How Cross Sector Collaboration Drives Tangible Change

Posted by on September 30th, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post by Annie Rhodes, Director of Foundation Strategy at MicroEdge

Impact investing means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Being a part of SOCAP16 enabled me to understand more about why this is and to learn about social investment from the organizations and people that are living it every day.

Most importantly for citizens of this world, we now know we have a community of partners interested in investing in our communities for the better. With that comes a new responsibility and accountability to help these vested partners understand what our communities need, how these needs can be met considering contextual aspects, and then empowering our community members be the change we need to flourish.

Partner

On a daily basis I have the opportunity to work with funders of all shapes and sizes. What I’ve learned from them is that communicating and collaborating with their stakeholders often leads to strengthened impact. From experience, I know that success is achieved when governments work with nonprofits, corporations, social entrepreneurs, funders and other industries to push the field forward.  

I noticed a similar theme emerge at SOCAP16 – that there is an increase in collaborative partnerships all working together to drive a common social change. Rather than social entrepreneurs trying to solve problems on their own, they are now considering the landscape and then determining through multi-stakeholder partnerships what levers need to be pulled when.

The SOCAP16 session Baltimore on the Rise: Collaborating to Build an Inclusive Ecosystem of Change proved the effectiveness of convening a group of partners to first ask the community what challenges they have and how they would recommend solving those challenges. Recognize and reflect the values of the community impacted by the investment and you’ll likely experience greater programmatic success.  

Does this mean that all potential partners need to be invested at the outset of the program? No. But it does mean that they should have the opportunity to contribute their perspective, guidance and advice throughout the project to ensure that not only the dollars are coming from a diverse source but so are the collaborators.

Fund Holistically 

Related to partnerships, there was also a lot of dialogue around the importance of looking at the whole pie of the social challenge that you are trying to solve, instead of looking at just one piece. If we are trying to empower a community of people to lift themselves out of poverty through agricultural productivity for example, we need to think through how this community will learn to run a farm and sell their harvest. We need to consider aspects such as how the farmers will travel from their farm to the market, where the farmers will live, who will work with them, where their children will go to school, etc. We can make real change if we explore the whole of the problem and invest in all facets.  

It was clear how important it is to invest in local people by listening to their voices, equipping them with the right tools to solve their own challenges, and as often as possible, let local talent at all levels lead the change.

Track & Measure

None of this matters unless we have the outcomes measurement data to confirm that what we are doing is having the impact we intended to have. We have found that the sector struggles with using a universal definition of impact and a common language around outcomes and impacts. Hence, it is no surprise we have not been able to effectively connect the data to visualize our progress on solving social issues on a macro level.

To be truly meaningful we have to compare multiple impacts with different types of impacts across different communities. We need organizations across all levels to track and measure similar outcomes. Looking at the data that is available and already exists is a great way to get started.

Having this real time data, knowledge and insight will help us use the data to learn, pivot our approach, help drive decision making, and connect our efforts to broader efforts like the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More and more we are seeing companies express their interest in aligning the SDGs to their business strategies but are still stuck as to where they can start and how they can track this. As we push forward, creating and implementing universal measurement tools will be critical to visualizing progress and where we need to improve.

As a new attendee at SOCAP16, what struck me the most was how much great work is happening across the world and how this now includes individual, funder, corporate, government, nonprofit dollars to invest. With all of these diverse players joining the global marketplace for social investment, there is even more of an imperative to think about how we can build a stronger, more inclusive approach to impact investing – so that all partners come for the return and stay for the social impact.
 


 
annie_rhodesAnnie Rhodes is the Director of Foundation Strategy at MicroEdge, a division of Blackbaud. Annie helps philanthropic organizations leverage technology to optimize how they manage their giving and improve collaboration with funding partners and grant recipients. Annie is also aiding customers evolve from simple grantmaking programs to results-focused giving programs that establish and measure outcomes and drive toward impact.

