I probably first heard the term “social capital market” about 10 years ago. As with all commonly adopted jargon, though, it’s hard to remember where I first came across the term. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately as I’m preparing for this years Social Capital Markets conference in San Francisco next month. I’ll be appearing on a panel in the Tactical Philanthropy track representing GiveWell, where I serve on the board. Alongside representatives from Charity Navigator and Root Cause, we’ll be walking through approaches to evaluating an organization; in this case the DC Central Kitchen.
The intent of the conference, now in its third year, is to help build social capital markets. This year in particular the theme is “what’s next?” But I’ve been thinking mostly about what’s happened so far. It’s difficult to really think about the future without having a solid grasp on the past.
Now I’m far from deeply enmeshed in the social capital markets movement, but thinking back on the last few years, I’m wondering about what progress has been made. There’s no question that awareness of the idea of social capital markets has increased. But while awareness is important, it’s only progress insofar as it leads to tangible action and change. So I don’t consider an increase in awareness as progress in its own right.
So I’m wondering what you think has changed and what progress has been made in the social capital markets movement over the last five years. Is there materially more money moving through social capital markets, such as they are? Is the flow of money more efficient? Is it easier to raise funds? Is there more standardization in the approach that leads to time and money savings for entrepreneurs raising capital? Have significant regulatory hurdles started to fall? Have important legal precedents been established?
I’m mostly interested in evidence of change and progress that is distinctly about social capital markets, not just new approaches to philanthropy. I’m also interested in social capital markets globally, not just in the US.
So, help me, and ideally other attendees at SoCap ’10 out: what are the most important signs of progress in social capital markets in the last 10 years? Feel free to respond directly in the comments or to write on your own blog and provide us with a link.
Read more stories by Timothy Ogden.