Reflections on 10 Years of SOCAP

Shu Dar Yao, Director of Capital Formation at Social Finance

Each fall, the impact investing community gathers at Social Capital Markets (SOCAP), a conference that’s part Davos, and part impact investing “block party that’s turned into a marching band,” according to Jed Emerson, a prominent impact investing advisor and SOCAP founder.

SOCAP was first convened a decade ago to bring together the community around the North Star of integrating impact with investments. Ten years later, SOCAP17 has exceeded that initial expectation. For many, SOCAP’s growth reflects how far the impact investing community itself has matured.

Some perennial themes emerged at this year’s gathering, including doing more with less and the importance of getting in front of problems early. At this year’s conference, panelists shared updates on innovative outcomes-based financial tools and mechanisms, including rate cards, recoverable grants and outcomes funds. 
 
 There were also a few themes that emerged that were not part of the SOCAP dialogue 10 years ago, and which demonstrate how far the field has come. In particular, the intersectionality between the environment and social impact, and perhaps most promising of all, the trend that traditional finance doesn’t look so traditional anymore.
 
 Environment and social impact intersecting:
 A decade ago, the first SOCAP attendees were certainly aware of climate change, but this year SOCAP17 showcased how this and other environmental challenges is interwoven with social challenges. 
 
 Climate change disproportionately affects the poor for example, and there are social impacts of environmental initiatives. Investors and change-makers are becoming increasingly aware of this. We can only hope that in the next 10 years, both sides continue to reach towards each other, paving the way for projects in green infrastructure, urban climate resilience and coastal restoration. 
 
 Traditional finance doesn’t look so traditional anymore:
 Perhaps the most noteworthy trend at SOCAP17 was the number of corporate players present and not only joining, but also leading the conversation. This year’s corporate attendees showcased successful projects and sought for partners to expand and innovate upon their existing work and included Prudential, Fidelity, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan, BlackRock, Blackstone, and Bain Capital.

As SOCAP turns 10, so too does the Social Finance Global Network, and the number of Social Impact Bonds globally is nearing 100. We at Social Finance look forward to continuing to dance in this impact investing “block party” that’s marching into the mainstream, and we’ll see you at SOCAP’s 20th birthday in 2027. With perseverance and partnership, hopefully we’ll already have hit the impact investing Tipping Point 2020.

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