On June 5, the Grunin Center for Law and Social Entrepreneurship awarded the first ever Grunin Prize for social entrepreneurship to the law firm Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD). Presented during the Grunin Center’s second annual conference, the Grunin Prize  recognizes and encourages lawyers’ roles in business innovations that advance sustainability and human development.   

Trevor Morrison, Deborah Burand, Pamela Rothenberg, Helen Scott, and Jay Grunin '67WBD’s winning project was a new investment product, Performance Aligned Stock. Designed to create an equity structure for socially responsible enterprises, Performance Aligned Stock is equity that “functions essentially like debt in that it is predictable from an investor standpoint and it is predictable from a company standpoint,” said WBD partner Pamela Rothenberg. “[The founders know] they are not going to be forced out of their company.”

Established last year with support from Jay Grunin ’67 and Linda Kalmanowitz Grunin ’67, and the Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, the Grunin Center seeks to improve the legal systems that affect social entrepreneurs. This year’s conference, “Legal Issues in Social Entrepreneurship and Impact Investing—in the US and Beyond,” was co-sponsored by the Impact Investing Legal Working Group, a network of lawyers who represent a variety of academic institutions, investors, law firms, and social enterprises in impact investing. The two-day event featured more than 20 panels on topics such as the evolution of impact bonds  and gender lens investing, which promotes investment in female-run businesses and in innovation that directly impacts women.

In a panel with representatives of the Grunin Prize’s six finalists, moderator Karen Sloan, senior writer and legal education editor at the National Law Journal, said she was surprised at the variety and ingenuity of the finalist projects, which included new legislative proposals and technology and web solutions, among other things. “Reading about the work that [the finalists] are doing helped me understand that social entrepreneurship and impact investing isn’t just one specific thing,” Sloan said. “It seemed to me kind of an approach and a way to think about using investing and using the law in creative ways to solve the world’s many problems.”

Posted June 19, 2018