With the investment in Mission Driven Finance, WES will help close capital gaps to close opportunity gaps
SAN DIEGO, May 23, 2023 — The World Education Services (WES) Mariam Assefa Fund announces a $500,000 commitment to Mission Driven Finance (MDF) Capital Partners, a new vehicle to fuel inclusive economic development by equipping businesses and projects doing good with the right capital in the right size at the right time.
Mission Driven Finance, co-founded by Lauren Grattan and David Lynn, has been supporting community-driven capital strategies across the U.S. since 2016. With the addition of MDF Capital Partners to the platform, MDF is accelerating two goals: helping investors reach communities they might not otherwise, and helping emerging, grassroots capital innovators shorten the time it takes to reach their impact goals.
“We are excited to be an early investor in this new fund and deepen our partnership with MDF, one of WES’ inaugural grantee partners,” said Smitha Das, director of mission and impact investing at WES. “Through our impact investments, WES seeks to address capital access gaps in the market for under-resourced and overlooked communities, often acting as first movers to mobilize others.”
“Not only is WES investing in catalytic efforts to build more inclusive economies, but they are investing in catalytic ways, serving as lead investor and paving the way for other investors to participate,” said MDF Chief Community Officer and co-founder Lauren Grattan. “WES has been a visionary partner supporting systematically excluded communities and we are grateful to deepen our relationship with this leading impact investment.”
Because investors often want to see proof of concept, including someone else who has written that “first check,” smaller and emerging project sponsors and fund managers are often trying to wrangle deals, partners, and investors. These elements, however, often don’t move at the same speed in the same direction.
Investments that are good for the community are rooted in community
Emerging managers like Keoni Lee and Hawai’i Investment Ready, who are launching the ʻĀina Aloha Economy Fund to invest in ʻŌiwi (native)-led small business and systems entrepreneurs creating a more just and regenerative Hawaiʻi, face these familiar hiccups. They need to show investors clear examples of real deals, investor timelines are long, and it’s hard to get anybody to invest first. Additionally, some exciting potential early deals are too big to fit in the portfolio when the fund is getting started.
“Everything we do is about leaving behind a sustainable Hawai’i for the next generations, as our ancestors have done for us,” said Lee. “Indigenous communities taking the lead in changing how our financial system works is a huge part of undoing the imperialist capitalist ways that have informed profit extraction and harmed our communities and ecosystems.”
“We know there are communities and businesses across the U.S. that are crafting seriously innovative solutions to longstanding problems related to inequitable access to education, health, and wealth.”
MDF Capital Partners is a national, diversified private credit portfolio to get capital flowing to historically underinvested communities—especially for Black, Brown, and Indigenous managers and entrepreneurs. By providing financing such as warehousing, co-investment, and subscription lines, project sponsors can move faster and attract more capital.
MDF Capital Partners is designed so that Mission Driven Finance’s carry compensation is directly linked to how much capital is flowed into the community. This novel impact incentive ensures that each investment made through the fund is designed to be catalytic.
“Investments that are good for the community are rooted in community,” said Grattan. “Innovative models to build economic power for people on the margins are emerging across the country.”
MDF Capital Partners’ core themes are deeply aligned with WES’ priority impact areas—supporting immigrants, refugees, and New Americans, shared ownership, inclusive entrepreneurship, and environmental justice. “MDF Capital Partners uniquely offers creative, flexible capital solutions which keep power, control, and governance within community, directly advancing WES’ impact goals to improve access to economic opportunity, build wealth, shift power, and advance justice for communities of color, immigrants, and refugees in the U.S. and Canada,” said Das.
“There are consistent throughlines between various intentional investment themes like racial and gender justice, housing, and climate,” said Lynn. “We are trying to reduce the number of situations and communities in which flexible, less extractive capital is the missing ingredient needed for people and their businesses to thrive.”
Grattan said, “When communities do better, we all do better. We believe in shifting decision authority and financial power to communities to make the economy more just and equitable. Our partners in these communities are the best suited to identify what matters to them. We want to help them get started and scale up with MDF Capital Partners.”
About World Education Services (WES) and the WES Mariam Assefa Fund
World Education Services (WES) is a non-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping international students, immigrants, and refugees achieve their educational and career goals in the United States and Canada. For nearly 50 years, WES has set the standard of excellence in the field of international academic credential evaluation. Through its grantmaking, impact investing, and partnerships, the WES Mariam Assefa Fund seeks to advance economic and social inclusion for immigrants and refugees. Learn more: wes.org/fund
About Mission Driven Finance
Mission Driven Finance is an impact investment firm dedicated to building a financial system that ensures good businesses have access to sufficient, affordable capital. Built from the ground up with a single purpose—to make it easy to invest in your community—all of their funds and structured products are designed to close financial gaps that will close opportunity gaps. They work with local and national investors to help them create the impact they want and work with businesses and community partners to help them get the capital they need. Mission Driven Finance was launched in 2016 in San Diego, CA, and is a Certified B Corporation. In 2023, Mission Driven Finance was selected for ImpactAssets’ IA 50 Fund Manager list, a category for experienced impact fund managers with a minimum three-year track record. Learn more about Mission Driven Finance at missiondrivenfinance.com.