Social Capital Markets 2010 (a lively gathering “at the intersection of money and meaning”) has drawn more than 1,000 social innovators for a bustling, three-day agenda. People with great ideas, people with money, and those who want to learn the best ways to fund new enterprises that advance public goods have come from more than two dozen countries, including a solid contingent of 29 Canadians, to the meeting on San Francisco’s waterfront.
In plenary sessions, a great many workshops and lots of informal meetings in hallways and other spots, people are sharing good practices aimed at critical social and environmental issues, learning from failed experiments that offer valuable learnings, and cutting deals as social investors look for projects to provide financial backing and innovators seek backing for their ideas.
While there are a growing number of Canadian social finance success stories, much of the most important progress in social investments have been made in countries like Britain and the United States.
One session on Monday zeroed in on social impact bonds. Emily Bolton from Social Finance UK set out an exciting new initiative aimed at financing services and supports for people leaving jail that seeks to reduce recidivism. Justina Lei from the Rockfeller Foundation is looking to import the model to the US, and Adam Jagelewski from Canada’s Social Innovation Generation has been in the lead in bringing the idea to Canada.
Another session took a close look at Community Development Finance Institutions – financial intermediaries that increase the flow of financial capital into the social sector. CDFI’s were created under US federal legislation by former President Bill Clinton. In Canada, social sector enterprises face uncertain finances as government and non-government funding is less than reliable, and earned income fails to fill the gap.
Meanwhile I attended another session with four US financial innovators – Paul Bradley, ROC USA; Richard French, Raise the Roof; Steve Zuckerman, Self-Help; and Jonathan Harrison, Rubicon – who have developed powerful models that steer private capital into public benefits, including converting privately-owned mobile home parks into resident-owned co-operatives, and an employer-based initiative that provides payday loans to prevent lower-income workers from turning to predatory lenders.
The Wellesley Institute recognizes that a strong social sector is important to the health of individuals and communities. Non-profits and social enterprises deliver important health, social and housing services. We’ve released research and policy documents that have set out the growing administrative burden facing social sector organizations, and we’ve examined the pluses and minuses of collaboration in the third sector.