#SOCAP16: Favorite Moments with the Global SOCAP Community

Posted by on September 29th, 2016

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2016 Social Capital Markets Conference. During the event we encouraged everyone in attendance to share their favorite moments with the global SOCAP community online. Here are a few of our favorite #SOCAP16 posts:

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Mindfulness Tips From SOCAP16: Inner Investing for Greater Impact

Posted by on September 23rd, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post By Alan Pierce

The wide circle of chairs indicated that this session would flow with a different dynamic than we had become accustomed to after three days of panels and plenaries at SOCAP16.

Mindfulness in the Workplace: Scaling Sustainability, facilitated by Darian Rodriguez Heyman, promised to inspire us into action towards inner balance and outer focus through mindfulness practices, resources, and stories from the corporate world.

Guided by Sean Pargo, we initially meditated for 10 minutes to calm the buzz of investor meetings, 90-second pitches, and the general knowledge blasts of the conference. I’ve curated the following to distill the discussion that came afterwards.

These are concrete mindfulness tips for the investor, the entrepreneur, and really any changemaker curious about leveraging inner peace for social impact. I’ve divided them into two categories: high level, for those interested in implementation in work culture, and individual-focused, for anyone and everyone.

Organizational level: Bringing Mindfulness into Your Workplace

1. Speak the right language: You’ll likely need executive buy-in so it is important to speak the right language. Cite data marking the causative relationship between mindfulness programs and improved employee outcomes. Raise cost effectiveness numbers and employee retention statistics. Nearly 25% of companies today have some sort of mindfulness program, and that number is expected to double in the coming year. This isn’t a fad anymore. It’s a competitive advantage.

2. Use plants! One of our panelists, Amanda Ravenhill, spoke about bringing biophillic design to her office in order to enhance mindfulness and reduce stress (biophilia refers to humanity’s innate affinity for nature and living things). Citing research, Amanda explained that the sound of water has been shown to focus us better than any other white noise — so she had a small fountain installed in her office’s main workspace. It also helps productivity to have a number of different plant species placed in the office surroundings. Feeling a little skeptical? Check out the impressive economic case for biophilia here.

3. Create a physical space. Emmy Yegrin of Yahoo found an innovative way to infuse a mindfulness culture into her workplace. She repurposed furniture and existing conference space into a “zen” area, and shortly thereafter employees self-organized their own daily meditations with no further guidance or urging from her. Emmy emphasized that they simply needed a place to recharge and unplug, and the transformation of that environment facilitated it organically.

Individual Practices: For daily use, or at least during SOCAP!

1. Morning and evening practice. Cory Smith of Wisdom Labs, suggests always starting the morning with an intention for the day. This helps keep us focused in that intentional trajectory throughout the day. Then, in the evening he asks himself, What went well? This awareness of the positive in your day remains with you as you drift off to sleep.

2. Just-like-me meditation. I feel this one is especially salient for our crowded SOCAP spaces. As you walk around look at each person you see and recognize how they are just like you — they seek love, belonging, compassion, and to find their way in the world. From this place of awareness you are far more open to connection — and why else are we at SOCAP but to connect!

3. Is there an app for that? The question is rhetoric by now because, yes, there are many. Some that were highly recommended by our panelists: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, and Spire, as well as two web sites, dharmaseed.org and mindfulnessexercises.com.

Perhaps this blog will inspire you to act, as the session inspired me to write it. In the impact space we exist to be of service to a greater good and in this other-centeredness we may forget to act in service to our own well being, much to the detriment of our world-changing ambitions. Because investing in the quality of our inner life will ultimately shape how well we can leverage our skills every day in relation to and in service of that greater whole.

 


 

linkedineditAlan Pierce holds a master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School. While at Hult he co-led the development of a student-run accelerator for local social enterprise startups, and received a management consulting certification. Prior to pursuing this degree Alan worked for a number of nonprofits in the SF Bay Area. This included an institute conducting research on individual and social transformation, for which he published several academic papers.

Invest Here!

