The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing is thrilled to announce the launch of a new Place-Based Social Finance Network. This network brings together leaders in cities and towns across Canada who are creating new social finance funds, financial products or strategies to mobilize capital to meet the challenges their communities face.

The group kicked off in February 2015 with representatives of cross-sectoral collaborations in cities from coast to coast:

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • London, Ontario
  • Charlottetown, PEI
  • St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador

What is place-based social finance?

Place-based social finance is an approach to mobilizing private capital that intends to create financial returns for investors and also social or environmental benefits for a city or town.

Place-based social finance incorporates a range of activities, including exploring the local potential for social finance, creating an impact investing fund, building an impact investing platform, or creating an investment product.

Place-based social finance projects are initiated by a range of actors: municipal governments, foundations or philanthropists, local businesses and/or community groups.

Why is place-based social finance important?

Cities and towns need to mobilize new sources of capital to meet the challenges they face, and social finance is an important tool. Here are some of the many reasons why we believe place-based social finance deserves attention.

  1. Social finance operates well when rooted in a place.
    • Capital Demand: Many social and environmental issues amenable to social finance solutions are best addressed at the scale of the city or town. This includes everything from building affordable housing and community infrastructure to creating jobs for young people.
    • Capital Supply: At the same time, many impact investors, in what could be called “IMBYism”, seek local investing opportunities. They wish to seed change in their own community. Foundations, credit unions, local philanthropists and everyday investors are leading the way.
  2. As a political unit and an imagined community, a city or town is a locus for convening unlikely collaborators. Social finance solutions require cross-sectoral collaboration. A place provides the private, public and community sector with a focal point.
  3. Social finance is an important tool for urban resilience. Social finance can build the resilience of cities and towns to the physical, social and economic challenges they face. It is an important tool in the resilience toolkit that enables a place to withstand stresses including food insecurity, health crises, economic downturns and climate change.
  4. Place-based social finance solutions are proving successful. From Edmonton, Alberta’s Social Enterprise Fund to the New York City Acquisition Fund to the London UK Homelessness Social Impact Bond, place-based approaches to social finance are proving successful.

Why create a national network?

We view this network as a natural extension of our Community Finance Solutions initiative. Through Community Finance Solutions, we have provided advisory support to 25 projects across the country that are creating new social finance funds, products and strategies. We have observed that place-based initiatives face common challenges and would benefit from dedicated support and networking. The founding members of the network are at different stages of development, and those that are more advanced can support those just starting down this path.

How can groups get involved?

If you are involved in a cross-sectoral collaboration considering building a social finance fund, financial product or strategy on your city, please contact Katie Gibson, Manager, Community Finance Solutions. We can discuss how you can join the network and receive capital advisory support from the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. We are happy to speak with leaders from across the public, private and community sectors.

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Katie Gibson

Katie Gibson led the Community Finance Solutions initiative at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. Katie is a lawyer and MBA graduate with extensive Canadian and international experience in consulting, advocacy and social innovation. See more…