Like yours, my inbox is full of really great information on things of vital importance to my field: social innovation.  Most of them receive a quick scan but I always try to find the time to read Philanthropy 2173 by Lucy Bernholz.  I find her particularly tapped-in and insightful.

And as we enter not just a new year but a new decade, Lucy is offering her insight on this year’s buzzwords.  Every sector has them; some more than others. I find them an interesting snapshot: terms that were once completely new to us are now thrown about as if everyone should know exactly what we’re talking about.  Check out Lucy’s blog for more details but the list is below with my thoughts on their relevance for SiG@MaRS in 2009.

Impact Investing – This term really took off for us as a result of SoCap 09 and the presentation by Katherine Fulton of Monitor.  It just seemed to resonate and it was certainly reinforced at the recent presentation by Jed Emerson and others at MaRS last month.   Impact investing is a major focus for us in our work in the area of social finance and a concept we hope will soon come into the mainstream and be used by investors interested in seeing at least a double bottom line return on their investments.

B Corporation – Lipa Roth of the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration suggested we look into this and Mark Bachman from Better The World also approached us to see if there was any interest in supporting the concept of bringing B Corporations to Canada.  Working with Heenan Blaikie, we conducted due diligence to help Better The World become Canada’s first certified B Corporation.  We look forward to working with Green Enterprise Toronto and others to Canadianize these standards and promote B Corps in Canada to social entrepreneurs and to prospective investors alike.

Mergers – We have not seen lots of these but instead an emergence of networks and “networks of networks”.  What mergers have you seen?

Taxonomy – As someone who worked with library scientists at Community Information Toronto I have a great deal of respect for the value of taxonomies, something that seems out of fashion in the era of “just google it”.  If there is a term I would add to this list it would be metrics. We see the demand for metrics everywhere and a taxomony is one step in moving towards the use of standards that are necessary for the purpose of inevitable comparisons.

Maps – There certainly was a lot happening online in regards to mapping. Among our social entrepreneurs, however, we heard a lot about GPS technology for the purpose of social good.

Charity Challenge – Again, we saw these competitions everywhere.  We even hosted the Social Enterprise Angels event, Social Investing in Action, as part of the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise with the Social Enterprise Council of Canada and Social Venture Partners Toronto.  I still think Canada needs a competition with a significant prize that would bring out our best.

Leverage – Always a good idea; not just leveraging financing but leveraging ideas to be customized to meet your client needs. For example, CIBC Presents Entrepreneurship 101 has been leveraged to meet the needs of social entrepreneurs instead of creating a stand-alone resource.

Pipeline – It is important to create capacity for the next big ideas to emerge.  We are privileged to see lots of developing social entrepreneurs and to help promote their ideas and turn them into reality.

Sidecar Fund
– Not such a new a concept for many in the financial industry but the concept of riding along an existing fund makes a lot of sense, both for economies of scale and for access to expertise. This concept was certainly emphasized by Paul Cheng from Venturesome who we were pleased to also host along with the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Social Enterprise Council of Canada in November 2009.

Move the needle – Whatever you call advancing movement in our sector — it’s all good.

Allyson Hewitt

Allyson is the Senior Fellow, Social Innovation at MaRS, where she has been leading the SiG@MaRS program; advising social entrepreneurs; building the social innovation ecosystem; and incubating successful programs such as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing and the MaRS Solutions Lab. See more…