Featuring New PIA Member: Mercy Corps

February 12, 2016

We're excited to welcome Mercy Corps as a member of the MIT Practical Impact Alliance this year! As the year kicks off, we asked Michael MacHarg, Senior Advisor, Social Ventures to answer three questions for us. Read on to learn more Mercy Corps, Michael, and his goals for PIA.


1. Why did you choose to join PIA? What value do you anticipate for Mercy Corps?

Michael: Mercy Corps clearly understands that creating social impact at scale rests not with a single organization, but the concerted efforts of many driven institutions and individuals – with the myriad talents of the public, private and civil society realms coming together. PIA brings those groups together – vetted for their commitment to taking on big challenges, deeply curious in their approach, and each actively seeking to work together. Mercy Corps hopes to find new partners, novel approaches, and to tap the abundant talent (of MIT students) to take on the challenges we together face.

2. What element of PIA are you most excited to engage in this year?

Michael: The action research agenda – experimenting in the field with partners and new approaches – is the most exciting element of the PIA program.

3. Which Mercy Corps priorities or projects might be most relevant for the PIA network and approach?

Michael: Mercy Corps has some powerful insights over the years in the field of financial inclusion, particularly from our launch of various microfinance institutions. As inclusive financial services evolve, we're quite interested to see how "asset finance" plays a role in increasing prosperity – whether it be financing home solar electric systems or toilets, to motorcycle financing for cycle taxis, to financing tractors and farm equipment. It's an exciting, emerging sphere of financial inclusion, and we'd like to learn more about how to build such tools appropriately for mass market benefit.


Michael MacHarg, Senior Advisor, Social Ventures, Mercy Corps

Michael serves as Senior Advisor to the Social Ventures team at the global humanitarian agency, Mercy Corps. Michael leverages his experience launching early stage enterprises to help Mercy Corps identify, invest in, and accelerate impact-oriented, for-profit businesses. Prior to Mercy Corps, Michael was Co-Founder of Simpa Networks, a venture-backed energy services company with a bold mission: to make modern energy simple, affordable, and accessible for everyone. Michael has led Arc Finance’s research into micropayment approaches for financing pro-poor clean energy and water enterprises and consulted to the social venture capital fund, Acumen Fund, mapping private sector investments across east Africa. Michael was on the founding team of the first nonprofit pharmaceutical company, the Institute for OneWorld Health, whose goal is clinical development and distribution of affordable new medicines for diseases of poverty in the developing world. Michael spent his early career with the Social Development Department of the World Bank. Michael holds degrees from Duke University (CASE Scholar) and Vanderbilt University (Ingram Scholar) and has studied at the Universidad de la Habana in Cuba.