On 14 November, the EFC hosted 100+ people in its new Philanthropy House for Euro Philantopics, a joint EVPA, NEF, DAFNE and EFC workshop. They asked me to moderate a full morning session on social investment.
The fact that the four networks came together to organise a single event was in itself an interesting signal, showing that we have a lot to share and learn from one another. But what really struck me during the event was the display of real and efficient multi-stakeholder partnerships that have now emerged throughout the social investment food chain.
It all started with social entrepreneur Steen Thygesen, CEO of Specialisterne. This impressive social enterprise will be known to many: it facilitates the integration of autistic people in the job market by taking advantage of their superior capacity to concentrate on details. I knew that Specialisterne had build a solid cooperation with the Danish Sociale Kapitalfond but had under-estimated the value of the numerous partnerships they had built. The EU helped them internationalise, private banks introduced impact investors, foundations and high net worth individuals funded their start up in specific countries, SAP and other corporates are designing programmes to recruit ‘specialist people’…
What about the story of the Peterborough social impact bond? I had not realised that the world’s first social impact bond would have never seen light without an impressive network of partnerships. Just think: a social finance boutique firm brings together foundations and HNWIs to fund an unproven concept, convinces public officials to rethink their subsidy-driven modus operandi in favour of a savings-based model, agrees with NGOs to risk a possibly highly publicised failure (while remaining true to their social mission, as Rob Owen, CEO of the VP-backed St Giles Trust insisted)… What an example of a large partnership network working for social innovation.
I could go on with examples that were mentioned on the day… Guess who provided the ‘exit’ for the early investors in the Dutch social enterprise Valid Express? The large corporate Post NL (the Dutch mail delivery service), of course…
Back in 2004 when we started EVPA, a few friends (and not friends) commented that social investment was a game for young idealistic entrepreneurs and retired venture capitalists. Nine years later, the entrepreneurs have grown less young and more venture capitalist have retired, but most importantly, the movement is attracting many new partners, each of whom contributes and brings their specific value-add to the movement.
These partnerships are the pillars on which social investment will build societal impact, and I am convinced that we are just seeing the beginning.
By the way, do you know why all these partners entered the game? Nearly all the speakers at Euro Philantopics mentioned that without the financial crisis and the need to make every euro go further, they probably would have been less proactive in partnering with others… So dare I say ‘thank you Lehman’?
Serge Raicher is co-founder of EVPA
Giving money away is one thing; understanding what happens next is quite another. In a world where metrics are valued, the challenge of knowing the difference you make as a grantmaker, philanthropist or corporate foundation can seem as complex as making that difference in the first place. Because the diverse ways in which funders contribute to positive social change cannot be neatly captured by a balance sheet.
While charities have been developing ways of measuring and articulating their impact for many years – often at the behest of their funders – the same pressure hasn’t always existed for those holding the pursestrings. To date, there’s been a critical lack of data to help us understand impact measurement practice among funders.
NPC — in partnership with the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) — has filled this gap with a new report, Funding Impact. Funded by the Baring Foundation, City Bridge Trust, LBG, Northern Rock Foundation and Trust for London, the research is built on in-depth interviews and a survey of grant-makers and corporate funders.
The findings are comforting for those of us who want to see impact at the heart of philanthropy. Firstly, funders really do care about impact: 88% think that impact measurement makes charities more effective and 89% believe it makes funders more effective too. The direction of travel is also clear: 73% say their focus on impact measurement has increased over the past five years, and 72% expect to increase their efforts in the next three years. This is especially true of corporate givers, who are the most positive of all our respondents.
While funders’ appetite for impact measurement is clear, what they can achieve in practice is not as straightforward. The biggest challenges identified by funders when trying to understand both their grantees’ and their own impact is the capacity (65%) and knowledge (67%) of charities they support. To get to a stage where funders can better use impact measurement, we clearly need more investment in the capacity of grantees and to provide guidance and tools to help funders with the task,
But we also found that funders could use the evidence they already collect more in their work. Few funders are not using the data they collect at all (10%), but less than half of funders are using it for key elements such as selecting grantees (38%) or compiling programme-wide results (42%), so there is an opportunity for better and wider application of this data.
