Jeff Turi ’92 believes the traditional model for philanthropy has failed the developing world. Providing handouts and temporary relief to solve problems already cemented in society doesn’t work, he says, and hasn’t worked for decades.
“The best way to have a social impact, frankly, is to really drive economic development,” says Turi. Since 2013 he has served as the Delaware Chapter head for RENEW, an impact investment and advisory firm that manages and serves the Impact Angel Network. As an active angel investor, Turi holds an equity ownership in eight mid-size companies in Ethiopia, something he believes leads to job creation and sustainable economic growth.
“I think it’s very important for people to understand that you can have a big impact in the developing world without quitting your day job or working for a nonprofit,” says Turi. “This isn’t charity—we are seeking great financial returns—but it is powerful and it is transformative [for the countries it serves]. Impact investing is something you have to be very patient about since you’re not going to be able to turn something around in a year or two. But it is one of those longer-term projects where we’ll look back in 10, 20 years and say ‘Holy cow, I’m so glad I got to be part of this journey and this amazing development.’”
Though the process may be gradual, Turi finds motivation in the social changes he witnesses as a company grows. For example, investment in an Ethiopian manufacturer that works with more than 4,000 smallholder farmers allows the company to increase its purchases from the farmers, which in turn puts more money into the pockets of the farmers, who can now buy school uniforms for their children.
When asked what initially inspired Turi to invest in African companies, he’s quick to point to Kellogg.
“Kellogg helped me think more broadly. It gave me a global view of business and helped me realize there were great opportunities [in developing countries],” Turi explains. He also lauds Kellogg for kindling his investment skills. “What has helped me is a broad base in finance, marketing and a broad interest in entrepreneurism, and that started at Kellogg.”
One challenge that Turi hopes the impact investment world will tackle soon is how to encourage developing nations’ diaspora to return home after receiving top-tiered education abroad. He also would like to bring the kind of advanced management education that institutions like Kellogg offer to the mid-level managers in countries such as Ethiopia.
Ultimately, though, the future of impact investing looks bright to Turi, who believes it will grow dramatically with Millennials. “They want their investments to make money but also to grow jobs, to grow developing countries and to support their passion for social impact.,” he says.