This year’s Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship was titled FLUX: Seizing momentum and driving change. This forum continues to be one of the best venues to meet up, update, share, collaborate and form new partnerships between all the players, social enterprises, private sector and public sector. One of my favourites talks at this year’s Skoll Forum was Hans Rowling’s presentation on the future of world population.
A belated report on the Skoll Forum 2011. This year’s main theme was “Large Scale Change” . Lots of content. I recommend the selection of superb blogs, and in highlights you can find all the sessions and plenaries as video or podcasts. It was nice to have been able to attend Skoll forum for the 5th time in a row as initially I planned to be in Japan teaching social entrepreneurship for the YES Japan Creating Drivers for Sustainability program (which was understandably cancelled due to the triple disaster). My takeaways: of course the optimistic, positive energy that always flows at Skoll Forums, networking, the interactive meetings at Oxford Jam and last but not least connecting with Shino (Japan Research Center), Ichi (Social Media) and Patrik Meier (Crisis Mapping, Ushahidi) to discuss and share information on how to support Japan in the wake of the recent triple disaster.
Looks like 2011 will be a breakthrough year for impact investments. A recent report by J.P. Morgan/Rockefeller Foundation and Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) defines impact investment as “investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial return”. In other words, investments intended to; improve or provide access to energy, water, education, health, housing, and financial services for the poor, create jobs or mitigate climate change while also providing a financial return.
The term “impact investments” only surfaced less than 3 years ago and now thanks to the impressive efforts of the Rockefeller Foundation and GIIN it is emerging as an asset class. It is capturing the attention of investors in all segments from philanthropic foundations, high net worth individuals, financial institutions and governments as they all seek to make more efficient use of their capital, achieve better returns (social, environmental and financial) and help solve the world’s social problems. Estimates on potential market size (investment capital) over the next 5 to 10 years range from USD 400bn to USD 1 trillion. Major efforts have been made also in developing standardized metrics with Impact Reporting and Investment Standards (IRIS) and more recently on ratings the Global Impact Investment Reporting Standards (GIIRS) is testing its rating methodology with 25 pioneer funds. Impact investments has been featured in conferences such as Skoll World Forum, Clinton Global Initiative and SOCAP last year and certainly this year it will take center stage.
Impact Investments- An emerging asset class (J.P.Morgan, The Rockefeller Foundation, GIIN)
Impact Investing: A Framework for Policy Design and Analysis (Pacific Community Ventures, Harvard University)
Money for Good (Hope Consulting)
Investing for Social and Environmental Impact (Monitor Institute)
related blog What is impact investment?
This I believe will become a “classic” or the debate between “who should benefit from microfinance”. My humble opinion…I think that both have valid points and there is enough room for both ideals as there are so many people in need for basic services at the BOP or bottom of the pyramid.
This year’s title (theme) of the Skoll World Forum was “Catalysing Collaboration” and I believe it fully lived up to it. The program reflected and encouraged much more interaction than in previous years. No doubt the OxfordJam programmes running parallel to the forum and the fact that many of us got stranded due to the volcano eruption resulted in further discussions and collaboration. There are many videos and podcasts for anyone who would like to see or hear some sessions. One of the most inspiring speeches was from Caroline Casey delivered at the closing plenary. Blog discussions after the Forum (see socialedge ) are also very interesting to follow. There seems to be an amazing energy and momentum which is expanding the sphere of social entrepreneurship from a “small club of unreasonable people” to mainstream. Perhaps the definition of “social entrepreneur” might not be enough to accomodate the many people that are joining the movement. Call them changemakers (as Bill Drayton refers to them) or maybe a new word like social interpreneurship (see Peter Deitz’s blog): what matters is that with more people trying to make a difference and with more interaction and collaboration there is renewed hope to tackle the enormous problems that society faces today.
I attended last week SOCAP 2009 (Social Capital Markets conference) in San Francisco which was certainly worth my trip from Zurich. I have attended the Skoll Forum for the past three years and it is the same kind of awesome energy with so many social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors, as well as foundations and government people aiming to find solutions together. There were over 900 attendees from 32 countries 40 panels and 100 speakers. The recent article on the Economist titled Capital Markets with a Conscience also refers to this topical subject. The keynote address was given by Sonal Shah, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation. Topics in the panels ranged from how to measure impact investments, social stock exchanges, social innovation on the web, and the broad spectrum of social capital (from philanthropy to hedge funds). There are many blogs on SOCAP but I would highly recommend the coverage by the team of nextbillion.
