Canada Has Opportunity to ‘Leapfrog’ in Social Finance

Canada Has Opportunity to ‘Leapfrog’ in Social Finance

Momentum generated with launch of task force report

The Rockefeller Foundation managing director Antony Bugg-Levine, Social Capital Partners president Bill Young, and Atira CEO Janice Abbott took part in a panel discussion at the Nov. 30 launch of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance report and recommendations.

TORONTO — At the Nov. 30 launch of the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance’s report, experts pointed to the tremendous opportunities the country has to leapfrog in the global social finance movement by implementing the recommendations.

The Rockefeller Foundation managing director Antony Bugg-Levine took part in a panel discussion at the event, held at the MaRS Discovery District, and said there is a lot of innovation around the world in social finance that can accelerate what’s happening in Canada.

“Let me just say if Canada implements these seven recommendations you will be the frontrunner globally in what is, we believe, an incredibly fast-growing movement,” he said. “There really is an opportunity to leapfrog.”

The report is entitled Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good and details seven recommendations that aim to address three main challenges; to mobilize new sources of capital, develop an enabling tax and regulatory environment, and create an investment pipeline providing social entrepreneurs with business support to launch, operate and scale their innovative ideas.

Formed inside Social Innovation Generation (SiG) — a national partnership of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, MaRS Discovery District, PLAN Institute and the University of Waterloo — the task force includes members representing different sectors.

“The reality is that around the world most government regulation as well as most educational system and policy regulation and the capital markets are organized around the binary . . . that the purpose of investment is to make money and if you seek to solve a social problem use charity,” said Bugg-Levine, echoing sentiments expressed by others during the evening.

But there is a “new generation of entrepreneurs” that rejects this binary and seeks to solve social problems in the most creative, effective, and scalable way, he said.

Allyson Hewitt, MaRS director of social entrepreneurship, tells Axiom News an exciting part of the event is seeing the room filled with more than 500 people registered from all different sectors.

“There is incredible momentum in this and I think we are used to these sectors of for-profit and non-profit and people in those worlds, but I think everybody is beginning to get that these really huge social challenges require all sectors,” she says.

She adds she is excited for the potential that can be unlocked through foundations and having clarity about what charitable organizations and non-profits can do in terms of revenue-generating activities.

Hewitt says she is interested in exploring hybrid legal structures, noting there are lessons that can be learned from the U.K. and the U.S.

“I really think there’s an opportunity for Canada to leapfrog,” she says. “That’s what I want to see, I want to see us take some leadership in this space.”

Hewitt said she hopes to see movement on the recommendations, and suggests the recommendation around expanding the availability of government sponsored business development programs for small and medium enterprises to include the range social purpose work would be a good start.

“I think if we can see some movement on that it would give us leverage to say look, we already moved on one and what’s next,” she says.

Adam Spence, founder and chair of the Toronto-based Social Venture Exchange project, attended the launch and says the recommendations are “spot on” and touch upon areas that are going to have an immediate impact.

This is an “inflection point for a broader movement to take hold in Canada,” he says, with a critical mass of people who believe in the work and want to see things happen.

“I think we are going to see a lot of activity all over, and that’s exciting,” says Spence.

Read the report, recommendations and more by visiting

Related Stories:
Canadian Task Force on Social Finance Launches 7 Recommendations

Social Finance Task Force Aims to be Catalyst for New Initiatives

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Jennifer Neutel

Jennifer Neutel is a Story Advocate and Generative Journalist at Axiom News. She completed her Bachelor of Journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa in 2006, and joined Axiom News in 2007. She has taken on a variety of roles at Axiom including new social media intiatives and has a passion for creating strengths-based questions that can lead to positive change.

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