Impact Investments

A member of the Social Finance Board since 2014, Pamela Dippel Choney became the organization’s Board Chair in January of 2024, following Bracebridge H. Young Jr., who served as Board Chair from 2011-2023. Here, Pam and Tracy Palandjian discuss Pam’s journey to Social Finance, the organization’s continued growth, and what excites her about our work.

Tracy: You became involved with Social Finance in 2013. What drew you to our organization? 

Pam: Having retired from a longtime career in investment management, I was interested to learn more about impact investing as a complement to traditional philanthropy. You and I had previously worked together at Wellington Management Company, and I re-connected with you just after Social Finance had started up.

I was drawn to the idea that an individual’s funds could be used to help “scale up” social programs that had already demonstrated positive impact, and that outcomes would be rigorously measured. Beyond that, I was intrigued by the opportunity to “recycle” capital if the programs achieved their goals.

I became an investor in Social Finance’s first social impact bond. Over the course of that engagement, I saw firsthand how bringing uncommon partners together around a common goal can be incredibly effective at addressing entrenched social challenges. This opportunity excited me then; today, more than ten years later, it still does.

Tracy: You have extensive global investment management experience. How does this inform the way you think about our work? 

Pam: The goal of investment management is to identify opportunities for attractive financial returns through research and analysis of markets. In the process of investing, capital is directed in a way that can both fuel growth for a particular entity or sector and lead to financial gain for the investor.

Social Finance interacts with a broad range of “market participants” and engages in research and analysis, but with a rigorous focus on social impact. You’re asking: how can we direct resources to “scale” ideas with measurable, positive impact? What trends can we get in front of with preventative interventions? And importantly, how can we bring about long-term, systems-level change?

I also bring a management perspective to this role. Over 27 years at Wellington Management, I participated in the growth of the company from 200 to 2000 people. It was a vibrant environment, committed to the continual exchange of ideas. I see a similar dynamic at Social Finance.

Social Finance attracts and retains smart people who are committed to doing good work. As you know, it takes real work for an organization to create a continuous learning environment. It needs to be knitted into the organization’s culture to enable people and teams to think in innovative ways and also to be comfortable asking, or being asked, hard questions.

Three women and an older man smiling for the camera.
New Board Chair Pam Dippel Choney (far left) is pictured with outgoing Board Chair Bracebridge Young, CEO & Co-Founder Tracy Palandjian, and President & COO Kirstin Hill.

Tracy: We recently launched the Social Finance Impact First Fund, which you have invested in. What makes the Impact First Fund unique from other opportunities? 

Pam: The Impact First Fund borrows tools from the world of 100% financially oriented investing to leverage capital in intelligent ways for greater impact. Having spent a career listening to people talk about price/equity ratios and return on capital, it’s exciting to hear these concepts applied to the way we think about “doing good.”

My fellow board member Laura Lauder talks about the “four buckets” of investing. I like this analogy as a way to think about the Fund: it occupies a unique place on the investment continuum, between market-rate and philanthropic solutions. It offers a space on that continuum where people who come from a finance-first background can feel comfortable committing their capital for impact.

Having spent a career listening to people talk about price/equity ratios and return on capital, it’s exciting to hear this applied to the way we think about 'doing good.'

Tracy: This year, we’re launching the Social Finance Institute: a field-building platform designed to bridge theory and practice for market leaders, policymakers, and practitioners interested in outcomes-based solutions. Why are you excited about this milestone?  

Pam: For thirteen years, Social Finance has been building and rigorously evaluating outcomes-based projects and investments. Through this work, the organization has had and continues to have a deep and measurable impact on tens of thousands of lives. Now, by mainstreaming these ideas and approaches through the Institute, the organization is bringing its impact to a whole new scale to improve the lives of millions.

Tracy: Much of our work focuses on increasing economic mobility. What excites you about Social Finance’s approach to this challenge?   

Pam: Wealth and income disparities have widened in the last several decades. Yet as a society we are, on paper, devoted to equality of opportunity for all people. Social Finance aims to put this aspiration into practice by coming up with innovative, outcomes-focused ways to push capital out to where the needs are.

There are talented people in every walk of life who do not have access to the resources, ideas, mentorship, or education needed to thrive. As they say, talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. Many organizations are working to increase access to opportunity, but Social Finance stands out because of its focus on measurable outcomes.

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