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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Social Innovation and Social Finance Tour 2011: Reflection

Top Five Takeaways from the Tour 
(Part 2 of a 2-part series) 

Potluck Cafe: A successful social enterprise in Vancouver.
1. The momentum of social innovation and social finance is thriving in British Columbia. There are social enterprises popping out of every corner and several financial organizations to support them. It got me thinking: 

Why BC?  Why NOT Ontario? 

2. Current CRA laws restricting non-profit organizations and “social enterprises” (which don’t actually legally exist in Canada....YET) cause major complexity for organizations that are simply trying to find creative revenue streams aside from their dangerous dependence on donation dollars. This highlights the need for Canada to shadow the UK’s new legal entity, the “Community Interest Company” (CIC), or, the US’s “Low-profit Limited Liability Company” (L3C) to provide the opportunity to build legal, simple, and sustainable social enterprises. 

 Group discussions in Vancity's boardroom
3. Intermediaries are an essential prerequisite to growing the social finance field in Canada. 

What are intermediaries, might you ask? Think investment banks, but for social investment portfolios. 

We need organizations that can link investors who are interested in impact investing with the social entrepreneurs who are in dire need of funding. We need these intermediaries to manage the investment portfolios. Vancity, a cooperative bank in Vancouver, is a proven model that has invested millions into successful social enterprises. 

4. The Social Impact Bond model has tremendous potential for this country, but finding an appropriate process for measuring success will slow the model’s emergence in public policy. There are also many social and environmental issues that cannot be solved using this model. 

CONCLUSION: We need to look globally and think creatively about other possible social finance instruments. For lack of a better metaphor, let’s not put all our eggs in one basket. 

Founded by Stacey Corriveau
5. As Stacey Corriveau preached to the crowd: The government often chooses to deal with social issues now and claims they will deal with the environment once those are solved. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Social Innovation and Social Finance Tour 2011: Reflection

Top Five Highlights of the Tour
(Part 1 of a 2-part series) 

While it came and went quicker than I could imagine, the Social Innovation and Finance Tour brought about visionary conversations, outcomes, and networks.  Here are my top five highlights from the tour...

1. Ashoka Fellow, David Green, blowing away our 200 guests at the public event last Monday night. He presented his numerous yet distinct businesses that use groundbreaking technology to provide cost-effective solutions to sight- and hearing-loss for those suffering from poverty in the developing world. 

Celia Cruz, Director of Ashoka Canada
2. Nicole Rycroft (also an Ashoka Fellow!) presenting her organization, Canopy, which is responsible for the international “greening” of the Harry Potter books. Canopy is up to some fantastic new innovations, but you’ll have to wait and see Nicole’s next plan to change the paper industry in Canada... 

3. Bill Young explaining the convoluted path he had to take to build Social Capital Partners while confined by CRA and other legal constraints. Down-right hilarious. 

4. Derek Gent and the Vancity team proving that investing in social innovation can be both impactful and profitable as we sat in Vancity's beautiful boardroom, over-looking the ocean and the mountains.

5. All tour participants declaring personal action-statements as to how they will apply social finance to their organizations and help progress the movement in Canada. What a great way to end the Tour! 

Thank you to all those who made Ashoka's Social Innovation and Social Finance Tour a resounding success.  It was truly a pivotal three days for the movement's advancement in Canada.  

Social Innovation and Finance Tour in the news:

Other related articles:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Social Innovation and Social Finance: IT'S HERE!

Social Innovation and Finance Tour
Vancouver, BC Jan. 17-19, 2011

The day has finally arrived.  After extensive preparations and endless hours, I am now sitting in the airport ready to leave for what I know will be a groundbreaking event for the social innovation and social finance movement in Canada.  As part of the Ashoka Canada  family for the past few months, I have been fortunate enough to coordinate next week's events with the support of our partner organizations:  SiG National (Social Innovation Generation), Plan Institute, and Causeway Social Finance

Here are some of the topics we're going to be discussing with Canada's most active and educated leaders in the social finance and social innovation space:

  • Social Finance in BC
  • Social capital users and reflections from the supply-side
  • Impact Investing
  • How to bring about a mixed model of financing from grants to social capital?
  • Types of capital and when it's appropriate to use each type
  • Creating a public policy agenda
  • Looking at public policy through the disability lens
  • Scaling up proven innovation to create impact and durability

Monday evening, Jan. 17th, is our sold-out public event.  Four prominent social innovation leaders will provide both the global and Canadian perspective of social finance to 200 guests.  For more information and to grab a spot on the waiting list, visit

For those of you outside Vancouver, don't fret! I will MOST DEFINITELY post a follow-up to these events.  Looking forward to reporting back some positive and forward-looking results!

But for now, it's time to board the plane....

Monday, January 3, 2011


Why Fiji Water is going down the drain

I've spoken about my problem with water bottle consumption, and I've talked about the serious issue of greenwashing.  Today we get a taste of both.  Fiji, the already controversial water bottle giant, is facing a Class Action Law Suit for greenwashing!  

As a response to decreased sales, Fiji used a strategy many other companies are realizing profit from as well: they embellished the level of their environmental footprint.  The result: their sales increased by 12% in 2008, surpassing industry leader Evion. 

What was their strategy?  
It is the specific marketing scheme that makes this case so ridiculous.

image source:
Fiji actually claimed to have a negative carbon footprint.  This would imply that the company is removing more carbon pollution from the atmosphere than they released into it!  Think about how ludicrous this seems: all the plastic waste, transport pollution, manufacturing that emit carbon during a supply-chain process to sell water bottles cannot possibly be overridden by the amount of carbon Fiji could realistically remove.  Remember what I said several posts ago: Plastic can never fully disintegrate. 

And what is their defense?

Fiji Water's response is that they base their carbon calculations on the full life cycle of the water bottle.   This method, called "forward crediting", is a completely unaccredited way to measure carbon footprint.  As quoted in the complaint itself, "They simply claim credit for carbon removal that may or may not take place - up to several decades in the future."  Through various sustainable methods and new processes to decrease carbon emissions, Fiji claims it will reduce carbon emissions by 120%.  

And I'm sure the company will do just losing the lawsuit, filing for bankruptcy, and closing up shop!

I hope companies use this case as a precedent for their own sustainability marketing campaigns.  People aren't stupid, and more than ever, we have a plethora of resources to get the straight facts.  As a lesson for us consumers, let's try to think more critically about the brands we choose.  Happy new year!