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Paying it Forward: How the Sorenson Impact Summit Expands the Marketplace for Impact Solutions

An Interview With Global Impact Leader Imogen Rose-Smith


The Sorenson Impact Summit is an annual convening where top changemakers in impact investing come together to explore solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The event aims to inspire outcomes that move well beyond the status quo, bringing together a unique group of individuals who are leading cutting-edge, innovative work in spaces relevant to impact investing. Hosted by the Sorenson Impact Institute, the Summit is where dialogues begin, new opportunities are realized, and ideas are born that expand the marketplace for impact solutions.

The 2024 Summit takes place from June 5 to 8 at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. This year’s theme, Elevating Impact for a Regenerative Future, encourages attendees to think beyond a net-zero mindset toward creating a future of regenerative, equitable, and thriving ecosystems. The event is notable for its intimate setting in the mountains of Utah, the highly curated attendee list, and its post-event impact. As Sorenson Global Impact Leader and Summit co-organizer Imogen Rose-Smith says, “The goal of the Summit extends beyond the conference itself. We want conversations to continue and actions to be inspired that influence positive change both within the impact investing community and far beyond.”

The Summit aims to break down silos within the impact space and integrate impact investing into unchartered sectors. The 2024 Summit, for instance, features a panel discussion on the intersection of sports and impact investing to explore how the lucrative industry can be leveraged as a powerful tool for change. In this interview, Rose-Smith offers a sneak peek into the 2024 Summit, sharing the conversations she’s most looking forward to and highlighting the value of the event to people and communities beyond those attending.

How does the Sorenson Impact Summit stand out among other events in the impact space?

Rose-Smith: The Summit provides an opportunity for impact investing innovators to dive deep into important issues with a group of people who are steeped in the subject matter and to move from dialogue to systems change. It’s not so much about a conference as it is about the people who come together and the actions they collectively commit to. I don’t particularly like the phrase “unconference” but that’s an appropriate term to describe the Summit. It’s less about who’s taking the stage and more about identifying game-changing ways to collaborate around issues that matter to both impact investors and the world.

The theme of the 2024 Summit is “Elevating Impact for a Regenerative Future.” Why this theme? Why now?

Rose-Smith: The question of regeneration has become central to the impact investing conversation at large. It’s not enough that we build back communities and our environment. We need to do it in ways that are strong, regenerative, and lasting. We want to make regeneration the main focus of this year’s Summit to think about how it can be applied not just to the usual suspects like cities and agriculture but also to unexpected sectors such as sports, entertainment, and tourism.

The Summit is known for starting important conversations and shedding light on previously untouched topics. What conversations are you most looking forward to this year?

Rose-Smith: I’m excited about the sports and impact panel. Sports is a trillion-dollar industry that can be an incredibly powerful tool. We don’t think about it a lot in the context of impact investing, but there are some really compelling opportunities when we bring together sports, impact and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Think about what a new sports franchise or stadium does for a community. Think about what sports do for kids and what it means to become an athlete. It’s one of the few areas where you can see real socioeconomic change. And on the other hand, there’s not a lot of gender parity in multiple sports. It can also be destructive to those who do or do not become elite athletes. There are lots of ways we can think about it.

What do people who become elite athletes do with their wealth and their success? How can they potentially become ambassadors for impact? How can owners of sports franchises become ambassadors for impact? I’m looking forward to discussing how impact can change sports and how we can apply the models to other industries that perhaps haven’t been tied to impact before.

You are a strong proponent of SDG 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels. Why does this goal stand out to you? How will it be addressed at the Summit?

Rose-Smith: Simply put: If we don’t have strong institutions, we won’t be able to implement the changes necessary to combat climate change. If we have incredible social inequality, that damages our institutions of government and vice versa.

If you look at what’s happened over the past 20 years, particularly with the advent of social media, you see a corrosion of institutions. We’re witnessing that right now in the U.S. with the proliferation of disinformation and threats to democracy. Or what Russia is doing to undermine democracy around the globe. Or someone like Elon Musk taking over Twitter. On the surface, it’s funny that he’s burning a pile of money; but actually, it’s really destructive and coercive. We don’t talk about this enough in part because we often trivialize it, but the rise of social media is akin to the advent of the printing press and how that transformed society.

The challenge is that even if we recognize the importance of these things, they tend not to be investable as themes. “How do you make this into an impact investment?” is a hard question to answer and one we’re only starting to grapple with. This is a new-ish conversation to bring into the impact discussion at the Summit. We are fortunate that Reed Galen of The Lincoln Project is joining as a featured speaker to share the work he’s been doing to advance democracy.

Why does this convening matter to people and communities beyond the event attendees?

Rose-Smith: The goal of this convening is about paying it forward. Based on what we do here, how can we come up with new and impactful ideas to move the whole impact conversation forward and create new innovations and investment opportunities? Everyone gets to participate, not just summit attendees.

The sports discussion is a great example — this should be the beginning of the dialogue. Who do we know? Who can we talk to? How can we start thinking about transforming the sports industry into a giant force for good? That can’t happen with the 200+ people in the room having that conversation — that’s going to require all of us. How can everyone plug into these conversations as investors, as participants, and as followers of sports? What happens once the Summit is over is just as important as what happens in the room during those three days.

What hasn’t been happening in the impact space that needs to happen in order to achieve a bigger, brighter future? How will the Summit support this?

Rose-Smith: Impact investing has a tendency to be too siloed. The larger opportunity is to figure out how we can better integrate into bigger conversations. We need to think about how we can help change industries from the inside out. A good example is food and agriculture. A lot of really interesting entrepreneurship and innovation is happening on the margins — how can impact investors build on that work to fuel a true transformation of food ecosystems?

Impact is a complement to and different from ESG, the consideration of environmental, social, and governance factors largely in public markets and large private equity investing. For the most part, ESG is all about big companies and corporate governance. Impact is much more about innovation, social entrepreneurship, and philanthropy. How can we start to have a bigger role in these larger sectors of our economy? It’s what’s missing, as is more work around public policy and creating opportunities — which is another vitally important topic we’ll be discussing at the conference.


Limited spots are still available for the 2024 Sorenson Impact Summit, June 5-8 at the Montage Deer Valley Resort in Park City, UT. Learn more and inquire about attendance here.