Capital is Fuel in the Social Capital Market

Capital is fuel for changing the world in the social capital market. Do-gooders often upon capitalism with horror as a wild force of nature.  But capital is not untameable: it is a tool that we created, and that can be put back under our control. To paraphrase the proverb: the past decade has shown us that those who seek money without meaning are dangerous, but those who seek meaning without capital are limited in their ability to scale.

The social capital market, at at the intersection of money and meaning, seeks both. And that’s where the juice is.

The social capital market looks at value across asset classes and we are finding that impact lives in the commons, not on the balance sheet or even in our impact metrics, which are both only single inputs into a much more complex system. In words that Jed Emerson said a long time ago, what we want is value; and we are willing to pay for, or invest in, or give to, things that provide value. We define value through both relational and financial lenses.

In this way, the social capital market is a cognitive landscape, including both what you care about and whether or not you are making money through your work. People historically have thought of giving from one pocket to do good, and investing into another to make money, but this space partakes of elements of both. In this market, our individual and collective assets are both on the balance sheet and in the commons, weighing what’s good for the investor and what’s good for all of us and our planet.

Because of this creative tension, people need to be at the core of this movement. Money is a fuel for a movement that operates within planetary boundaries; a market where grandchildren can have a voice.

The traditional capital markets rely on the big investor dollars, from J.P. Morgan to Warren Buffett. Capital in the social capital market is much more democratic. In this space, the power of money alone, of investor dollars, is growing smaller. The greater scarcity is among those entrepreneurs who can build something beyond themselves. The social enterprise movement began with a hero phase – and to be sure the starter has a vital role. But it’s time to get past the hero. These are the days of the ones who make the dream a reality, who follow the visionary to build something bigger than she could imagine.

Bridging Knowledge Gaps in Social Capital Markets

The social capital space is changing for the positive in many ways, especially because of forums like SOCAP which bring hundreds of thinkers and doers together to understand trends, nuances, opportunities, and challenges within this space. As a social entrepreneur, it was and is the best way to meet anyone and everyone in this space.

SOCAP reminded us that networking, and ideas exchanges are essential to increase our momentum to make things happen. So, how do we keep this momentum alive? How can we take lessons learned from each other and move forward? How can we link capital with action? Let’s create more exchanges, let’s fill knowledge gaps, and let’s keep making things happen.

Global Entrepreneur’s Exchange

Social entrepreneurs are increasing in numbers by the day; each day a passionate person decides to take a chance and create a business/plan/company/organization to make a difference in the world. SOCAP brought these people together, and we started talking. There were many entrepreneurs that attended the conference, and when we started exchanging ideas, we realized that we have many things to learn from each other. How do we keep this momentum going? How do we start sharing lessons from the field and improve our companies, our ability to create more impact.

An example of successful exchange: manufacturing companies are still facing the challenge of scale and market entry – European and US companies are trying to understand what product, where, and when – for market entry in developing countries. Our business is a supply chain company that seeks manufacturing partners to introduce new products to developing markets. We have a clear connection, clear need, clear opportunity to exchange information, missions, and make things happen.

SOCAP Energy Serves as Indicator of the Sector

I’ve come to see that the energy of SOCAP is a good indicator of this sector, so I was pleased to sense a maturation of the conversation at SOCAP/Europe. No one seems to want to talk about abstract concepts at the conference. This is similar to a trend I’ve seen in my own work, people want to see the equations behind our measurements more and more, which is a sign (to me) that people are moving beyond the euphoria of the idea towards the hard-nosed mindset of the implementation.

Yet, I was surprised at the lack of Canadian presence. I had tried to setup some interviews with Canadian attendees for, but was disappointed to find out that there weren’t any Canadian scholarship recipients at the conference. I worry that the dearth of Canadians at these events means that we won’t be making the connections necessary to be on the cutting edge of developments in this space.