It is clear that one size doesn’t fit all and different levels of impact measurement work for different types of funding. To move the debate forward, the report identifies three types of funding – responsive, targeted and goal oriented – and recommends tailored impact measurement approaches for each. All three have a distinct role to play in the philanthropic ecosystem, and as the report makes clear they each contribute to furthering our understanding of impact.
One theme particularly stands out – the subject of impact isn’t going away any time soon. Practice is evolving all the time and this report will help individual funders begin to understand the difference they make, and keep the topic on the agenda for the sector as a whole.
The full Funder Impact report is available to download here.
Alex Van Vliet works with the Measurement & Evaluation team at NPC
Raise your hand if you know the answer to the following question: How many grant dollars did US foundations award in 2011? Anyone?
Let me ask a different question. If you needed to find the answer to that question, where would you go? Foundation Center? Good –you’re on the right track. So, you visit the Foundation Center’s website and where do you look? Not sure? In the past, you weren’t alone.
But all that has changed as the Center has launched a new free statistical tool called Foundation Stats at data.foundationcenter.org.
The answer to almost every basic statistical question about the collective work of US foundations can be found there. You don’t have to buy any publications and you don’t have to dig through thousands of static data tables on the center’s website. Plus, you can download and reuse, for free, any of the statistics you find in Foundation Stats. You can even grab these statistics using an application programming interface (API), if you’re so inclined.
Usually, I’m not so shamelessly self-promotional, but I can barely contain my excitement about Foundation Stats. Let me tell you why.
First, I have long believed that certain kinds of basic statistical data about the work of US foundations should be widely known and understood by anyone who works in this field. Everyone should know, for example, how many active grantmaking foundations there are in the United States, how much they give collectively every year, how their giving breaks down across subject areas, and how their giving has changed over time. To my mind, Socrates’ dictum ‘know thyself’ applies every bit as much to fields as it does to individuals.
Second, in order for this kind of knowledge to effectively propagate across the field, the information has to be easy to find and freely available. Foundation Stats does that.
Third, it’s really easy to use. Like you, I have little patience for online tools that don’t provide any kind of genuine payoff within the first fifteen seconds of use. If you visit Foundation Stats, I guarantee that within fifteen seconds you will have learned at least three interesting facts about US foundations and will be eagerly trying out different ways to look at the data – by state, by subject area, by foundation type and more. Try clicking on a Top 50 Foundations list and see what pops up.
Fourth, Foundation Stats works on your mobile phone!
Fifth, just when you think you’ve figured out everything that Foundation Stats can do, you will discover yet one more way it lets you sort or visualize data. (Tip: If you think something might happen by clicking on it, click on it. You’ll be rewarded often.)
The only piece of ‘insider’ information you need to know in order to use Foundation Stats effectively is that it relies on two different sets of data to produce the charts, tables and graphs that you see. These two data sets correspond to the FOUNDATIONS tab and the GRANTS tab at the top of the page. If you click on the FOUNDATIONS tab, you’ll see that our statistics about foundations are based on summary-level data from nearly 82,000 US foundations. If you click on the GRANTS tab, you’ll see that our statistics about foundation grantmaking are based on nearly 150,000 grants awarded by 1,000 of the largest US foundations. These 1,000 foundations account for almost exactly half of all grant dollars awarded by US foundations each year. (We wish we could include every grant awarded by every foundation, but even the Foundation Center has capacity limits!)
We call this set of foundations the FC 1000. To the extent possible, we’ll strive to keep this set constant from year to year so that trends over time can be meaningfully generated. This addresses a past concern raised by some that the number and consistency of foundations in our grants data set varies too much from year to year. Going forward, it essentially will be the same 1,000 foundations in the set every year, with adjustments made from time to time as the field grows and changes, which it will. Generally speaking, the FC 1000 will provide a consistent barometer in the years ahead of the giving patterns of the largest foundations in the United States.
