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Partner Profile: Kirchner Impact Foundation, Kirchner Fellowship Program

Hattie Brown

Co-Manager, Kirchner Impact Foundation and Managing Director of Impact and ESG, Kirchner Group

New York

The Kirchner Impact Foundation (KIF) is a nonprofit that promotes capital efficiency and sustainable enterprises through the Kirchner Impact Model. KIF activities aim to generate a measurable, social and/or environmental benefit, primarily across four sectors: Agriculture/Food, Health/Life Science, Energy/Resources and Education. The Kirchner Fellowship program started nearly 10 years ago as an experiment. It is now a pioneer in the lean impact investment movement harnessing the power of highly committed next generation talent to find, fund and assist promising socially responsible, for-profit agricultural businesses.

We prepare next generation researchers to scour the world for impactful business by allocating capital in areas of the world that have not historically been benefited from robust capital markets, promoting entrepreneurship and all of its economic benefits in remote locations and offer technical assistance to help businesses thrive, all at a low cost.

The conditions that are necessary for the students to be successful must be real. Real companies, real opportunities in real time (real fundraising, real transaction), real money and real decision-making power. That last point is important. The students must have full discretion over the investment decision. This creates a feeling of ownership and raises the stakes for the investment teams.

Results include the following:

  • $350k of capital deployed into a global portfolio spanning 4 countries
  • 6 active portfolio companies with continued year over year growth and traction, supporting our food security-themed fund
  • 38 alumni representing 14 countries
  • Gender parity of alumni
  • 68% of alumni identify as people of color

The mission of the Kirchner Fellowship is to strengthen impact investing ecosystems in areas underserved by capital markets through training and empowering a diverse next generation of investors to allocate equity investments into early-stage companies. Our mission is twofold: strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems through investment and diversify the capital allocation workforce to reflect the diversity of our world today.

The problem we’re after cannot be overstated: diversity in capital allocation and specifically, venture capital (where we bring the most expertise) is abysmal. Only six percent of investment professionals in venture capital are people of color. Where over 50 percent of our past fellows identify as women, this opposes the venture capital industry benchmark drastically, where 12 percent of decision-makers identify as women. In terms of racial identity, 68 percent of Fellowship alumni are people of color, as opposed to the latest VC industry data where 31 percent of VCs are people of color.

KIF’s partnership with FFAR has been a gamechanger from the beginning. Given our food security focus, our partnership allows us to tap into the incredible talent pool represented by FFAR’s network, deepening our impact and ensuring program sustainability and continuity. Particularly within our HBCU program, FFAR has been a tremendous partner by connecting our organization with numerous 1890s land grant institutions and serving as a critical resource for program recruitment. This is an important step to addressing the lack of diversity in terms of race, gender, and academic institutions represented that we see in the industry.

With the recent announcement of our 5-year collaboration, we have been able to ensure a sustained commitment to the HBCU program. We are thrilled for the continued partnership and all that comes along with a long-term commitment to the program.

About the Author:
Hattie Brown is the managing director of impact and ESG at Kirchner Group and Co-Manager of the Kirchner Impact Foundation, which runs the Kirchner Fellowship program. In her day-to-day, Brown oversees all Kirchner Fellowship programming, leads the HBCU cohort, and works with private clients of Kirchner Group on ESG and impact measurement and management strategies for their investment portfolios. Brown holds a master’s degree in food policy and applied nutrition degree and a master’s degree in international business from Tufts University.