It was a gathering of brilliant, passionate, humble, curious, and brave hearts and minds at the final day of the 2014 conference on Social Impact. The day consisted of talks, panel discussions, and breakout sessions on a range of social impact topics, specifically scaling impact. Here are a few highlights from the day. The keynote speaker for the day was Antony Bugg-Levine, the CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund. He approached the issue of scaling impact from the financial sustainability standpoint and provided a high level framework for understanding what it takes non-profits to survive and scale. Furthermore, he provided insights on the reasons he believed funders and non-profits sometimes failed and provided a formula for scaling impact sustainably.

Repeatable and reliable income    >   1                                                                                                                       Ongoing operating costs

+ Ability to fund periodic investment in adaptation and growth

He categorized the capital required by nonprofits into five categories, namely:

  1. Change capital
  2. Working capital
  3. Recovery capital
  4. Risk and operational capital
  5. Endowments

The panel discussion and breakout session that followed was moderated by Paul L. Carttar from The Bridgespan Group and had Amy Celep from Community Wealth Partners, Tim Fergusen from Next Street, Craig Reigel from Nonprofit Finance Fund, and Dannielle Campos from Bank of America Foundation as panelists. Non-profits were encouraged to have clear focus and clarity, find value in their assets, and spend time on designing smart experiments and not research alone. Funders were encouraged to understand their motivations, stay focused on who to support, and use suitable tools and capital.

The breakout session I attended was moderated by Kevin Lynch, President and CEO of Social Enterprise Alliance. Panelists: Dannielle Campos from Bank of America Foundation, Andrew Gatewood from Kresge Foundation, and Carla Javits from REDF. Here are few of the highlights from the discussion.

Issues

  • Vulnerable and dis-advantaged population face many barriers in finding a job
  • Existing system is not inclusive and does not help to break the cycle of poverty
  • Fragmented social enterprise sector
  • Capital raising and the social enterprise structure/model inefficiencies
Conclusions

  • Grant making and investing is expanding, evolving and becoming more effective.
  • Evaluation of social outcomes, evidence based solutions, metrics are gaining importance
  • Social enterprises are focusing on training and capacity building and providing a pathway
  • Social enterprises and various other stakeholders should create a strong network and ecosystem

The second half of the day began with a networking lunch and included presentations by Silda Wall Spitzer at New World Capital, Kirsten Hill at Merill Lynch, and Gordon Berlin at MDRC. Conversations centered on impact investing, social impact bonds, and evaluation and measurement of outcomes.  Breakout sessions that followed on Policy and Payment System Reform, Private Sector Partnerships, and Double Bottom Line: Investing at Scale continued to engage attendees and spurred debate and discussions.

Symposium Day 2 (2)The fervor and commitment towards scaling social impact and the camaraderie present in the social impact community was quite evident as I heard speakers, panelists, and attendees speak about their work and how they approached social impact and scaling. This fervor and commitment was further amplified as the two final speakers graced the stage for the closing plenary. Isiah Thomas and Jeffrey C. Walker shared their life stories, experiences, their work in the social sector and how they used sports and music to bring about social change.  They reminded us why we were there and what we could do to make an impact. They reminded us that it was necessary to use both our hearts and minds, collaborate, and serve our communities in the best possible way.

- Andrea D'Souza