Learnings from SOCAP12 and the Social Impact Movement
By: Julie Vennewitz-Pierce
Two years ago, Lisa Hall, President & CEO of the Calvert Foundation stood in front of a room of investors, funders, and accelerators of social impact, and quoted a well-known South African poem stating “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Two years later, at this month’s Social Capital Market’s annual conference, SOCAP12, Lisa stood on this same stage for a second time and said with incredible certainty “we have arrived.”
I was honored to attend SOCAP this year and thrilled to be in the room as part of a group dedicated to increasing the flow of capital to social good. I’m pleased to report that the room was packed with nearly 2,000 attendees, each of whom were excited to take part in the conversation. I attended the Skoll World Forum in 2009 and heard Jeff Skoll, eBay’s first president, exclaim that “social entrepreneurship has gone from being a new idea to being a movement,” It’s exciting to see that just three years later investing in social entrepreneurs is now a movement as well.
This movement has resulted in some incredible growth – growth in the number of investors, researchers, civic leaders, students and fund managers who together comprise the ecosystem of support for social entrepreneurs; growth in the number of partnerships forged and the amount of resources and capital mobilized for good; and growth in the innovative change that is possible, moving forward.
While the support network for social innovation has grown exponentially, so too has the number of innovators, within the space. I heard from many organizations in attendance that they have each received a striking number of applications from social entrepreneurs, looking for the assistance necessary to make a broader impact, and the number of these applications is increasing at a rapid rate, with each year.
We experienced this ourselves, last year, with our Powering Economic Opportunity: Create a World That Works competition which received a record-breaking number of entries during our worldwide search for innovative job creation solutions. In fact, we had nearly 900 talented applicants apply to be considered as one of only five winners in our competition to find innovative solutions to the issue of global unemployment and underemployment.
In addition to the apparent growth of this movement, a couple of major themes from the SOCAP12 conference, communicated various times from speakers, panelists, and attendees included the necessity of ‘risks’ and ‘tools’, for success in the world of social entrepreneurship.
First, a handful of speakers indicated that in order to get potential or existing social entrepreneurs what they need to be impactful, ‘risk’ should be expected and not considered as a major deterrent. Not every investment will necessarily be a success or provide a return, but risks must be taken by social investors if we hope to make any headway in solving long-standing and complex problems.
Secondly, many experts at the conference focused on the need for the appropriate tailored ‘tools’ to properly address each problem, in the field. This got me thinking of eBay’s role as a tool to drive entrepreneurship by connecting buyers and sellers in an accessible and efficient marketplace. Since its inception, eBay has provided many entrepreneurs with the tools necessary to be successful and has generated income for millions of people, around the world.
Attending SOCAP12, also gave me the opportunity to touch base with some of the social entrepreneurs and organizations working in this area. We are proud to be a part of the incredible support network for social entrepreneurs at large through both our work at the core of eBay’s business as well as our unique approach through The Opportunity Project, to generate employment, provide access to markets, and generally give individuals the ability to be self-sufficient.
The social entrepreneurs capable of remarkable impact have indeed ‘arrived’ and we hope you’ll follow our progress as we continue to explore partnerships within this community and provide the support needed to drive ongoing social impact