I first got to know Sir Ronald Cohen through his excellent work in economic development between Israel and the Palestinian Territories when I lived and worked in the West Bank. We spoke together on the topic at his alma mater, Harvard Business School, during a conference on the “Business of Peace".

I didn’t realize at the time how deeply he was involved in the evolution of social finance in the UK, through his London-based investment firm Bridges Ventures, and policy work that has led to the world’s first social investment bank: Big Society Capital.

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Now, Cohen is one of the leading champions who leads credibility to the potential of impact investing becoming a serious concept in the evolving world of finance. He went to work for Apax Partners in London after finishing at HBS, and watched venture capital grow from nothing in the UK. He cites parallels between that evolution and what he sees happening now in impact investing, or ‘social finance,’ as he is apt to call it.

Just as the formation of the venture capital industry ushered a new approach and mindset toward funding innovation within the private sector, impact investment has started to bring opportunities to harness entrepreneurship and capital markets to drive social improvement. This in time will bring much needed change to the social sector.
— Sir Ronald Cohen

Read more from the horse’s mouth in this HBR post by Cohen. Or watch him tell the story live to McKinsey’s former MD, Ian Davis.