And the answer to the question I posed at the beginning of this post?
Go to data.foundationcenter.org and click on the FOUNDATIONS tab and see how quickly you can uncover the answer. Happy hunting!
Larry McGill is vice president for research at the Foundation Center. This article first appeared on the Foundation Center’s Philantopic website
The arts can easily be caricatured as a fluffy non-essential. Yet, at the Arts Alliance, the UK’s national body for arts in criminal justice, we know that the arts are uniquely powerful as a means of transforming lives. To convince others we have often needed objective evidence to make the case. Our new report, Re-imagining Futures, offers a compelling new source of qualitative evidence for practitioners, managers and policy-makers who use – or are thinking of using – arts in the field of criminal justice. It also highlights the value of rich qualitative data that is so important to many arts and voluntary-sector organizations trying to demonstrate the value of the vital work they do.
This research and approach is particularly significant in light of the current whole-scale reform in the criminal justice system and cuts across the art sectors. The Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, along with other government reform, which is opening up the market to new providers, may present opportunities for innovative arts organizations working with offenders to work in new ways, but it may also present a risk to small organizations as the focus shifts towards ‘re-offending’ outcomes linked to a Payment by Results (PbR) approach. Small arts organizations that work in the criminal justice system are therefore potentially at risk for a number of reasons:
While commissioners may recognize its value, reduced resources means making the case for arts interventions becomes even tougher.
So why does looking at ‘soft’ or ‘intermediate’ outcomes in relation to offenders matter?
Measuring soft or intermediate outcomes enables us to capture the steps towards desistance from crime or the process of rehabilitation. Desistance is the process of personal growth through which offenders become non-offenders. Researchers describe desistance as ‘a highly individualized process, experienced differently by different people and is very likely to involve an individual relapsing, before they stop offending altogether’ (see the 2011 report ‘Inspiring Change’ by Anderson, Colvin, McNeill, Nellis, Overy, Sparks and Tett). Re-offending data shows simply that an offender has or has not been caught committing a crime during a particular time period. It does not usually take into account the frequency or severity of the offending, and cannot say how likely the offender is to commit crimes in the future. Desistance research looks for change on a more profound and permanent level, in which an offender ultimately achieves a new identity – a selfhood free from crime.
While welcoming the government’s drive to commission evidence-based services it’s important that they don’t lose sight of the full picture. Through both statistical, qualitative and rich narrative research, we can fully understand a person’s journey away from crime and the complexities and nuances of interventions.
So how do we capture this impact?
The recent National Offender Management Services (NOMS) Commissioning Intentions Document (October 2013) acknowledges qualitative data collection methods. The Ministry of Justice has also recently published a series of papers exploring intermediate outcomes, which is extremely encouraging for the arts and voluntary sectors. This type of rich data along with re-offending data, (which is being currently opened up to VCSE organizations by the government via the data lab initiative) starts to provide an informed picture of the complex rehabilitation process, helping us to understand ‘what’ and ‘how’ interventions works with offenders to get results.
The next few years are going to be tough for small arts organizations delivering artistic and creative opportunities to offenders as the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms deliver unprecedented levels of change, but the arts have an important role to play in rehabilitating offenders to reintegrate successfully into society.
The Arts Alliance is now looking to commission the biggest ever study of arts with offenders. This will examine both social and cultural outcomes from a set of projects in different criminal justice settings. A community of arts and criminal justice practitioners will seek to raise quality and showcase the resulting arts products to the public – through innovative exhibitions and performances. Re-imagining Futures is a crucial first step towards this ambition.
Tim Robertson is Chair of the Arts Alliance and Chief Executive of the Koestler Trust
The second edition of the LH Forum for Positive Economy took place in Le Havre, France, from 25-27 September. It had over 4,000 enrolments, of which some 1,400 were from local students. This was a huge group of scholars, NGO managers and government officials gathered to exchange, reflect on and contribute points of view and their experiences on the concept of Positive Economy. The discussions among participants from 45 countries centred around their experiences and recent findings about the best ways to collaborate with social areas by using business, and the new business model proposed by Planet Finance.
