How to get money and other resources into the hands of vital community services (affordable housing, health and community services, and so on) to enable them to get their good work done… that’s the big challenge addressed during Canada Day at SOCAP09 (the annual Social Capital Markets conference that draws hundreds of leading social entrepreneurs from around the world to San Francisco this week). Traditionally, agencies have relied on grants from governments or non-governmental funders (such as the United Way), or donations. Grants remain critically important, but with both government and non-governmental funders facing financial challenges in the next few years, the non-profit sector needs to be more creative in building a sustainable financial base.
And that’s where social finance – which seeks a variety of investments in a variety of new kinds of organizations – comes in. In addition to the traditional non-profit organizations, a new range of social enterprises (non-profits that generate profitable activities) and social-purpose businesses (corporations that seek to do good as they do well) are emerging throughout the world, and across Canada.
More than 30 Canadians, including the always dynamic VanCity Credit Union, Social Capital Partners, the Ontario Association of Food Banks (which is co-sponsoring the emerging Ontario Social Stock Market), the Wellesley Institute (with our active interest in building a more vibrant third sector), Social Innovation Generation, Causeway , and many others, were around the table at the Tides Foundation in San Francisco for Canada Day. and continue to be actively engaged in helping to build a stronger and more financially secure future for Canada’s vital social sector.
During Canada Day, we heard the practical challenges of building the multi-million Eye Fund – a multi-million capitalization that is about to launch with the support of Deutsche Bank, Ashoka and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness and will deliver vision services to millions of people around the world.
We reviewed the socialfinance.ca web site, which is emerging as the on-line hub for Canadians in all aspects of social finance.
We heard about the real challenges of building effective financial structures to support social ventures.
And we had the beginning of a sophisticated policy discussion about how governments can support social finance initiatives through a variety of measures, including grants, tax expenditures, legislation, regulations, programs and services. That discussion will continue throughout the week as we hear about pragmatic social finance solutions in the United States and around the world.