Friday, February 27, 2015

Social Entrepreneurship: Starts with Intent, Followed by Action, Delivers Impact

By Javier.Saade, SBA Official


PhotoAs yet another massive blizzard hit New England on Valentines Day, the jointly hosted Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School gathering focused on social entrepreneurship and impact investing took place.  
The dialogue was inspiring and the energy palpable amongst the 500+ people in attendance.  The Social Enterprise Conference, now in its 16th year, brings together academics, investors, public sector leaders, private sector entrepreneurs, non profit practitioners, and students passionate about all aspects of social enterprise - and this includes impact investing.
This year the theme of last Saturday was the collective opportunity "to reflect on three critical stages of social enterprise: Intent. Action. Impact."
The conference had keynote speakers, including Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka and the acknowledged father of social entrepreneurship globally - as well as topical panels, problem solving labs, and opportunities for interactive discussions and good debates.  One of the aspects of this vibrant and growing sector is the combination of social change with measurable intention married to implementation strategies that take into account the delivery of impact on society as a performance-driven outcome.
That sounds like a mouthful, but the concept is grounded in practice. 
That practice rewards successfully seeding new paths and embracing the fluidity which accompanies achieving positive societal change through commercial means, like return on investment.  Heady stuff, but here is the thing, it's happening, it's real and it's no longer a secret - but it's far from mainstream.
This leads me to the panel in which I was honored to participate in was entitled "Making Impact Investing Mainstream" and it included folks from Deutsche Bank, FB Heron Foundation, Tau Investment Management and was moderated by the founder of DBL Investments.  The discussion was lively and the topics very relevant to the recent policy changes we made to the SBIC Impact Investment Fund, as well as the growth experienced - both of which are summarized here: http://1.usa.gov/1y3DzZb.
As we discussed in the panel, the reasons for the relatively slow deployment of impact investing strategies at the institutional level are varied and complex, but one of the main reasons, is that the adoption of standards to measure intentional social impact has been spotty.  The SBA and hence, the Federal government, supports the adoption of standards to further enable more institutional private capital flow to the small business community.
The vast majority of the discussion in and the questions we got from the audience were similar to the items discussed at the White House roundtable on Impact Investing last summer.  The panelists, and in fact all aspects of the conference and leaders in the space align with the recommendations of the US National Advisory Board on Impact Investing as a way to usher impact investment to more wide acceptance and participation. 
At the SBA, and the Federal government, we are putting our shoulder behind that exact thing, helping lay the groundwork and pathway for social entrepreneurship and impact investing into the mainstream.  Not a silver bullet, as one of my fellow panelists commented, but an amazing tool that is now more prevalent and in the mix.
Exciting stuff for exponentially complex and awesomely promising times!

1 comment:

Arshad Amin said...

Interesting and very informative article but like "Theory of Planned Behavior" by Iceky Ajzen suggests, to have a specific type of "Intent" you need to have two things prior to it.

1. Others Expectations
2. Attitude

These two things are essential for having "Intent".


I believe the society in general doesn't see social enterprise as the most promising, lucrative way to make the world a better place through business.

This is evident from the article itself, that just around 500 plus people took part in the dialogue!!!

So clearly there is lack of point one that "People Expectations" that is essential for forming "Intent" of any kind.

Then along with that there is also lack of "attitude", for most people its money or having three times meal or just to survive (bottom of the pyramid world population) one more day, for them idea of"SOCIAL ENTERPRISE" is just a luxury that can be afforded by top of the pyramid, middle upper class, upper lower class, upper middle class, upper upper class, the elite types...

Thus I believe ideas as such will have a cult following unless something is done to improve the two key elements (attitude, others expectations) that forms intent.

Now I wonder.. I would like to ask Javier Sadde, if there was anything related to these things in the dialogue and what can we expect in future...

Regards!

Arshad

Marketing, Small Business Consultant at http://www.easymarketinga2z.com/