UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the launch of the Social Stock Exchange (SSE), a tax break consultation for social investors and £250m to help communities buy and support local businesses at the Social Impact Investment Conference on June 6th ahead of the G8 summit. The G8 leaders are embracing the promise of impact investments. The U.S. Small Business Administration is nearly doubling the amount it will put into impact investment funds, to $150 million from $80 million. An open letter from the industry which was published in last weekend's Financial Times, applauded the PM and the G8 leaders "for their proactive step to embrace the promise of impact investing as an important complement to exsisting efforts by the public and non-profit sectors". The open letter was signed by over 90 leading voices from finance and civil society – including JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Big Society Capital, KPMG, responsAbility, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and the Omidyar Network. Another step towards mainstreaming impact investments!
For anyone who would like to learn about Microfinance this is a great online tool. I took this distance learning course back in 2003 and it was great but now it is interactive and it is free. A thanks to Camelia Hrab for sending me this info. UNDP Microfinance Distance Learning Course
A new benchmark to measure the wellbeing and success of countries, the Social Progress Index (SPI), was launched at the 10th Skoll World Forum (April 10-12). This initiative was launched by the Social Progress Imperative and Harvard Business School Prof. Michael Porter (who co-created the business concept of "creating shared value"). This new measure aims to provide a more holistic measurement compared to the one dimensional GDP per capita to assess the progress and standing of countries which shall be useful to policy makers as well as corporations. The SPI measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens by using indicators in the areas of basic human needs (nutrition, water, air, medical care, sanitation, shelter, personal safety), foundations of wellbeing (access to basic knowledge, access to information, health and wellness, ecosystem sustainability), and opportunity (personal rights, access to higher education, personal freedom of choice, equity and inclusion).
Crowdfunding platforms are continuing to be launched and according to industry sources there are more than 500 platforms. Of the 4 types of crowdfunding sites (donation-based, reward-based, loan based and equity based) this year we are likely to see a surge of equity based crowdfunding sites (in particular in the USA) that would allow for investment in startups. This is due to the passage of the JOBS Act last year that includes the Crowdfund Act. A recent article titled Crowdfunding Clean Energy by David Bornstein gives an excellent insight on the recent trends in this area. In addition to Solar Mosaic described in this article there are several new green crowdfunding sites that look appealing. Impact Crowd, Abundance Generation, OnGreen
I am taking part in this experimental course Learning Creative Learning offered by MIT Media Lab. It is awesome that nowadays one can learn from wherever one is (as long as one has internet connection) an amazing number of different courses and many of these are for free. It is the start of the democratization of education. The MOOC (massive open online courses) revolution is certainly changing the way we learn and interact with the teachers and classmates and the way schools and universities operate. For anyone interested in seeing what kind of courses one can apply checkout Coursera you will find over 300 courses online by top universities around the world.
Last August I accompanied Bunker Roy of Barefoot College to Zanzibar where he was selecting grandmothers in the village of Kandwi who would be travelling to India to be trained as solar engineers.(see entry)
This project named "Women Empowerment Project" was supported by Giving Women. Just 12 months later, the women solar engineers are installing the solar panels and LED lights for 100 houses in Kandwi. It is remarkable to see the changes in these women too. It is impressive that the whole project cycle from visiting the village, selecting the grandmothers, getting the village approval, preparing them to go to Tilonia for training, the 6 month training, getting back and preparing the maintenance workshop, getting the solar equipment out of customs and solar electrifying the village houses all this has been achieved in 12 months!
Congratulations to Fatima, Patima and Mwashamba the three solar barefoot enginners, the villagers of Kandwi, Barefoot College and Giving Women for their great work! (video showing the installation, courtesy of Kathrin Legg)
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.