Waving Goodbye to Social Finance and Impact Investing in 2011

What a great year it has been in social finance and impact investing. There has been a massive surge in interest as more and more people realize that making the world a better place and living well are not, in fact, mutually exclusive.

From the myriad publications to the numerous discussions, from the host of new supporting initiatives to the (infinitely heartening) cross-sectoral support, everyone in this emerging field has something to be proud of. There are many stakeholders, and many leaders: entrepreneurs, investors, intermediaries, researchers, the government – and each has played a critical role. (Note: the only reason I am not citing examples is because there are far too many to list – I would never be able to do justice to do them all).

The buzz and excitement surrounding impact investing have been amazing to watch. There’s a special motivation that comes into play when you know that your actions are not just paying the bills, but also working for the common good. No wonder an increasing number of people are choosing to make social finance a career choice.

This energy, shared by everyone in the field, is especially inspiring considering the wider context. The economy has been battling against slipping back into a recession, we’ve seen protests around the world as people increasingly reject the status quo, and on the whole, it hasn’t been an especially happy year.

Yet it’s been tremendously productive in terms of driving forward social investment and a blended value paradigm as the perspective shifts from shareholders to stakeholders – social innovation indeed.

Canada has also seen great progress, with the recommendations of the Task Force on Social Finance striking a chord with many and enjoying significant support from all three sectors: private, public, and nonprofit.

SocialFinance.ca, as the leading online hub for the conversation around social finance and impact investing in Canada, has also enjoyed a great year – our best ever, actually. We’ve hit record highs in terms of statistics, publishing over 200 posts this year from over 120 writers. The number of visitors and pageviews on the website has more than doubled, testifying to the strong interest in the field.

While the primary focus and audience of our blog remain Canadian, we’ve seen massive growth in global interest. Just as a sampler, our audience has grown by the following proportions: 335% in Germany, 235% in Pakistan, 211% in USA and 170% in Australia. Similarly, there are many more people viewing the site in multiple languages, especially French, Spanish, Dutch and Russian.

In short, the field has grown by leaps and bounds, and is poised to carry that momentum forward in 2012.

However, this post is not meant to be self-congratulatory – there is widespread recognition that much remains to be done (for example, solving the early-stage investment gap). We’re not at a stage where anyone can afford to be complacent; arguably, the need for impact investments to take off has never been higher. There are many challenges left to translate the potential of this movement into creating positive social outcomes (which is not to say that there isn’t a great deal of activity already).

That’s a conversation for the New Year, though – let’s take this opportunity to rest and re-energize for another jam-packed year. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to SocialFinance.ca over the past year, whether in the form of blog posts, comments, retweets, and most importantly, time.

SocialFinance.ca will be on a hiatus until January 3, 2012. Have a wonderful holiday break, everyone!

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brucemckay/4226951419/

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