An International expert on Philanthropy and Social Impact Investment.
I was delighted to have been able to visit New Zealand and Australia again in April 2018 (for the third time in three years) and to have met people engaged in the development of social impact investing: people from the not-for-profit, social enterprise, and foundation sectors, from financial services and corporates, and from government.
To see and hear about recent progress was immensely encouraging and inspirational. At every meeting I was told of new opportunities being generated and of significant momentum achieved in established initiatives. I heard how sectoral boundaries and rigid orthodoxies that had often obstructed collaboration had now disappeared or been substantially reduced as people saw the mutual benefit and impact that could result from combining financial investment with explicit social and/or environmental purposes. I met with people from many very different backgrounds, who were excited by the opportunities to engage their time and money with organisations and communities that could deliver tangible and lasting positive impact. I found that interest in ‘investing for good’ is not only growing in strength, confidence, breadth, and depth, but is engaging all demographic and social groups.
Consumers of financial services are increasingly demanding and expecting that their savings and pensions at least to ‘do no harm’, and that they combine solid financial returns with real public benefit—an expectation to which a growing number of mainstream providers realise they must respond. (In the UK, this focus on making ‘investing for good’ accessible to all is reflected in the work of the Task Force on Growing the Culture of Social Impact Investing.) I was able to share experience and lessons learnt from similar developments in the UK, with examples of different types of finance that have been explored and tested there, and which could be of relevance to further progress in both New Zealand and Australia: initiatives such as community land trusts, community shares, and charity bonds, through which the general public can become active social impact investors. In the UK, measures have also been taken to remove barriers to action and to build a supporting ecosystem. This includes infrastructure developments such as Big Society Capital and Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, and government initiatives that can underpin or enable progress, for example, the introduction of tax incentives and legislation such as the Social Value Act.
I found that in New Zealand and Australia, as in the UK, there is widespread and growing enthusiasm for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are seen as providing a framework and a common language to which all involved can relate. In addition, the discussion seems to have become much more creative and confident. Social impact investing is increasingly being recognised not as ‘an end in itself’ or as a device to ease pressure on public funds (as has too often been the case in the UK), but as having the potential to be a means through which new or larger and more sustainable action for social and environmental can could be successfully supported. I was also very pleased to have the opportunity to speak at meetings of both Philanthropy New Zealand and Philanthropy Australia about ‘wicked’ problems in philanthropy.
The discussion at both meetings was a clear indication of the creativity and imaginative activity going on within many foundations. In this report, we have provided a summary of my presentations. Clive Pedley and Iyanthi Wijayanayake have provided Giving Architects’ view on the impact investment market with a particular emphasis on Australia and New Zealand, and why they believe impact investment is critical for the greater good of our communities and our planet. I travelled to New Zealand and Australia in partnership with Giving Architects. Clive and Iyanthi organised all the meetings and supported me wonderfully throughout my visit. I am immensely grateful to them for this. I am also delighted that I am now an advisor on impact investing with Giving Architects. I hope to return to the region again before too long.