Reflecting on the Social Finance Landscape in 2011

Reflecting on the Social Finance Landscape in 2011

‘All hands on deck’ needed for success in Canada, says task force chair

TORONTO - Ilse Treurnicht provided an update and overview of social finance in Canada during the past year at the Dec. 13 opening of the Social Finance Forum hosted by the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing.

Ilse Treurnicht
Photo credit: SiG @ MaRS

A year ago, the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance released its report and seven recommendations to mobilize private capital for public good. The recommendations aim to mobilize new sources of capital, develop an enabling tax and regulatory environment, and create an investment pipeline.

Treurnicht, CEO MaRS Discovery District and Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, said the task force’s major goal was to raise awareness of the need for the emerging social finance field and start a national conversation on what it could mean for Canada.  

“It’s a very interesting time for social finance but it’s messy,” said Treurnicht.

In the “old days” businesses made profit and investors in the business made money when the business did well, with government and nonprofits taking care of doing good, she said.

“Now the boundaries of this neatly bimodal world are blurring because governments everywhere are facing severe fiscal constraint, and not-for-profits and social businesses are generating revenue to augment their stagnant or in some cases declining rent and donation revenue.

“We also have a whole new breed of social entrepreneurs who want to live their values at work and a new breed of investors who are looking to be more involved and make a bigger difference with how they place their money or do their philanthropy,” said Treurnicht.

From a macro perspective, Treurnicht said the economic, social and environmental imperatives to move social finance work forward are “as compelling as ever.”

Treurnicht said new thinking and ways of doing business is essential in all sectors, with business as usual not providing the path that is needed.

For Canada to be successful “we need all hands on deck,” she said, noting there is a need to capitalize and mobilize the talents of citizens.

Social enterprises broadly defined are “becoming a very critically important part of that innovation economy,” she said, pointing to their role in developing new approaches to tackle 21st century challenges.

At the same time, many social enterprises are increasingly relying on private sector investment to expand.

Canada has the opportunity to be at the forefront of impact investing developments globally, she said, noting on the financial side the world is watching Canada for its steady hand in a time of global financial instability.

“The social finance advancements in Canada are taking place against the backdrop of accelerating momentum internationally and as always, we have a choice: we can watch or we can participate,” said Treurnicht.

The 400 participants received a task force update report entitled Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good: Measuring Progress During Year One.

Related Story:
Canadian Task Force on Social Finance: A Year Later

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

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