COVID-19: an impact investment context we needed to analyze power


Both of my girls love gymnastics. I do too. Earlier this week we were all practicing our handstands (I even got through a few handstand push-ups),  and I foolishly was practicing headstands as well. Sofia said I was still crooked.

Sofia and Nadette have started to get used to doing their gymnastics through Facebook Live events that we try to recreate here in the living room. Mats and obstacles and balance beam are all over the place. 

It’s still a bit strange to me to engage and interact (which you don’t really do with Facebook Live) as an adult through video conferencing, and up until yesterday my girls were still struggling with it too. We’ve had lunches, play dates, soccer, dance, music conferences, gymnastics, school teacher conferences… many have been awkward in moments due to the lack of physical connection (as well as the tech connection that has sometimes faltered).

Yesterday however, the girls had their best playdate with their friends yet. Both were having a great time, smiling, laughing, engaging fully with each other and their friends from school. I am really hopeful that I can continue to provide the girls some of the support and guidance they need as they venture into their developments in a changing world. 

If you’ve not heard of Ariana, then check the movie “Full Out”. It is a family favourite. An aspiring Olympic level gymnast suffers a career ending injury in a car accident. Her old life gone. Goals change. Priorities change. Dance becomes therapy. She returns to college-level gymnastics at none other than UCLA. Wonderful story of personal growth (and the real Ariana makes a guest appearance in the movie, as does real UCLA Bruins gymnastics coach Val Kondos Field) that always lands with all of us at home (and inevitably leads to mini dance battles and routines). 


Recently I participated in a panel on gender lens investing put on by the Canadian Forum for Impact Investment and Development (CAFIID). Our Moderator was Anne-Marie of FinDev Canada, and my co-panelists were Farah of MEDA and Lily of Volta Capital. 

We had incredible interest in the topic, with well over 100 participants on the line. We had many more questions than we had time to answer. In a time like the present, I was quite pleased to share Marigold’s thoughts and perspectives on the landscapes of GLI, impact investing, private market investment, governmental support, and social inequities. Beyond me highlighting the great work of three of our investments – The Discourse, NeedsList, Ulula – in response to COVID-19, the below are a few elements I spent time speaking to:

Private capital drying up and government supports will not solve it all

  • Pulling back: dry powder: > for existing, < new
  • Service & brick/mortar & inventory
  • Earlier = “riskier”

Social ramifications we’re already seeing

  • Domestic violence increasing
  • Support services faltering (target most vulnerable)
  • Low wage jobs lost quickest | pay gaps exacerbated
  • Childcare stressors & emotional/informal labour increase

Way of doing business will change (but we need to help each other get there)

  • Stages & types of businesses “worth” supporting
  • Diligence, origination and structuring will all change: modifying risk/return analysis & efficiency frontier? Alternative financing; blended finance (PPP)
  • Increased collaboration vs. competition
  • Opportunities (competition, valuations, sectors/needs) opening up already

Sectors that are already deemed more investible now

  • Digital media/journalism
  • Financial inclusion
  • Mental health
  • Supply chain traceability/accountability

Earlier this week, I participated in a COVID-19 response call hosted by the SVX. There were around 50 attendees representing many stakeholder voices, and again the participation and collaboration were very high. 

As we discussed, I shared some of my reflections regarding response timelines of 30-90 days, 90-270 days, and then possibly the development of “new normal” efforts 365 days onward. Blended and innovative financing tools, blended finance alignment of donors and risk capital providers, further reconciliation between Canadian nonprofits and for-profits (as funding recipients, as legal structures, and as regulated/taxed)… these were some of the larger themes that keep me focused on our collective efforts, and are where we spent much of our discussion.


This past Thursday I finished another semester teaching my social finance and impact investing MBA course at the Schulich School of Business, York University. I always have fun teaching and learning from students, but of course this year was different. We ended our course using Zoom. A pandemic and our need to change individual behaviour for the well being of others was ever present. The questions of opportunities of graduating students entering a job market in this muted economy are similar to 2008.

This year, the course content, the mindset tools, the analytical and emotional framework tools we use in the class – they were no longer theoretical. We had the constant reminder that we needed to be holistic in applying our design thinking skills to solve to real life issues and opportunities. I believe this led our class to actually go through behavioural change as it relates to economics, finance, Mother Earth and each other. As the course director, this was the most powerful observation I’ve made professionally over the last six or so weeks in the face of COVID-19. Within these changes, I see hope and resilience and compassion and grace. I see courage and a growing curiosity. I see strength. 

To all of my amazing students this year, I give you an incredibly big “thanks”! We’ve now gone through something together that has left me changed, and I hope this might be the same for some of you. Impact investing in general cannot be “the” answer, but the many tools we discussed will most definitely need to be part of the solutions as we face the opportunity to reconstruct purpose, flow, ownership and concept of capital.

  1. Awaken the Giant Within (Robbins)
  1. The Atlantic (offers free Coronavirus content)
  2. Fortune
  3. NYT (offers free Coronavirus content)
  4. Eric Barker
  5. Mark Manson
  6. Future of Good
  7. Fred Wilson 
  8. Brad Feld
  9. Axios 
  10. TermSheet
  11. Nieman Lab
  1. Fixed bikes and scooters; cleaned the garage; got the treadmill working
  2. Shoulder mobility… going to begin 8-week Olympic lifting cycle
  3. Strict press – up to 3x @ 90% 1RM (125lbs)
  4. Push press – up to 3x @ 90% 1RM (145lbs)
  5. Snatch balance – 5×5 @ 95lbs
  6. High hang power snatch – 5x @ 95lbs
  7. 80% 1RM squat sets (5-7x/set to 50 reps) @ 230lbs
  8. Posterior Chain Couplet
    1. 10x 10 – 70lbs kettlebell Russian swings
    2. Deadlift ladder up to 1x @95% 1RM (315lbs)
  1. Bill Withers, again and a lot
  2. Phyllis Dillon
  3. Jorge Ben
  4. Dengue Fever


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