and spreading the hope of the gospel.
During my microfinance journey with Opportunity, I spent a good portion of the last 30 years becoming more and more committed to serving families living in poverty. I initially held a highly-engaged volunteer board seat and I ended with six years on staff as the Executive Chairman of the Global Board and President of Opportunity U.S. until stepping down in early 2016.
The many seasons at Opportunity allowed me to see the Lord at work growing those we served with loans, savings, and training--from under 1,000 families to over 12,000,000. From a crazy, unproven business idea of micro-insurance just 12 years ago we expanded to a world-class, award-winning, commercially successful operation named MicroEnsure that now serves over 20,000,000 individuals globally.
The joy of visiting and celebrating victories with so many of these families has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. Over the last several years, however, I felt an increasing sense we weren’t doing all that needed to be done.
I understood what the data was telling us about true poverty alleviation. If we wanted to end extreme poverty, we needed more than microfinance. Beyond providing one person a job, we needed a bigger solution--something that could catalyze economic development for a whole region or country. I felt we needed to support larger businesses, those categorized as “small medium enterprises” (SMEs), with both capital and support. With an effective capital market for this sector, dozens and then hundreds of people could move forward with each growing SME. We needed a way to bring socially-motivated capital to these businesses. This was something our microfinance banks couldn’t do, but something that impact investing, bringing both debt and equity to the table, could do.
I'm excited about the journey ahead and believe we will see great fruit from this kingdom impact investing movement. If you want to joint the adventure, sign up for our newsletter and peruse the white papers section of the website.
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.