In our book, Impact Investing, Antony Bugg-Levine and I state,

“Impact investing is what we do; Blended Value is what we create.”

BV is simply a conceptual framework for advancing a vision of value creation which is not based upon a bifurcated understanding of the nature of value (either/or), but rather a unified, holistic understanding of value as “both/and,” integrated and non-divisible.

Within this understanding of value creation, nonprofit organizations are seen to create economic worth and for-profit organizations social and environmental impacts. Indeed, all organizations create economic, social and environmental value components–but most are not managed to maximize their true potential performance.

Therefore, endless discussions regarding whether nonprofits should be more business-like or for-profits should manage for stakeholder and environmental interests are irrelevant. Rather, our focus should be upon how to maximize the total value creation potential and performance of organizations (whether nonprofit, for-profit or hybrid) and how best to maximize the total performance of capital (whether philanthropic, below-market or market-rate risk adjusted capital; with returns which are financial and social/environmental).

This central idea is, itself, not original, but was originally introduced in 2000 in the context of a value proposition (The Blended Value Proposition). Since that time, it has been the primary focus of my own writing, speaking and consulting in forums around the world. I have had many people ask why I did not create “The Blended Value Institute” or a consulting group to advance these ideas in practice. While there are times I think perhaps I should have, the fundamental premise behind Blended Value is that we do not necessarily need new organizations or consulting groups to show people how to maximize value–what each of us need is a fundamentally different way to think about the nature of the value being created through our existing organizations and a re-positioning of our individual efforts toward a focus upon a re-conceptualized understanding of value maximization.  Since introducing the term in 2000, I simply felt I would rather promote new understandings of value creation than establish yet one more organization in the parade–an organization I would then have to promote and advance at the expense of those very organizations (nonprofit and for-profit)  I sought to influence.

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, what is needed is simple–but that doesn’t mean it is easy; what is needed is a re-visioning of our personal and professional understanding of the notion of the value we create over the trajectory of our lives. With this new understanding of value in place we may then–each one of us–be in the best possible position to change our organizations, our investment practices and the legacy of the life we have lived.

The papers, articles and interviews on this web site, organized in the different categories presented, are various aspects of my exploration of those ideas and this Blended Value Framework.


The Nature of Returns: A Social Capital Markets Inquiry into Elements of Investment and The BVP

This paper was written during Emerson’s tenure on the faculty of Harvard Business School and is his first exploration into the notion of the Blended Value Proposition. The paper is about as academic as Emerson has the capacity to be (which is an albeit limited capacity) and explores notions of social capital markets, the New Metrics, the links between social and financial value creation and other related areas. The document concludes with a clarion call to re-invent our understanding of the nature of value and the pursuit of multiple returns. Addressing the existing nature of investment and return gives potential insight on central issues, such as: What do we value? How do we track efforts to increase that value? And what is the most effective way to structure capital markets to maximize total, Blended Value?

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The Blended Value Map: Tracking the Intersects and Opportunities of Economic, Social and Environmental Value Creation

Tracking the intersects and opportunities of economic, social and environmental value creation.

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Blended Value Executive Summary

Executive summary of the blended value map.

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The Blended Value Glossary

The blended value glossary (the BVG) is intended to advance a single, comprehensive nomenclature so that our common language can be a source of power instead of perplexity. The BVG will strive for convergence, streamlining the lexicon so that single concepts are connected to single terms (and vice versa). The BVG will strive for precision, clarifying subtle distinctions among concepts and terms. But when convergence and precision are not possible, the BVG will simply present how a term is used within a variety of contexts. The result, we hope, will be not only a singular, definitive resource, but also an opportunity for collaboration among the “silos” within the blended value universe and for the participants to strive for a more collective identity.

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Blended Resource Bibliography

A 200+ page annotated bibliography of supporting documents and organizations presenting brief summaries of what is listed on the Map and to be used in concert with the Map itself.

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