I am launching a new regular interview series on the Social Velocity blog that will feature discussions with the leading thinkers and doers in the social innovation space. I will talk with philanthropists, social investors, social entrepreneurs (from the nonprofit and for-profit side) and others leading the way in this new space. What they all have in common is that they are doing really exciting, interesting, provocative, challenging things that are pushing the social innovation movement forward. We will discuss what they are contributing to the space, what excites them, what concerns them, what we should be thinking about, and what’s next.
Our inaugural interview is with Kevin Jones. Kevin is a visionary in the social investing and social entrepreneurship arenas having launched two important entities in the field. He co-founded both Good Capital, one of the first venture capital funds that invests in social enterprises, and the Social Capital Markets Conference (SoCap) which marks its third year with the upcoming October event. He is also part of the team launching the first US node of The Hub, a network of more than a dozen work spaces for social entrepreneurs in cities across the world from Cairo to London.
Nell: This is the third year of the Social Capital Markets conference. You have said that the first year defined the social enterprise landscape and the second year validated the space, so what are you hoping that this year accomplishes?
Kevin: We want to find out what the next thing is that this community, this movement, this asset class should do, the next big obstacles to overcome, the place where we could put our efforts to make the biggest difference. Now that people are taking us seriously there is a need to understand how we fit into the landscape and how impact investing can leverage its, uh, impact by partnering with nonprofits, foundations and public sources of funding.
Nell: There are an increasing number of conferences in the social innovation/social entrepreneurship space. How is SoCap different? What is the value add of this conference?
Kevin: SoCap brings together more people from a broader perspective and approach to the intersection of money and meaning than any other conference. It’s the place your most likely to run into people you don’t know but should know. Cross pollination and expanding the dialogue while keeping the conversation focused on making a difference in an increasingly intelligent, and increasingly collaborative way is what SoCap10 is about.
Nell: It’s true that SoCap brings together an amazing group of thought leaders, social entrepreneurs and social investors for 3 days in San Francisco, but what happens after the conference ends? What changes to the social enterprise/social investing space have you seen as a result of the past two SoCaps?
Kevin: I’ve seen startups get funding. I’ve seen people from the corporate world get jobs in social enterprise, I’ve seen funds raise multiple millions to achieve scalable social impact. I’ve seen deep and lasting partnerships form between people making a difference. I’ve seen the market fragment and pieces of SoCap pop up in either regional approaches or specific vertical markets, from community activists to nonprofit funders, to technology conferences about money. The market at the intersection of money and meaning is a meme, an idea that I see growing and finding a home within a lot of other groups’ frame of reference.
Nell: This year you have made a deliberate effort to include nonprofits and philanthropy in the conference with the new Tactical Philanthropy track, as opposed to a greater focus in past years on the for-profit side of social entrepreneurship and social investing. Why the shift and what are you hoping comes out of this widening of the net?
Kevin: Well, nonprofits and philanthropy are a big part of the market of money and meaning, now that’s been established as a real place, this intersection of money and meaning. You could even say the new for-profit impact investors have crashed a party long established by philanthropy. It was past time to acknowledge that, and by bringing in Sean Stannard-Stockton [CEO of Tactical Philanthropy], we’ve got an expert and convener with far deeper knowledge than I have in the area to lead the way. SoCap10 is a lot about translation as people learn to work together across boundaries and frames of reference to build a bigger social capital market than either philanthropy or for-profit impact investing could do on their own. And of course, we also have a much bigger public sector funding participation than we have before. Some of the practical thought leaders are joining us to think and talk about what the next thing to do is.
Nell: How has the social enterprise space changed in the last three years and where do you see it going?
Kevin: It’s bigger. People are taking it seriously. We are starting to see some of its limitations, and some of the areas where it needs to grow. It used to be the cutting edge, out there doing this new thing. Now it’s the leading edge, connected to other groups and partners. I think I see the old hero myth dying out and people recognizing that we need enterprises that go beyond the heroic visionary founders, that deal with necessary founder transition issues to grow organizations with scalable impact. Or maybe that last part is wishful thinking.
Nell: What do you hope the social enterprise landscape looks like when SoCap 2015 rolls around?
Kevin: I do hope we have grown beyond the heroic visionary entrepreneur as our model. I hope the cutting edge, change making, risk taking aspects of the movement meets asset class are still intact while it becomes more tightly coupled to public sector and philanthropic efforts to make a difference. I hope it has found a room for the crowdsourced capital, like more lending platforms, in new areas like fair trade, and beyond microfinance. I hope there is a deeper linking between efforts to eradicate poverty in the U.S. and internationally, market growth while preserving the upstart innovation nature of what makes social enterprise a great positive force for disruptive innovation.
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