The Spaces In Between – The Back Story of the Task Force on Social Finance – an illustration of Solution Based Advocacy (46)

It took a million steps and thousands of relationships to launch the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance.  Here are a few of those stories. I welcome your contributions, additions, amplifications.  Let's record our history.

Eight years ago Tim Brodhead and the Board of the JW McConnell Family Foundation took perhaps the biggest risk of this foundation's successful risk taking record.  Not content with being smart, savvy, intuitive backers of social and environmental projects, they committed to helping create an enabling infrastructure for continuous social innovation in Canada.  They launched Social Innovation Generation with a five year investment. 

The corollary of social innovation is an innovative use of our financial resources to achieve social objectives.  I write risk with advisement.  Tim, his team and the McConnell Board knew what they were doing even if they didn't know exactly where it would lead them.  It was a pleasure to sit beside Lyn Baptist, Chair of the McConnell Foundation Board at the November 30th launch as we watched Tim and the foundation's support bear fruit.  To read more about Tim's perspective on social innovation click here for his article, On Not Letting a Good Crisis Go to Waste , and my previous post about him.

Gordon Hogg, MLA ( Member Legislative Assembly), former Cabinet Minister and now Parliamentary Secretary on Social Enterprise for the British Columbia Minister of Finance.  Gord is one of the few Canadian politicians to speak in the Legislature about the importance of social enterprise.  He has been the political driving force behind the BC Government's interest in Social Impact Bonds, support for non profits to become social enterprises and the establishment of a Social Innovation Forum.  Many of the Task Force recommendations echo the work he is urging along in British Columbia.  Read the BC Government's and Parliamentary Secretary Hogg's response to the Task Force here.

Youthful energy, buzz, juice.  Young people oozing with talent and big ideas and an intolerance for being pigeon holed in one sector because they want to change the world.  People like Karim Harji co-founder of social,  Every event over the past five years with the marquee social enterprise draws our youngest, and most capable.  Karim's website, social is the Canadian platform for concepts, ideas, events, initiatives, commentary and insight leading up to and following from the Task Force's recommendations.

Vancity Credit Union and their Senior VP at the time, George Scott who gave a grant to Tim Draimin and I to establish the national Roundtable on Social Finance.  The route to the Social Finance Task Force is rather direct since Tim Draimin is now CEO of Social Innovation Generation and the driving force behind the Task Force.  The Task Force report is replete with Tim's considerable knowledge and passion.  In many ways all social finance roads emanate from and circle back to Vancity, its Board, CEO Tamara Vrooman (also a member of the Task Force), and her senior VP David Berge.   Getting Vancity's model of investing for public benefit into the Canadian water supply should be our collective goal for all financial institutions.

Quebec's social economy which is ten years mature and what the rest of Canada aspires to.  Led by Nancy Neamtam another member of the Task force and CEO of the Chantier de l’economie sociale (Task Force on the Social Economy) they have levered more than $6 Billion in social investments, employing 120,000 representing 4% of Quebec's GNP.  We have a world class resource on social finance in our midst.

Arthur Wood, extraordinary thinker about how to leverage the world's financial resources (all of them; Arthur thinks big!) to achieve substantial social and environmental impact.  Arthur is also the inventor of the Social Impact Bond .  Arthur, during and after his Senior VP, Social Finance stint at Ashoka,  provided major advice to our original roundtable on social finance, to various Canadian governments and to Causeway and SiG as they nurtured social finance into existence.

Ilse Treurnicht and Allyson Hewitt. Ilse embraced the opportunity to add a social venture/social innovation stream to the MaRs Discovery District's goal to commercialize inventions emanating from Toronto's hospitals and universities.  She hired Allyson and together they have made MaRS an epicentre for social entrepreneurs.  Along the way Ilse added Chair of the Task Force to her overflowing commitments and Allyson joined Tim Draimin to do the indispensable behind the scenes work.

A number of international pioneers provided advice, encouragement and vision for what a social finance infrastructure could look like in Canada.  These included people like Geoff Mulgan (Young Foundation) and Ronald Cohen (Social Fiance UK) from the UK and Jed Emerson (blended value), Judith Rodin (Rockefeller Foundation) and Katherine Fulton (Monitor Group) from the US.  To view a short video of these individuals reflecting on the Task Force recommendations click here .

To read a list of those who assisted with the Task force report, people like Liz Mulholland, Andrew Wharton, Tessa Hebb, Michael Lewkowitz and the SiG team (Robin Cory, Adam Jagelewsky, Joanna Reynolds and Geraldine Cahill) read the front cover and back pages of Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good.

These steps, these people and so many more occupy the 'spaces in between' the space of relationships, of building trust, of creativity.  Without these the Task Force recommendations would not have life, energy or destiny.

NOTE: Here are links to Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good and to the coverage and feedback since its launch.

And a special tip of the hat to Ted Jackson, TB and TD for a sunny summer day cloistered in a dark airport hotel room imagining a social finance agenda for Canada.

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