Second Conference on Impact Investing, 26-28 June 2016

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In 2014, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services convened the First Vatican Conference on Impact Investing: Investing for the Poor. It brought together Impact Investing leaders from around the world to engage leaders of Catholic institutions on how private capital could be catalyzed to help the poor and vulnerable lift themselves out of poverty. As Pope Francis stated at the conference, “It is important that ethics once again play its due part in the world of finance and that markets serve the interests of peoples and the common good of humanity.”

Since then, tremendous strides have been made both in the sector and in our work. Accordingly, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Catholic Relief Services hosts the Second Vatican Conference on Impact Investing in June 2016. Celebrating the Extraordinary Year of Mercy established by Pope Francis and his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, the conference is titled Making the Year of Mercy a Year of Impact for the Poor and focuses on capacity building for church enterprises.

For nearly 2000 years, the Catholic Church has developed and operated social ministries, gaining the trust and friendship of the people it serves. These works now form the backbone of many countries’ infrastructure for health care, education and social services. The Catholic Church has conducted social ministries and gained respect from local and national leaders. For centuries, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Catholic missionaries have toiled in service of the poor.

Today it is understood that charitable gifts and grants will not be sufficient in the long run to maintain the vision, passion and demonstrated excellence of Catholic social ministries. As a result, many dioceses support themselves through businesses that produce wine, cheese, maize or cassava flour, caskets, art objects and furniture; some religious organizations have established credit unions and cooperatives, microcredit programs and “fair trade” schemes; and some dioceses own commercial property and run agricultural processing enterprises.

This June’s Vatican Conference engages approximately 140 participants from around the world and is expected to be a catalyst in the Church’s efforts to shift social programming to social enterprise and a forum to create new partnerships to sustain this work. This conference has two broad objectives: 

(1) explore when and how the Catholic Church and other faith-based institutions can employ a market-based model that utilizes private capital and new partnerships to attain and sustain their social mission; and

(2) enable these institutions, at an early stage of deliberation and visioning, to interact with and learn from successful social entrepreneurs and impact investors. 

The Conference started on Sunday evening June 26th with an opening dinner. Official conference activities will end on Tuesday evening June 28th. Participants will have the option to celebrate Mass together for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on Wednesday morning, June 29th.

In advance of the Conference (on June 23-25), Catholic Relief Services convened a 3-day workshop for selected participants. The pre-conference workshop presented key concepts related to faith-based social enterprise and impact investing.

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