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