Hard-noses and halos: a new network for social impact investors

My latest blog is on the Guardian website: https://socialenterprise.guardian.co.uk/social-enterprise-network/2012/mar/08/network-social-impact-investors  where you can find lots of other articles about the subject of social investment.

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Angels have been around for a while, but now they have a new network to magnify their contribution to the social enterprise sector. Last night I attended the launch of the UK’s first ‘angel network’ dedicated to businesses that create positive social change, Clearly So Angels, at the Houses of Parliament. At the Terrace Pavilion, the wine flowed, canapés were served, and a group of ‘angels’, along side a few social entrepreneurs, listened to why angels should be investing in social enterprises.Rodney Schwartz from ClearlySo described its role as accelerating capital into extraordinary businesses and talked about the benefits of a network, sharing expertise concerning impact investment and sharing risk.

At the event, social impact angels were described as being patient with capital, whilst impatient for success, and as having a bias for action and a tolerance for risk. One interesting suggestion from a social impact angel was that they understand you can’t measure everything that’s important. Are these social impact angels prepared to take a long-term view and accept an element of social return that can’t be easily measured? If so, the question is whether there are enough out there to fill the gap the banks have left.

As someone starting their own social enterprise, from babies with love, I believe social enterprises can deliver financial and social returns at the same time and that good social entrepreneurs can demonstrate this. However, the social impact angels may need to accept non-traditional metrics they might not be familiar with, but that work in a social context. For example, at from babies with love, we are donating 100% profit to charities supporting orphaned and abandoned children. We can count the profit, we can count the children, but quantifying the real impact on their quality of life is going to be hard to capture in numbers alone.

The audience seemed to regard themselves as people with social awareness. Though looking for a financial return, they are prepared to mix commercial and social objectives. No doubt many of them are hard-nosed people, but the golden halos were there and I felt there was a real appetite to invest. So perhaps, and hopefully, they will make a significant contribution to financing the social enterprise sector. And so, a call to us, the social entrepreneurs, to present ourselves at the gates of financial heaven and to meet the angels!

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