More than 130 professionals from the impact investing world attended the kickoff Impact Investing Congress organized by SEIF in Zurich on January 19th, 2016.
The congress took place in Zurich’s historic Helferei, where stakeholders with diverse backgrounds – from OECD members to angel investors to investment bankers to social entrepreneurs themselves – met to talk about impact investing from various angles.
A series of morning lectures gave the audience a good overview of the issues at large, and afternoon sessions drove a deeper discussion of the issues in a series of smaller interactive workshops. The day closed with a panel discussion by three organizations that are driving the creation of new social entrepreneurship ecosystems.
A number of themes came to the forefront during the course of the day:
- We saw that social entrepreneurship has a long if uncelebrated history, and is experiencing a resurgence that is driving a whole new slew of investment strategies and instruments.
- Based on the UK experience we learned that a big and thriving social entrepreneurship ecosystem is largely driven by policy measures and initiatives from the public sector; and that public and philanthropic sector investments can act as catalysts for private investment in social enterprise.
- Entrepreneurs often experience that it is hard to find grant-makers and investors that support their ventures and efforts at scaling, but we also heard from the other side;
- investors have a difficult time to find impactful social enterprises that are innovative and have potential for scaling.
- The critical role of intermediaries – organizations that can connect social enterprises to investors – was highlighted in a number of the talks.
- Impact investing does not apply only to developed countries, but its influence is growing in the developing ones too.
- Social entrepreneurship and impact investment are addressing a vast and increasing number of social issues including health, unemployment, education, and more.
- In general, there is lack of data in the field of social entrepreneurship and impact investing because it is relatively new and it is evolving incredibly rapidly.
One big point of emphasis during the day was that it is becoming increasingly necessary to see collaborations between different sectors, including public bodies, private corporations, and philanthropic institutions. Collaborative investments from these sectors were almost unheard of ten years ago, but are playing an increasingly large role in driving the impact entrepreneurship ecosystem forward.
SEIF thanks all the participants and speakers for a stimulating and exciting day, and the SEIF team looks forward to seeing new developments in this field at the SEIF Impact Investing Congress 2017.