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Jan 15, 2016

What We Need to Do to be a Social Impact City

I often refer back to the Case Foundation’s “Short Guide to Impact Investing.”  The terms social enterprise and impact investing remain vague to many people and, indeed, the former is becoming overused and overapplied, reducing its value.  But the Case Foundation’s Guide remains a good grounding and highly accessible.

I particularly like their brief summary of the problems we must confront if we are to become a social impact city:

  1. Create a robust pipeline of investable deals.
  2. Produce better data on business and fund performance.
  3. Produce actionable research on impacts and outcomes.
  4. Expand opportunities for exits and the return of capital.

Here is what we plan to do on these fronts.  I welcome your thoughts, reactions, and help.  We need many players and many efforts to transform our community.

  1. At the Center we are launching an 8-month immersion program for up to six nonprofits to develop a social enterprise idea from concept to launch.  Applications just closed and we shall be selecting the participants in the next few weeks.  SEA Change of Cleveland plans to launch a 12-week accelerator in May to bring more social enterprise ideas to a launch-able state.  With these two efforts, we hope Central Ohio will have a beginning pipeline of investable deals.
  2. The Center launched its online directory of Central Ohio social enterprises last August.  We are working with social enterprises on that list to produce standardized profiles that will result in an initial database of economic and social impact quantitative information.  This is an ambitious project.  If you want to help us, let us know.  We have finished and uploaded 24 profiles  which are highlighted in the directory, but that is only one quarter of the way!
  3. The first step in research on impact is to get good measures for enough social enterprises that we will have sufficient data to do some reporting and analysis.  This Spring we will add a new workshop on Measuring Social Impact, an area in which even nonprofits struggle.  We are excited to be working with Measure Resources Company, LLC to offer this workshop.  Check in with our workshop schedule to see when this workshop will be offered.  Using  the Center’s profiles of social enterprises for the data, we hope to be able to produce actionable research by 2017.
  4. Too many of our local social enterprises are bootstrapped and short on growth capital.  Before we can talk about exits, we need more programs to provide capital that can bring a social enterprise to the stage of development when they can consider returning their investors’ capital.  If you are interested in learning about ways to invest in social enterprises, contact us about the CINCO Fund, the Columbus Foundation about its Fund for Financial Innovation, or the Tony Wells Foundation about its executive education course on social impact investing.  We particularly challenge women who are qualified as accredited investors to  learn how being  angel investors in social enterprise start-ups can be an effective demonstration of  civic leadership.

If you want to keep abreast of the enormous energy and activity in social enterprise in Central Ohio, be sure to visit, share, and like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter, both of which will provide  you a feast of social enterprise activities.

Get involved in making Central Ohio a social impact city!

Allen Proctor, President & CEO

Center for Social Enterprise Development