There were some 18 themes discussed, some of it based on Harvard professor Michael Porter’s Creating Value and Conscious Capitalism by Wholefoods founder John Mackey. Roundtables were filled with social entrepreneurs, managers of big companies and finance professionals keen to talk about innovative projects.
Definitely France is ahead of Brazil in terms of what is being talked about in the social field. However, common ground, including skepticism surrounding NGOs and their ability to cope what the government in public policy lacks, can be found in every panel or conversation. The questioning about the current business model in capitalism suggested and proved that the entire world is under calculated threat. Discussions showed the public that the world needs to reflect on every act of governments, corporations, business and individuals.
The areas of social investment interest are also different. Looking from the standpoint of a European developed country compared to where I live – a Latin country still considered under development – brings to light quite different social investment themes to discuss. 80% of the social investments done by the 140 members of GIFE in Brazil are related to education. Even though recent growth rates reflect that a country may be better off if it is away from the coalition zone of the developed world, one can argue that opportunities that combine the need of the underdeveloped people and business potential are the ones to follow in the short term.
Brazil sees clear opportunities for entrepreneurs to invest in education, health, infrastructure and construction to create social impact. In Europe, conversations about water treatment, renewable energy and poor empowerment through professional inclusion dominate the glance to the future.
Labs are being created to help participants reflect on a central theme of the positive economy and hopefully conclusions will be shared with the public in the research that follows around the globe.
But some approaches involve common ground: impact investors or organizations that aim to find investors to help them to scale social business or a combination of business (in social funds) are still looking to the average philanthropist as one of their resources for funding. While some organizations are now signing contracts with corporations in order to implement products or services, others still tackle the pocket of deep interest in social change.
It comes as no surprise that Europe faces the same challenges we face in Brazil regarding impact investing. These include:
Currently around the globe we have only a few success stories and proven cases to look to for inspiration.
As a former trader in financial markets, I can only say that I’ve seen this kind of buzz before. It means that almost everyone is talking about the same thing, and the ones that are not feel they are missing something important. It means the subject is relevant across the board and if you do not participate, you are likely to be neglected. It means that everyone had better listen to the signs – signs that the wind is changing and we will soon face a new environment ahead.
Elaine Smith, Young Global Leader from the World Economic Forum, helps organizations in their development process, focusing on innovative approaches to social issues.
Semillas (Sociedad Mexicana Pro Derechos de la Mujer), the only women’s fund in Mexico, has a defined and unique philosophy of philanthropy in Mexico, which is best displayed by our network of individual donors. This network – the Women and Men Investing in Women’s Network (MIM Network, by its Spanish acronym) – was created in 2001 as a way for people who are interested in helping to create a more fair and equal Mexico to get involved and support the vital work that Semillas does. But the MIM Network does so much more than that: the philosophy behind our individual donor network embodies the backbone of Semillas’ mission.
The mission of Semillas (which means ‘seeds’ in Spanish) is to contribute to social change by mobilizing resources that will strengthen Mexican women and their organizations that work to promote and defend their human rights within a gender perspective. Our vision is for Mexico to have more organizations that promote and defend women’s human rights and that help women gain access to justice and diminish gender-related discrimination in their communities. One major aspect of Semillas’ ultimate goal is to contribute to the culture of philanthropy in Mexico, thus changing the social landscape. While there is an obvious focus on the women who receive our grants and work for change in their communities, we believe that strengthening our individual donor network and raising awareness of the importance of donating is also vital to making this cultural shift a reality.
The MIM Network encourages a relationship of equals between donors and grantee partners, combining their work, talent, resources and social leadership to achieve projects that transform their own lives and the lives of other women, families and communities. It builds a community of people who all wish to see women in Mexico fully exercising their rights. Semillas constitutes the third component of this alliance, acting as the bridge that brings these two groups together. In addition to transferring funds from the donors to the grantees so that the projects can be developed, our team also provides training and constant support. Semillas continually seeks to promote and facilitate new alliances and identify new opportunities for the grantee-partners.