The 6th Skoll Forum, a gathering of leading social entrepreneurs took place in Oxford on March 25-27th. Prominent figures of the social, corporate, policy, academic area engaged for 3 days in discussions and debates to accelerate, innovate and scale solutions for the world most pressing issues. This year the mood was slightly less euphoric due to the current crisis but one could feel an even stronger and powerful level of energy in the air as social entrepreneurs are becoming even more important players, in Jeff Skoll words, they are likely to come out of this crisis not as survivors but as leaders. He pointed out that social entrepreneurs are masters in leveraging; in producing results with limited resources, they have the abilitiy to do more with less, in choosing which assets can be most efficiently used to meet the objectives, also they maximize resources by collaborating. He could not have expressed it better. Many sessions can be watched in videos and also many blogs are available of the event. This year there were 9 Skoll Awardees. I was especially delighted to see Jordan Kassalow of VisionSpring, formerly Scojo who we have covered in this journal and in my recent book being one of them.
How is the financial crisis impacting microfinance institutions (MFIs) and their clients? What can the microfinance industry do? These were the questions addressed at the virtual conference hosted by CGAP between Nov 18-20. There were 600 MFI managers, central bankers, investors, and advisers from 34 countries and the150 entries submitted by these participants provided a vivid and powerful picture of what is going on. According to the summary sent out by Elizabeth Littlefield, Director and CEO of CGAP,
“The dominos of the crisis-credit crunch, inflation, currency dislocations and global recession- are hitting microfinance in very different ways, depending on location, funding structure, financial state and the economic health of their clients. While many places seem unaffected today, there is little doubt that there will be impact: integration of microfinance into the mainstream does have costs.”
Other salient points from the summary report were;
-deposit taking MFIs are well-insulated from the crisis
-immediate concern is how the global liquidity contraction will affect the cost & availabilty of funding to non-deposit taking MFIs
-institutional investors in microfinance are not seeing significant redemptions but they do expect fundraising to become more difficult in the coming months
-advice to MFIs included: increase reserves, cut back on growth and focus on portfolio quality, make sure loan officers are informed and attentive to client needs and communicate early and often with lenders and investors
-concerns about overreaction by policymakers
-amid the anxiety some optimism…as some markets had become overheated so slower growth, tighter credit more conservative policies, better products and even consolidation of weaker institutions may be beneficial in the long run
I logged in during the 3 day conference and one positive impression was how the industry of microfinance (the players) continue to be willing and passionate to share and give information for the improvement of the whole industry, an attitude that the mainstream should learn from microfinance.
SoCap2008 , a conference designed to bring together the entrepreneurs who want to change the world and the capital that wants to make it happen took place this week Oct 13-15 in San Francisco. Unfortunately I could not attend this year but it is possible to follow some of the inspiring discussions through the many blogs available. Especially the team of nextbillion did a wonderful job covering the conference.
Where can one go to learn more about microfinance? Is there enough capacity (trained staff and managers) to cope with the explosive growth of the microfinance industry? Of course there is no limit (only one’s own time) as to how much one can learn through the internet (ie CGAP, mixmarket, microfinance gateway or the UNDP Microfinance Distance Learning Program) but, there are also an increasing number of institutions that offer training programs around the world.
For programs/courses: Boulder Institute of Microfinance(creating a platform for dialogue and critical thinking in microfinance), Microfinance Center (programs for practitioners in Eastern and Central Europe), School of Applied Microfinance (provides 2 week training courses for MFIs in East Africa), Harvard Business School & Accion Program on Strategic Leadership for Microfinance (executive education for directors of MFIs), and Frankfurt School of Finance and Management which runs the Micro Banking Summer Academy. One excellent institution, Microfinance Management Institute (MFMI) is building a community to foster development of human resources for the microfinance industry through the creation of learning tools and programs. They also provide courses for funders as well as integrating microfinance courses into the curricula of premier graduate management programs in developing countries.
If one’s interest is to get familiar with microfinance by going to the field there are many microfinance institutions that provide visitors programs. I have visited 2 of these which were excellent. BRI in Indonesia and BRAC in Bangladesh.
For international conferences the easiest way to see these are on the website of the microcapital, the top newsletter of microfinance investments.
So don’t wait if you want to learn more about microfinance get started now!