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Book Review: Real Impact by Morgan Simon

For over a decade, impact investing – investments intended to generate social or environmental impact - has been a stealth trend in development.  Partners in Food Solutions is also part of this trend, having established relationships with firms like Root Capital and Grassroots Business Fund, to leverage PFS expert know-how with their financial support to their portfolio clients.

Understandably, the idea of supporting social good while earning a financial return can sound too good to be true. The feel-good goals of impact investing, which could seem impossible to measure, make it vulnerable to cynics. That ambiguity, coupled with enough esoteric-sounding financial terms, can make the concept feel inaccessible to the modern day non-millionaire.

And yet, the bandwagon keeps growing. As income inequality grows, the world is calling for a global economic readjustment, not just in millions – but billions - of dollars.

In that sense, this book comes at just the right time. Ms. Simon walks the line between activist and MBA, bridging what was once a marriage of strange bedfellows. Bringing an activist voice and an investor attitude, Ms. Simon calls for a more rounded, thoughtful approach to investing, one that takes a whole world perspective. After all, diverting cash flows to extinguish poverty only works if you aren’t also holding the matches.

Real Impact is a helpful guidebook, categorizing, critiquing and championing impact investment in a way that is entirely readable. Ms. Simon outlines the development, its definitions, its shortcomings, and her vision for how to make it work. And if you find yourself without billions of dollars, she even includes concrete steps for the everyday person on how to make your own impactful investments.

Visit Morgan Simon's website HERE.

Matt Sisbach and Jeff Dykstra

Volunteer Matt Sisbach works to simplify safety

When Matt Sisbach (left, with PFS CEO Jeff Dykstra,) a Environment Health and Safety Manager at Ardent Mills, was asked to help create a standard safety training program for a flour mill in Tanzania he thought it would be a pretty straightforward task. It turned out that it wasn’t quite that straightforward.

Though he knew that the workers spoke a language other than English, what he didn’t consider was that many of the workers are illiterate. “It was an interesting challenge,” he says, “I had to figure out a way to simplify the training but still have the same impact as I would using written language.”

He says rethinking the way to communicate safety also got him thinking differently about how he does that in his own job at Ardent Mills. “It was a challenge in a good way. It made me really think about how I could simplify training materials and training within my own job,” he says, and with a laugh adds, “We don’t want to put people to sleep with our training.”

Matt also says that volunteering for Partners in Food Solutions has been a unique and meaningful opportunity to work in the spirit of Ardent Mills’ core values of trust, serving, simplicity and safety.

Sam Whitney

Volunteer Profile: Sam Whitney

“It’s gratifying to support these entrepreneurs and see the difference our work can make,” says Sam Whitney, a continuous improvement manager at DSM. One thing that he loves about his three plus years of volunteering with PFS is that the work that they do for one client can have an exponential impact by being shared with others. One example of that impact is a fortification training program that Sam and a team of other volunteers developed for workers at three companies in Tanzania - Kilonda, Katundu and Chamwino. The training explained the causes and consequences of malnutrition, the role vitamins play in our bodies, food fortification and dosifiers. He says that it’s important for employees to understand not just how to fortify flour, but also why food is fortified because that information will be shared throughout the larger community and create awareness of, and demand for, fortified foods.

Connecting the Dots: Bringing the PFS model alive for European volunteers

Volunteers and staff in Switzerland

In September, something unique happened in Lausanne, Switzerland. Forty people, from nine countries, on three continents, representing eight organizations, came together for the first time at the first ever PFS European Volunteer Summit.

Over two days this remarkable group of volunteers representing each of our partners, and PFS staff from Africa and the U.S., worked together to develop ideas on engaging new volunteers in Europe. They learned from our three African-based food techs about what they are hearing from client companies in East and West Africa, and introduced the food techs to the vast amount of world-class expertise available among our partners in Europe.

I left the summit inspired by stories, improved through honest dialogue, challenged by creative ideas, and confident that PFS has a cadre of empowered ambassadors ready to lead our nearly 150 talented European volunteers.

An entrepreneurial venue and enlightening perspectives

We were graciously hosted by Bühler at their innovation space in École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Like the others at the summit, I experienced firsthand the creative and entrepreneurial thinking that this open and collaborative space is designed to foster. For many of us, it was the first time that we had met in person, including some people that had come from the same company.  

The venue offered the perfect setting for our three African field staff in attendance to intimately discuss stories from the field with European colleagues.  I watched as volunteers’ eyes lit up when Christian Dedzo, our program manager in Ghana, shared a story of how he identified his first client by walking through a supermarket and looking for products that he thought could use improved nutritional content or branding.

Volunteers shared with field staff how important pictures and videos are when they are working with clients that are thousands of miles away.  While the PFS’ remote model enables us to scale our approach and reach hundreds of clients, we all truly enjoyed the rare opportunity to be together in person.

What’s next?

As the summit concluded, I heard a number of ways that we can bring the PFS experience to life and adapt our approach for European cultures including better integration into a companies’ HR initiatives, and better communicating partner company leadership’s support for PFS volunteers.

Along with all of the fun and productive activities of the summit, I also had the chance to visit Bühler, DSM, and Cereal Partners Worldwide facilities throughout Switzerland and the Netherlands. While our time together was brief, I know that what we have learned and shared will pay dividends in growth and engagement throughout Europe. In the coming year, I will be working  with our team to implement the new ideas and action plans.   

Much like the other participants, I left the events energized, with a renewed focus on recruiting more European experts to empower African entrepreneurs, and enlivening their experience along the way.

If you are interested in joining our growing community in Europe that is focused on strengthening food security, nutrition, and economic development in Africa, please reach out to me at jimmy@partnersinfoodsolutions.com or Rebecca Chou rebecca@partnersinfoodsolutions.com.

 

Dosifier training at for companies in Ethiopia.

Project Update: Micronutrient Equipment Procurement

PFS Volunteers from General Mills - Steve Berger, Mike Marshak and Kara Hobart -completed the Micronutrient Equipment Procurement Project in Ethiopia in early August 2017. The installations, commissioning and training at all five Bühler processors were finalized on July 28, well ahead of schedule. The five processors are Echa Food Complex, Admas Tesfa PLC, Dire Dawa Food Complex, Tigray Flour and Abat & Mehari. 

According to TechnoServe's Abel Ahmed, the processors are very pleased with the micro dosing units. They all recognize the Bühler name and are happy to have this equipment in their facilities. In addition, the processors are also excited to have lab balances and moisture testers. They were not aware this was included in the scope and are grateful to have this new capability.  

Still no update on the release of guidelines from the Ethiopian Government, but when that occurs, these companies will be ready.