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Introducing the Social Impact Exchange

October 22, 2009

This is interesting.

Socialimpact4-4-4 Duke University and the Growth Philanthropy Network, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have launched the Social Impact Exchange -- a collaboration of funders, philanthropic practitioners, researchers, and others that "will act as a focal point for studying, funding and implementing large expansions of proven social purpose organizations."

More specifically, the Exchange has three main goals:

  • Developing and sharing knowledge on practices for expanding programs that work
  • Providing venues to collaboratively fund expansion of successful initiatives
  • Helping to build a field infrastructure for more efficient and effective scaling

To that end, the Exchange will make available an up-to-date library of relevant publications on a Web platform; offer training online and at an annual conference and regional meetings; and, most importantly, facilitate collaborative investment in "high-impact, well-vetted opportunities" through an online clearinghouse and a Social Impact Business Plan Competition.

If things work as planned, all this activity will serve a larger goal: the creation of a national social capital marketplace. According to Dr. S. Robert Levine, co-founder and chairman of GPN, such a marketplace, in order to be successful, must exhibit or feature:

  1. investment standards, transparent information, and performance reporting;
  2. a collaborative financing process that includes individuals, foundations, grants, and debt;
  3. sufficient "deal flow," a pool of high-impact nonprofits to demonstrate how a marketplace works;
  4. large-scale distribution to donors and a broad, diversified network of growth funders;
  5. a network of expert intermediaries that aggregate growth capital for qualified scaling initiatives; and
  6. a focal point for shared learning, knowledge development, and collective funding of high-impact growth initiatives.

Some of this "infrastructure" exists, while much of it is still the subject of discussion. And despite all the thought and hard work that people a lot smarter than me have invested in the idea, I remain skeptical. But that's a post (or three) for another day.

In the meantime, with folks like Joel Fleishman, Ed Skloot, Robert Levine, and Cynthia Massarsky involved, this is an effort you'll want to keep an eye on.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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