Not sure why some non profit leaders, advocates and academics dismiss the growing social finance developments so readily and without serious consideration. This lack of curiosity is irresponsible.

We can learn a lot from successful social, economic and environmental justice movements.  They give us clues, tips and inspiration about tactics and strategies we can adopt.

One such phenomenon is the deliberate harnessing of market forces and discipline to solve our social and environmental challenges.  This blend of money and justice advocacy is generally called social finance.  Others prefer the terms of community finance or community investment. Regardless of terminology, think of it as a hybrid vehicle utilizing the traditional sources of non profit/civil sector revenue alternating with traditional market sources of capital.  

I like social finance because it:

  • points the way to new and promising sources of capital at a time when the social sector is struggling to finance its efforts
  • teaches us how to mobilize the resources we already have: properties; connections and financial assets of our supporters; purchasing power, investments, cash flow…
  • attracts new dollars to invest in recruiting and to keep the most talented staff and acquiring the best technology
  • leverages existing government dollars to finance our innovative solutions to the root causes of our social challenges
  • diversifies our funding base
  • provides us with flexible dollars to use as we see fit
  • attracts new allies and collaborators
  • prepares us for future financial crises.

Psychologically, social finance and social enterprise has allowed PLAN and other organizations I am associated with to shift from victim thinking to agent thinking; from a scarcity mindset to one of abundance. It has helped us to realize our economic power and to place it at the service of social and economic justice.

Very thoughtful, passionate, intense and yes, intelligent advocates, leaders, academics and crusaders have either embraced social finance or are carefully exploring it.  Surely our memberships and constituencies deserve the best – the best practice, the best and most careful use of our resources, the best research and exploration, the best of our curiosity and consideration.

At the very least they deserve an open mind.

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