LAB FELLOWSHIP: Meet The Fellows #3

When we launched the Finance Innovation Lab Fellowship in March, we introduced the 16 innovators joining the Lab community as our 2016 Lab Fellows. We announced their names and the projects they were working on, but now it’s your chance to get to know them better.

We’ve already introduced you to six of our Fellows; you can read their interviews here and here. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be interviewing the rest of the Fellows participating in this unique incubation programme and share how they hope to disrupt the financial system.

Say hello to Joel Benjamin and his project Community Reinvest

Joel Benjamin

We need to align the values of the pension fund industry with the public sector by defining the ‘public interest’.

Community Reinvest seeks to educate divestment campaigners and pension funds of the need for reinvesting funds withdrawn from fossil fuels in the new economy. We provide a link between pension fund members and public authorities managing and de-risking pension funds to community renewable energy groups and developers seeking finance for low carbon, sustainable infrastructure projects suitable for long-term pension fund investments.

Why are you doing this?

We need to change the purpose of the financial system.

The local government and planning profession has been gutted by a combination of free market ideology and austerity cuts. If we cannot control financial markets, we’re allowing them free reign to control our future.

What do you need from the Lab community?

Help translating ideas and knowledge intervention points into a coordinated strategy for change, both for Community Reinvest, and other organisations in the network.

Tell us one thing no one would know about you.

I’m a qualified scuba instructor and would love to go back to living somewhere warm by the sea – once we have the financial sector sorted out!

 Say hello to Leonie Kelly and her project Rhino Impact Investment

Leonie Kelly

Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500,000 in the early twentieth century. However, despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction. At present, conservation managers are struggling to raise the funds from traditional sources required for day-to-day management and protection, let alone the funds needed to improve and sustain long-term impacts.

Creating a long term solution to conserving species and livelihoods will depend on changing the way in which conservation is funded. It is crucial we expand from donor-drive financing towards commercial, impact-driven financing with mechanisms such as the Rhino Impact Investment.

Describe the potential impact of your project in one word.


Our project goal is to transform conservation finance by creating a new outcomes-based financing mechanism that directs private and public sector funds to improve management effectiveness of priority rhino populations.

Why did you apply to be a Lab Fellow?

To be a part of a community of change makers and like minded individuals looking to push beyond the boundaries of finance, test alternative business and financial models and reimagine the future of finance.

If you could tell everyone in the world one thing, what would it be?

You regret more the things you didn’t do, than the things you did… All it usually takes is 20 seconds of courage.

Say hello to Ben Warren and his project Crowd Match Fund

Ben Warren

Crowd Match Fund will match investments made by individuals on crowdfunding platforms and encourage the uptake of social investments made by the public.

I hope that it’ll encourage greater participation by the crowd in funding socially motivated projects, enable social sector organisations to raise more capital and encourage more mainstream platforms to engage with a new form of social tax relief.

What do you hope to change about the finance system?

Big question! The first step would be to make it easier for people to make personal finance choices that are impact driven, whether that’s through your pension, mortgage or investments.

I’m interested in how the public can use their money to create social good.

What do you need from the Lab community?

Inspiration and togetherness.

I applied to be a fellow to join a group of people who are all looking to harness the financial system to create positive social and environmental change. It’s a great opportunity to learn and engage with a group who are all facing similar challenges to myself.

Tell us one thing no one would know about you.

I’m a huge Charles Darwin fan.

Click here to read about the rest of the 2016 Finance Innovation Lab Fellows.