Posted by on September 22nd, 2016

A SOCAP Guest Post By Adam Wiskind

Neighborhood Economics Highlights New Tools to Redirect Capital Locally

The Neighborhood Economics conference was a SOCAP associated event that told inspiring stories about how investment in local businesses can transform our communities.  Overwhelmingly, invested capital in the US flows to large scale Wall Street corporations.  Only 1% of the $30 trillion that Americans invest in stocks, bonds and funds go to small business[1]. The result is that local businesses struggle to qualify for loans and are overlooked for equity infusions that would help them to grow. And yet investing in local businesses, not just by patronizing them but by providing access to capital, has knock-on benefits that allow small businesses to prosper as well as the communities where they are located.  Michael Shuman shared data that shows that US communities with the highest density of small businesses also have higher job and wealth growth rates. We would all benefit from more investing in local businesses.

It is no great surprise why the vast majority of investment has traditionally flowed to Wall Street.  There are few local investment vehicles and unless you are an “accredited investor” it is quite challenging to make direct investments in local businesses. But presenters at Neighborhood Economics made it clear that picture is changing:

  • Amy Cortese of Locavesting described the evolution of Regulation Crowdfunding platforms that allow businesses to raise both debt and equity online from many small investors.  In May of 2016 the final rules of a key component of Obama’s JOBS act went into effect which allows entrepreneurs to raise up to $1,000,000 from investors in any state of the country through an online portal. Republic, Fundable and Crowdfunder were a few of the sites that were mentioned.
  • Brian Beckon from Cutting Edge Capital discussed Direct Public Offerings (DPO), an increasingly popular vehicle which allows small businesses to raise investment from both accredited and unaccredited investors within the state that the company is operating. Another reason a DPO is different from crowdfunding is because crowdfunding is not formally direct. The rules of Registered Crowdfunding require the use of an intermediary third-party portal that is registered with the SEC.
  • Community Investment Funds are another vehicle for individuals to direct their investment dollars away from Wall Street toward local communities.  These investments tend to be less risky than the more direct investment vehicles because the funds are diversified, however to date there are still few of these funds in operation.
  • Neighborly is a new venture that is providing low risk ways for people to invest directly in the places and civic projects they care about by making municipal bonds accessible and transparent. This site enables individuals to purchase municipal bonds without engaging an intermediary. The bonds help local governments to build infrastructure and implement projects within the communities that they serve.

Though using different approaches, all of these tools aim to reach similar goals: the democratization of capital flow and its reinvestment into local communities.  However, the tools will not be able to achieve their full potential without a significant effort to promote them and to educate the small business ecosystem about their benefits. The National Coalition for Community Capital is a nascent effort to support entrepreneurs, intermediaries and would-be investors to understand and utilize these tools to grow the local economy.   This organization is forming a national coalition of financial professionals to support its five focus areas; education, policy analysis, identification of best practices, data collection and leadership.

With powerful new investing tools and the knowledge and awareness to use them, we can look forward to seeing the flow of capital move towards local economies where it will do a world of good.  

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Adam Wiskind helps the owners of impact companies to appraise and sell them while preserving their mission.  He moonlights as a journalist and can’t wait to find his first crowdfunding investment.  Contact him at awiskind@exitstrategiesgroup.com or on linkedin.  

 

 

 

 


Sources:

[1] http://www.cnbc.com/2016/02/16/reaping-profits-in-the-local-investing-revolution-in-us.html

SOCAP16 And Beyond: A Community of Parts and Whole

Posted by on September 15th, 2016

By Jed Emerson

As the SOCAP community gathers for its 9th convening, one can’t help but step back to reflect upon the journey we’ve been on over these recent years.

20160914_095519-1-1024x576Personally, I’ve been active in the world of impact investing, sustainable finance and effective philanthropy for nearly 30 years and, of course, have been participating in the SOCAP gathering for most of its life. Looking back, I remember in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, we saw an influx of folks new to the community, coming to us from failed Wall Street firms as well as from lives wherein folks found that at the age of 25 or 35 or 50 they sought to do more than either good or well. However we got here, we all gather around the notion of purpose driven capital, of bringing your whole self to one’s work and of leveraging all our available assets for impact. (Okay—some of us are still working on that last one, but we’re getting there!).

Read the full article on the SOCAP16 blog…