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Stacy Caldwell

The Awkwardness of it All: SoCap and the Nonprofit World

I’ll give a full rundown of my Day 1 experience at SoCap in a later post, but first I have to admit my excited anticipation of this year’s Social Capital Markets conference encountered some disappointment yesterday as the third annual conference kicked off. The day began with a co-keynote address by Sean Stannard-Stockton, from Tactical Philanthropy and organizer of this year’s first philanthropy/nonprofit focused track at the conference, and Kevin Jones, co-founder of SoCap. Kevin and Sean’s figurative two-step was a nod to the on-going confusion about where/whether philanthropy and the nonprofit sector fit, or how they fit, into a conference who’s heart and founding are heavily in the double bottom-line, impact investing camp.

Sean gave an eloquent speech arguing for the inclusion of the nonprofit/philanthropy sector in this movement to create a social capital market, arguing that “We don’t speak the same language, but we have the same goals,” and “We need to come together to be better able to find what we are both looking for.” But Kevin still referred to Sean and his track as the “nonprofit clan” and Sean as its “emissary.” I’m not sure why there has to be this awkward line between impact investing and philanthropy, but apparently there is still quite a bit of discomfort with the connection between the two worlds. As Stacy Caldwell, Executive Director of Dallas Social Venture Partners, so eloquently Tweeted yesterday:

I’m not sure that we are past the “awkward” stage yet.

To me, it seems so obvious that the nonprofit and government sectors, who hold the majority of money up for grabs in the social impact space, must be full and equal partners in the creation of the social capital marketplace.

But we are still speaking two different languages. And I’m not sure we’re pushing the conversation forward.

The first breakout session I attended yesterday was the Tactical Philanthropy Track’s “Decriminalizing Fundraising” session with two of the rockstars of nonprofit fundraising: George Overholser, from Nonprofit Finance Fund, and Dan Pallotta, author of Uncharitable. But I have to be honest with you, and it pains me to say this about two people I admire quite a bit, I was underwhelmed. The session was just a recap of the spiels George and Dan have given many times before, rather than a cutting-edge discussion and demonstration of how we change the broken funding of the nonprofit sector. If you missed the session, or haven’t read any of Dan or George’s writings, Adin Miller did a great job of summarizing the session on the Tactical Philanthropy blog. But the conversation didn’t go nearly far enough. As Adin said:

In general, the audience seemed to agree with the speakers’ position. There were little to no objections to their key points. The questions from the audience reflected more practical inquiries related to changing perceptions and attitudes toward nonprofits and freeing them up to truly grow the sector. And yet, I feel the conversation has just started and that we need a lot more insights into new strategies and tools to truly decriminalize fundraising.”

There ARE new tools and examples of organizations doing exciting things to finance their social impact in the nonprofit space. I would have loved to hear about those, instead of these old arguments about the need for new tools.  And I would have loved to see a discussion about what infrastructure and structural changes need to happen in the sector to push funding forward and how we make those happen.

In the sessions on impact investing and the general sessions later in the day there is a constant movement to push the conversation forward, to unveil new tools, to detail new approaches, to describe new infrastructure in order to push the impact investing sector forward. There is a very palpable sense that this new market is ours to create, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” as Lisa Hall from the Calvert Foundation said in a later session on impact investing. But yesterday at SoCap I didn’t see that same confidence, that same rigor, that same diligence, that same drive in the nonprofit/philanthropy side of the market to create new funding vehicles, new solutions to the broken funding structures we encounter every day.

Let’s see how today goes…

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Texas Social Innovation Initiative Virtual Press Conference

I mentioned in an earlier post that Social Velocity will be one of the consultant teams working on OneStar Foundation’s Texas Social Innovation Initiative (TSI).  The TSI is a partnership between OneStar, Root Cause, and Dallas Social Venture Partners, which gives each of seven innovative Dallas/Fort Worth nonprofit organizations, who competed among 60 nonprofits, more than $25,000 in cash and strategy assistance to support their growth and impact.

The seven nonprofit winners will be announced this Wednesday at the Governor’s Nonprofit Leadership Conference in Dallas.  As part of that announcement there will be a virtual press conference at 10:30 a.m. CST featuring a discussion by leaders in the nonprofit sector about how to stimulate social innovation in Texas. Participants are Elizabeth Darling, president/CEO of OneStar Foundation; Stacy Caldwell, executive director of Dallas Social Venture Partners; and Andrew Wolk, CEO of Root Cause. To participate in the conversation you can watch the stream on the Social Velocity blog below, and you can also follow the conversation on Twitter via the hashtag #TXSI.

UPDATE: The virtual press conference happened on Wednesday, December 9th, but you can still watch the taped virtual press conference here.

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Thoughts on Social Innovation

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Last month I attended the Social Venture Partners International conference in Dallas. It was a great gathering of an organization that is helping to lead the movement for social innovation. In 25 chapters in the US, Canada and Japan, 2,000 social venture partners contribute time, money and expertise to the nonprofits in their communities. The goal is two-fold: 1) to create communities of lifelong, informed and inspired philanthropists, and 2) to make strategic investments that build long-term capacity for nonprofits.

Theirs is an innovative model for creating engaged philanthropists who understand the need to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector.

While I was there, I met up with Stacy Caldwell, Executive Director of Dallas Social Venture Partners and the creator of their Maximizing Social Impact podcast series–interviews with some of the leaders in the social innovation movement.   She asked to interview me about my thoughts on social innovation. So here is the podcast of that interview:

Maximizing Social Impact-Nell Edgington

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Wednesday, November 11th, 2009 Innovators, Nonprofits, Philanthropy 1 Comment


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