While a major part of Semillas’ mission involves promoting a culture of philanthropy in Mexico, our work does not stop there. There is also a Semillas Network located in Chicago that has been growing stronger thanks to the enormous effort of a group of women led by Gwen Stern. In 2011, we held our first event in the United Kingdom, made possible by the generous support of Gabriela Gower, and we now have a Semillas Network in London. These international donors trust Semillas and believe in the work that we are doing. Their support helps Semillas to create social change in Mexico, and through their contributions they become a part of our community, even from across the world.
Semillas has developed a philanthropic program that encourages donors to take an active role in the fight for social change in Mexico and to share in the responsibility for what occurs in our society. By promoting social investment in Mexican women from a perspective that attempts to address the root causes of inequality, Semillas is advocating for change from the bottom up. We firmly believe that welfare alone does not transform society, and that in order for social change to become a reality it is necessary to foster a community of women and men who believe in this change and will work to bring it about. The MIM Network creates this community by connecting a wide variety of people, inside and outside of Mexico, who share a common goal of advancing women’s human rights.
Antonia Orr is former head of development at Semillas, a non-profit organization based in Mexico City that makes grants to organized women’s groups and women leaders with the common goal of improving women’s rights in Mexico. This article is part of a series posted by Mama Cash sharing the perspectives of the local and regional funds that are its grantee-partners.
Of the four partners in the Fund the Front Line campaign, we can modestly claim to be the least well known. To the uninformed, the reason for our inclusion would appear to need no explanation. The clue, you may say, is in the name, GlobalGiving UK. It is evident we are the postal service employed to deliver funds from A to B.
True but not the whole truth. And certainly not the exclusive reason why we were invited by the Stars Foundation to become involved in this project at an early stage.
Our expertise is in dealing with individuals and organizations from around the globe; organizations who hope to fund smaller projects that can so easily be overlooked within a global context, but that are, of course, still of huge consequence at the local level.
Much of our work splits between vetting people and organizations and training them. On the one hand, we have to be sure of the integrity of anyone applying to be listed on our project development site. On the other, we recognise many will need support in learning how to raise funds for themselves and continually improving their work to make the biggest impact.
From its inception, GlobalGiving understood the importance of gaining the active involvement of the protagonists in the fundraising process as well as the necessity of a broad donor base. The broader the base the more secure and sustainable the project. Ultimately, a broad donor base helps keep the ownership and the responsibility for the outcome of a project with those at the sharp end. In brief, it empowers those who do the work.
With these tenets guiding us, we have a challenge, called the Gateway Challenge, which takes place on a regular basis. It is open to everyone and anyone who wants to post their project on our site. But to be able to do that, they must first demonstrate their ability to build a long-term, sustainable donor base by raising £2,000 from 50 individual donors within one month. In the lead up we help those participating prepare for the challenge with the necessary training to help them with their fundraising, such as how to identify and map networks, exploit social media, and so on. (Needless to say, those who do not make it first time are always welcome to try again.)
To return to the Fund the Front Line, when the idea was first mooted, we strongly urged it should not be just a straightforward fund-donating exercise, but should be a means to help the selected organizations become more self-reliant and more sustainable for the longer term. As a result it was decided the theme for the promotion should be ‘Double the Donation’. Whatever you raise, we’ll match.
Now, if we are to be fair to all those involved, the success of Fund the Front Line should not be measured purely in immediate fiscal terms. The major benefits – what Muna Wehbe writes of as ‘the advantages that come from supporting local organizations more directly’ – in other words, self-determination and independence of action – can only be reasonably judged in the months to come.
And, pound for matched pound, we bet it will be judged a great success.
Eleanor Harrison is CEO of GlobalGiving UK. David O’Connor Thompson works as a volunteer for GlobalGiving UK.
A £9 billion investment made for a triumphant Olympics last year. Yet how much did it really touch the poorest in the Olympic boroughs?
