Putting money to work for social good, not just personal greed – that’s the overall theme at SOCAP09, the second annual social capital markets gathering that has drawn about one thousand people to San Fancisco. There are all sorts of way to connect into SOCAP09 , including the web site, Twitter feeds, video links and email updates. Here are personal observations from a very exciting first day at SOCAP09:
Canadians join together: The 30-plus Canadian contingent met once again on Tuesday morning. We were greeted by Kevin Jones, convener of SOCAP09, who told us that the economic recession – bad as it is for many people – is prompting a growing number of US states to adopt social enterprise as the new economic development strategy. This offers the promise that the new economy being re-built on the shattered remains of the traditional economy will respond more to human needs and social goods. Canada, unfortunately, is very backward when it comes to social innovation, warned Tim Draimin of Social Investment Generation. He called it a “terrible regulatory regime” and delegates spent some time strategizing about ways to move forward the policy agenda at the federal level, and in a number of provinces.
Sonal Shah, director of the White House Office of Social Innovation: Gave a very inspiring presentation about this wonderful new initiative in the Obama administration that cuts across the domestic policy agenda (it’s not just about the non-profit and voluntary sector – though there is a considerable increase in attention to that part of the agenda, as well). She described the work of her four-person office as a “defined and limited role” in identifying community-based innovations that are making a positive impact, identifying ways to support those innovations, assist them in scaling up, leveraging government and non-governmental money and other resources, and collaborating with local and national experts on catalyzing good practices. Following her presentation, there was a panel discussion and then questions / comments from the floor.
Future of social innovation on the web: A dynamic panel of non-profit and for-profit web-based entrepreneurs looked ahead to Web 3.0. Web 1.0 is the early version of the Web, which put out information in a linear stream. Web 2.0 is the social media, allowing people to interact on the Web. The next stage in the Web will be fully engaging people on-line and off-line, and the panelists agreed that the key to Web 3.0 is the ensure that the user experience is positive. When it comes to revenue generation on the Web, the key tip was that instead of a growing number of groups chasing the same “wallet”, which leads to an ever-shrinking piece of the pie for participants (if you’ll forgive the multiple metaphors – I still have a bit of a head cold), a key goal is to get access to a bigger wallet.
Social capital spectrum: The formal day at SOCAP ended with a powerful panel on the current stage of social capital, and likely future developments – and it was chock-full of important observations. Traditional money markets are not rational, so why do people expect that the emerging social markets need to be fully rational and based on cold financial calculations. The financial meltdown of the past year has squarely raised the question of the fundamental fiduciary duty of money managers – it is always just about financial performance, or can there be other important social and environmental outcomes that should be part of the overall equation. The mainstream media by and large has let the traditional money market managers off the hook in the aftermath of the financial meltdown, and a key opportunity to point to strong performance in the social capital markets may have been missed.
All in all, a thoughtful and provocative first day at SOCAP09. Today, we drill deeper into each of these areas.