Social Finance Task Force Aims to be Catalyst for New Initiatives

Social Finance Task Force Aims to be Catalyst for New Initiatives

Bill Young says government deficits highlight a need to find solutions to structural social problems

Members of a recently launched Task Force on Social Finance say they hope to initiate greater development of a sector that can solve social and environmental challenges using private capital and market solutions.

The independent 10-member task force was announced Oct. 20 and includes such influential members as former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin, Vancity Credit Union CEO Tamara Vrooman and CEO of MaRS Discovery District Ilse Treurnicht.

With many governments facing mounting deficits the need to look for innovative solutions to structural social problems is gaining greater recognition, says Bill Young, president of Social Capital Partners, and a task-force member.

He says the task force main objective is to act as “a catalyst” for the launch of new initiatives that encourage development of the Canadian social finance sector.

This is similar to the experience of the United Kingdom, he says, where a Social Investment Task Force launched more than a decade ago has led to the creation of innovative tools including a Social Impact Bond.

“It just made sense to try and think about doing the same thing in Canada while keeping an eye on the Canadian context,” Young tells Axiom News.

Some of the areas the task force will explore are unlocking new sources of capital, developing supportive infrastructure and ensuring the growth of entrepreneurial ventures with social or environmental impact.

Young says through the task force, he hopes to see the sector gain greater recognition from the government, who can create an enabling environment, and the mainstream financial press, in order to encourage people to think from a financial and social perspective.

“Traditionally we have regulated this world by dividing it into non-profit and for-profit and not thinking that those worlds merge,” says Young.

The need for government to create regulation that enhances the social enterprise and finance sector is a point former prime minister Martin has also been advocating for some time.

In a press release announcing the new task force, Martin said Canada has had “tremendous success unleashing business to create wealth” and has learned that entrepreneurship is an unbeatable force.

The government needs to do the same for social entrepreneurs by providing them with the wherewithal to succeed, he adds.

The Task Force will be releasing its report and recommendations Nov. 30 at MaRs, during an evening reception that runs from 5:30-7:30 p.m. 

This is followed by a Social Finance Symposium Dec. 1, led by Phillips Hager and North, the Philanthropic Foundations Canada, and Social Innovation Generation. Organizers say the recommendations will provide a robust framework for discussion, including new funding models for the charitable sector.  

Young says the task force is still exploring how to ensure momentum continues after the release of its report, which could a decision to keep the task force together or recommending the development of a new institution to follow up on the recommendations, keeping them “front and centre.”

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Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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