A year or so on from the Olympics, and I’m visiting the charity Step Forward Tower Hamlets along with BP, one of the Olympic sponsors. The charity’s chief executive, Jennifer Fear, tells us that the young people coming in to use their counselling services definitely felt touched by the Olympics. Part of this was down to the fact that in the year leading up to it they saw business sponsors from adidas working directly with the charity, helping it grow and develop.
The investment made in Step Forward was of the sponsors’ skills not money and it had a significant impact. They weren’t the only charity to benefit: teams of four senior business people, the top talent from the Olympic sponsors, worked with six charities to coach them in business skills.
The results from this investment of human capital?
Everything from putting a full cost recovery model in place to stabilizing the finances of a local charity working with children at risk; from nationwide plans to bring sport to the most disadvantaged communities to a growth in the services offered to women facing domestic violence in Newham. Lasting legacies from volunteering skills, thanks to the Olympics.
At Pilotlight, we firmly believe in the power of human investment. The Olympics gave us the chance to ask the sponsors to invest their brightest and best talent, working with brilliant local charities that needed help getting to the next level. Now we are seizing the same opportunity with the Commonwealth Games. Leaders from social enterprises across Scotland, including the East End of Glasgow, are being brought together with talented sponsor teams. It’s all being backed by the Scottish Government and BIG (Big Lottery Fund) who see the potential for spreading the legacy of the Commonwealth Games throughout Scotland.
And there is a need for this expertise among the social enterprise community. Diane Cameron, the Sports Network Coordinator at SENSCOT, says that while there are about 3,000 social enterprises flourishing across Scotland, one of the biggest challenges for the sports sector is a lack of expertise in key business disciplines. She wants to see organizations empowered to shift a gear towards robust long-term sustainability.
Like any business taking stock and planning for growth, charity and social enterprise leaders often find it useful to bring in outside expertise and have a fresh perspective. Someone to help them see what is working and what is not. They have questions about how to grow strategically, the need to think through key aspects such as cash flow, developing new services, engaging a wider community, and for some taking their services national. And the effects of combined brain power are dramatic: a 50% growth in turnover and a doubling of people helped as an average. What is interesting for the much talked about legacy of both the Olympics and Commonwealth Games is that this growth does not drop off but continues.
Also, social enterprises and charities that are coached are then able to spread their knowledge and experience to others in the sector. So there is a ripple effect. The projects will also be evaluated over the next three years so that there will be real evidence on the impact.
Colin Temple, chief executive of Scottish retailer Schuh, said: ‘This is about experienced business people giving something back. Levering management and business skills within the charity sector can leave a lasting legacy for organizations facing challenging economic times.’
What is interesting is that the value of the investment is two way. David Pelham of Lloyds TSB said of his engagement with the charity Access Sport that ‘the benefits are personal, corporate and local’. As well as making a difference to the charity, three-quarters of business people we surveyed say they appreciate the work of the voluntary sector more after working with them in this way – creating an even greater impact.
And this skills investment is welcomed by more and more companies as it makes good business sense: as well as getting them closer to the community they also see their senior talent challenged and inspired. In a recent survey of Pilotlight members we found that 88% go back to their workplace with improved skills.
So to me, this is virtuous capital. The gift that keeps giving to all.
Fiona Halton is chief executive of Pilotlight.
Dhananjayan (Danny) Sriskandarajah took up the post of Secretary General of CIVICUS in January. What does he think is most important about CIVICUS? What areas of work would he like to see more developed? Where will he be putting less emphasis in future? In the Alliance November interview, he talks to Caroline Hartnell about the first nine months in the job.
For Sriskandarajah, the key value he associates with CIVICUS is solidarity. ‘CIVICUS provides solidarity across civil society around the world. We’re there to share best practice, invest in progressive causes, strengthen civil society – to be there for each other across the world.’
His overarching philosophy, he explains, is to ‘consolidate and experiment’: to consolidate what CIVICUS does well but then to experiment and come up with new ideas that will themselves build momentum and garner support. He would like to see the organization engage better with new social movements and citizen movements around the world – while cautioning against the view that Facebook and a Twitter campaign will bring about social justice and lasting change.
