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Impact investing at MaRS

April 12, 2012

Opened in late 2011, the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing (the Centre) is designed to increase the awareness and effectiveness of social finance by catalyzing new capital, talent and collaborative initiatives to deliver innovative solutions to Canada’s social and environmental challenges. Now that the Centre has been in operation for three months, we are keen to share with the MaRS community our goals and our progress to date.

The Centre is working toward becoming a national hub of social finance excellence, serving as a neutral collaboration platform for private, community and government sectors to work together to co-create new financial products and services, and to develop talent and forward-looking public policy to grow impact investing in Canada.

Building the foundation: Our team

A key organizational focus of the Centre is to successfully recruit and onboard a new Director as part of the leadership team at MaRS. This process in well underway and we look forward to having a leader in place this spring. Our next step will be to secure expert advisors whose guidance will enable the Centre to be an active hub for cross-sector development in the field of impact investing.

We are very happy to have Trish Nixon as the Centre’s first intern. Trish brings a strong background in business journalism and is supporting our print communications and media relations, as well as many other projects!

Highlights from our program areas

Our research and public policy activities are focused around the efforts of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, which continues to carry weight in the impact investment ecosystem at a local and global level. The Task Force released its progress report, Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good: Measuring progress during year one, this past December. The Centre is currently spearheading several initiatives to advance the Task Force’s recommendations, including undertaking mission-related investing research, exploring social impact bonds and working with a diverse cross-section of impact players. Progressive foundations continue to strive toward the 10% mission goal set out in the 2010 report, while several large financial institutions have made inroads in mobilizing new sources of capital for public good (e.g., Vancity’s Resilient Capital Program and RBC’s Impact Fund). In addition, the British Columbia government has adopted hybrid corporation legislation with the passage of community interest company legislation. Adam Jagelewski supports the work of the Task Force within the Centre team.

Our impact measurement activities are currently focused on the development of a B-Corp hub and are led by Joyce Sou, Manager, B Corporations and Social Impact Metrics. These activities celebrate the significant rise of B Corps in Canada. There are now 41 Canadian B Corps, with 29 formed in the last 12 months. They span 25 industries, from Bullfrog Power (renewable energy) to Ethical Bean and Salt Spring Coffee (beverage companies) to Ian Martin Group (job placement) and Renewal2 (impact investing). These companies are diverse and competitive in local markets as well as in the US. For more information, see the Financial Post article, “Canadian B Corps among ‘Best for the World’.”

Market and product development includes the SVX with Adam Spence leading the way. The SVX will be a local, impact-first platform connecting impact ventures, funds, investors and service providers to catalyze new debt and equity investment capital. The SVX is currently seeking appropriate approvals from the local securities regulator, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), and is expected to launch in spring 2012. In addition, there will be another new and robust online platform for the SVX, so stay tuned for that in the weeks and months ahead.

Our education & engagement program pillar is a full team effort led by Joanna Reynolds and Nabeel Ahmed. SocialFinance.ca is pleased to include over 140 writers with 12,000 monthly visits to the site. The site continues to be a place where emerging and established practitioners in the field can convene online. We are pleased to be the social media partners for Partnering for Global Impact (Lugano, Switzerland) and for SOCAP Europe 2012.

Over the past three months, we have delivered presentations at more than 15 events to over 1,000 interested attendees and stakeholders. Most recently, we were pleased to participate in the inaugural Prince Edward County Social Enterprise Conference held on March 8.

On Thursday, April 30, we will launch Social Finance Connects, a monthly interactive web conference for those involved in the field. Contact Joanna Reynolds for further information (jreynolds@marsdd.com).

And we have a two-day workshop coming up for not-for-profits interested in the technical application of social finance through the Innoweave program.

You can find us at these upcoming events:

For regular updates on what we are working toward as well as with Centre events, visit impactinvesting.marsdd.com. We also invite you to visit socialfinance.ca for sector reports and discussions, and to become involved as a contributor to the site.

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  • Mike Toye

    Thanks for the update and your contribution to the Connections 2012 conference, Joanna.

  • Mike Toye

    Thanks for the update and your contribution to the Connections 2012 conference, Joanna.

Joanna Reynolds

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Joanna is Associate Director, MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and has worked with MaRS and Social Innovation Generation National since 2008 on the advancement of social finance in Canada.

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