Haas Social Impact Fund: A unique (and different!) summer internship in climate finance and financial inclusion
by Adolfo Quesada Vinciana, Haas MBA 2021
This past summer of 2020 I was very fortunate to work, remotely, with the Global Lab of Climate Finance (GLCF). GLCF is the climate finance innovation branch of Climate Policy Initiative, a global research and think tank with the goal of facilitating and mobilizing capital flows towards a greener and more sustainable future. Due to the pandemic and economic crisis, the social impact sector was especially strained, and summer internship opportunities were very limited, so I was very grateful to receive this offer and at the same time be awarded financial support from the Haas Social Impact Fund (HSIF) as it helped me to explore and learn about topics that I am very passionate about.
The Global Lab for Climate Finance is an exciting organization that supports innovative financial solutions to deploy capital and resources for global change. Its model is like an accelerator, providing deep technical and financial expertise for ventures that are in early development stages, and at the same time using their strong public sector network to mobilize capital and resources for them. One of the most interesting examples of these projects, called “financial instruments”, was a blockchain microinsurance program for farmers in Africa who lack access to traditional insurance and in which their policy would be automatically linked to weather patterns and disasters. Most of the initiatives included a combination of Public Private Partnerships and blended finance approaches to ensure the success of these highly innovative but risky ventures.
When I joined the Lab last June, it was a big (and often dreaded!) change that many people in business call the “triple career change”: change of geography, change of industry, and change of role. This was an exciting opportunity for me since I really wanted to challenge myself with new perspectives and knowledge. At the beginning, I was a bit overconfident about this change since after 5 years working in strategy consulting, I had been exposed to plenty of different projects with several clients from diverse industries. However, I lacked experience in practically all the areas that GLCF was focused on, including international development, investments, and climate change.
To compensate for this lack of knowledge, and after talking with my manager, we decided to leverage my consulting and analytics background with two projects. The first one was creating an ambitious landscape of more than 500 investors that would combine their existing database with additional external info and research. The goal was to make it actionable, so I brought different approaches from marketing and sales strategy in terms of segmentation and commercial approach. This way it would be easier to identify and match potential investors for a specific instrument in terms of sector (water, waste, energy, agriculture, mobility, etc) geography, type of funding needed and stage of the venture. The second project was about data analytics in the organization. Together with a great intern from the Lab, Haysam Azhar, we crafted an entire data and analytics blueprint that would go hand in hand with their new investor relationship approach. It was very exciting to see an organization with great talent revamping some of their most important operational processes in a way that would bring additional efficiencies and thus, a greater reach for their impact!
Haas has an amazing ecosystem of social impact courses and initiatives that I enjoyed firsthand and applied to my internship. Impact Investing Landscape and Impact Investing Practicum, both with the great professor, Adair Morse, who is now working for the Biden administration! These courses were a great introduction and a relevant real-life practice for the investing ecosystem in social impact and sustainability. Additionally, during the first year of my MBA I was also a Berkeley Board Fellow, which provided me with many insights about the internal operations of non-profit organizations that helped me in my internship.
I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to explore further the social impact sector from the finance perspective, especially in such a difficult time for many people looking for jobs. It served to refine my hypothesis about my career, as I quickly realized that the type of projects that I enjoyed the most were about finance innovations for farmers, small entrepreneurs, and communities. I am very happy to start working in the constantly evolving fintech ecosystem with a focus on financial inclusion this next summer!