Has CIVICUS got an identity problem? Whereas it’s usually easy to see what national organizations do, global organizations often have an identity problem – people don’t know exactly what they do or what their role is, and this is especially true of CIVICUS, which focuses on civil society broadly. Sriskandarajah admits this is an issue for CIVICUS. ‘I think the nature of civil society, and its wonderful diversity, provides a huge challenge for us. We believe we’re there to fight for civic space everywhere in the world and we hope that our activities will benefit civil society actors everywhere. But few of them would have any idea of what CIVICUS is.
‘Given the changes around new social movements and new or recent popular uprisings,’ he goes on, ‘we have a second challenge: that organized civil society itself is being seen as less relevant these days. When I started, I asked colleagues who in Tahrir Square in 2011 would have thought of CIVICUS while they were mobilizing for an unprecedented civil uprising. The ways in which citizens are organizing and mobilizing these days are changing, and that’s a challenge for us.’
Click here to read more.
من الفجر حتى الغسق، قطعوا الطريق بين المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة النظام وتلك التي يسيطر عليها الثوار – مجموعات صغيرة من الرجال يرتدون الجلابيب وسيدات يرتدين أزياء زاهية، وأطفال في سلال على ظهور أمهاتهم. حملوا جراكن المياه التي أصبحت خاوية الآن، وعددا من الماعز في سن صغيرة جدا لا تستطيع معها السير وأواني وأسلحة – من سيوف تعود إلى القرن الـ19 إلى قاذفات قنابل يدوية، أحيانا كليهما على كتف واحد. ووسط المدنيين، سار جنود من الثوار كانوا موجودين هناك لحمايتهم من ميليشيات النظام. كان الجميع قد سار لمدة أربعة أيام نظرا لأن قراهم في تلال الإنجسنا محاطة بقوات النظام. ومن حين لآخر، تأتي سيارة للثوار لالتقاط الشاردين ونقلهم إلى نقطة الاستراحة التالية. غير أنه جرى ترك الأكثر ضعفا والأكبر سنا والمكفوفين، وهؤلاء المصابين بمرض عضال لا يمكن أن يتعافوا منه.
October was a good month for conferences. The Global Impact Investors Network came to London – 350 people from 35 countries. The potential of releasing flows from global pools of investment to meet the deep social needs we experience globally is attractive.
Does it translate to reality? Can investors get financial returns from impact investing? Sometimes, possibly. Do they? Occasionally. Is there much evidence? Outside of the US, with decades of programme-related investment experience, and international microfinance, emerging evidence. Generally, there are still track records to be built to evidence wider impact investing. Sir Ronald Cohen, a key figure in the social investment world, often draws the parallel with the early days of venture capital, which he is a pioneer of. It took decades to grow that industry in the UK. He is positive we can do the same for impact investing. He may well be right. There is progress, but even rapid growth from a small base, can feel slow at times, relative to the scale of need.
The Association of Charitable Foundations met earlier that week. ACF launched their research briefing Charitable trusts and foundations’ engagement in the social investment market, by Nikki Jeffries and Richard Jenkins. Surveying 80 UK foundations, they found £100 million committed to impact investing in the UK, with £50 million drawn and invested. While foundations are small players next to the social banks, they are significant players in providing risk money – where there is a risk of loss of capital. Most investors quite naturally shy away from this. Foundations, seeing the ability to achieve a social outcome that is worth the risk, are more willing.
I take a few key messages from these events. There are large pools of money out there, seeking a place to get a return from. They may well be able to come our way but the pipes and channels from where the conventional market is to where social need is at are not laid. It feels something like standing at the bottom of the Three Gorges Dam with a teacup in one hand, while someone at the top of the dam opens up a sluice gate to fill the cup with water. Will it be a trickle that evaporates before it reaches the bottom of the dam, or an overwhelming gush that smashes the cup?
Danyal Sattar is social investment manager at Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.