By Joy Zhang, Skoll Foundation
The Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) Conference was held this week in San Francisco, with the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and the America’s Cup sailing competition. As far removed as SOCAP is from the America’s Cup, the participants of SOCAP can also feel as if they are from different worlds. It’s a mash up of philanthropic donors, investors, nonprofits, for-profits – all there from perhaps the same ideological background (we care about impact!) but speaking different languages. At the end of the day though, it’s the same conversation—and it’s not how can impact investing solve all our problems. For a social entrepreneur, the million dollar question is: Who pays for what I do, and when? And that answer includes the entire spectrum of folks who show up at SOCAP – and many more who don’t.
The health track highlighted this well. For example, in a workshop on taking innovative global health solutions to scale, we had a small but diverse group of debt and equity providers, donors, nonprofit social enterprise, and one government representative. The discussion centered around sources of revenue, and while donors may play a role in funding a health intervention, it’s much harder to ignore the role of government support when talking about scale. (Speaking of which, maybe someone from Medicare and Medicaid should make it to SOCAP next year.) In addition, revenues could come from out-of-pocket payments, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals, or any mix of the above. And it could be one organization we’re talking about that is managing revenue coming from a multitude of sources. The SOCAP crowd knows better than any other that the world is not so neatly divided between charity giving and money making.
That’s why philanthropic donors like us show up, and why we see great nonprofit social entrepreneurs like Skoll Awardees mothers2mothers, World Health Partners, Health Leads, Fair Trade USA, Vision Spring and others at an event like SOCAP. It’s great to see the lines blurred at SOCAP where donors, investors, and terrific for-profit and nonprofit social entrepreneurs can sail to the finish line together.