On the 19th November last Philanthropy Ireland, in association with EVPA, convened a seminar to look at developments and opportunities in social investing and critically, how philanthropy can connect with social investment tools to support key issues in our society. It was a unique opportunity to explore how social investment tools, including social impact bonds, social contracts, and social bridging finance can be used for social good and how they are being leveraged to accelerate impact on social needs across Europe.

Panellists, ably moderated by broadcaster Vincent Wall, shared inspiring insights on activities and developments across Europe. The activation of Social Contracts was outlined by Ian Marr of the Growth Partnership stressing the need for focusing on outcomes, for clear agreement and definition on what they will look like.

Astrid Kaag of the Brabant project in the Netherlands, in sharing their story of investing in social projects, emphasised that financial savings are not the main goal, validation of multiple values being the priority and noting the need to give loud voice to beneficiaries when assessing value. The project works hard to break down silos within policy bodies and between public and private sectors.

The West London Zone, a project which is home to over 60k school aged children and young people in one of the most unequal places in England, has a collective impact funding model. Louisa Mitchell gave insights on the combination of support from philanthropies, central government, local authorities and schools. All stakeholders are clear on their role, the outcomes expected and how they will be measured. Anthony Harte of Bank of America, one of the philanthropic funders, provided compelling insights on the value of engagement in what is a form of social impact bond.

With over 90 people engaging, it was designed very much as a learning event, exploring what is happening elsewhere while acknowledging what has and is being done in Ireland, with insights from Deirdre Mortell of Rethink Ireland. Social investment is not new here – Genio, Rethink Ireland, Clann Credo, Community Finance Ireland – are all familiar with this space. But is still in nascent stage of development.

As we seek to rebuild our social sector post COVID 19 there is a need to look and consider new models of funding – we need to examine the potential and reimagine how we utilise funding to address key issues.

There are many things to consider – Is there actual potential in social investment to help us build back better? What could that look like? Do we need to embrace the concept of investment for return, both social and financial? Is now the time for Ireland to accelerate the application of social investment tools? Is there opportunity for such tools to work with philanthropy? And if so, how?

The event was an opportunity to share and inspire, to see where the insights may take us as we move forward in identifying how best we can apply funding for social good. It was about sharing experiences, sharing knowledge, listening and showcasing ideas. To all of those who so willingly engaged we are deeply grateful.

We plan to hold a session on Tuesday 12th January 2021 to take a deeper dive, exchanging insights on opportunities to progress social investment models here in Ireland.

But we can only do this in collaboration with those who are interested in pursuing further. We believe social investment can and should play a key role in addressing key societal issues; the evidence was in the discussions at this event – can you be part of the journey?  

Please put the date in your diary and let us know if you are interested. If you would like to engage contact niamh@philanthropy.ie .

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