Since watching Marty McFly in Back to the Future and Rufus in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures as a young boy, I’ve always been interested in the perils and possibilities of the future. 

Fortunately, MaRS is a great place to run experiments to help us manage our way towards a better tomorrow.  The organization is like one giant lab providing the facilities to design enterprising solutions to tackle intractable challenges.  We mash up tough problems, intelligent people, good research, and stir (think Doc Brown’s Lab, only bigger, with less illegal plutonium).

The Finance Lab at the 2012 Social Finance Forum at MaRS Discovery District gave us a great view into 2013 and beyond, featuring real Canadian impact investing initiatives in development from Vancouver to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  

These incredibly brave and intelligent developers pitched exciting initiatives and one key challenge to tackle in their effort to develop sustainable food and marine ecosystems, culturally relevant renewable energy and education solutions, positive interventions for children, and local and international solutions to intractable problems.

Here’s a snapshot of these six exciting impact investing initiatives to watch:

1. First Power by Donna Morton, CEO & Co-Founder

First Power specializes in culturally relevant education, training and energy solutions that create economic development opportunities for First Nations.  Their vision is simple: to put green energy technology along with jobs and economic benefits into the hands of communities. Read their full overview.

2. FarmStart by Christie Young, Executive Director

Founded in 2005, FarmStart works to support and encourage a new generation of farmers to develop locally based, ecologically sound and economically viable agricultural enterprises. FarmStart’s role is to provide practical support, provincial leadership and a voice for a new generation of farmers.  Their emerging impact investing initiative is, “…to develop and enable concrete and sustainable investment/financing vehicle(s) that will encourage and ensure viable farm succession and long-term farmland preservation.” Read their full overview. 

3. Old East Village BIA, London Old East Village Development Corporation by Sarah Merritt, BIA Manager

The Old East Village BIA is undertaking research to create a Local Economic Development Plan (LEDP) for the Old East Village and a Neighbourhood Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) to implement and resource it.  The ultimate goal is to create a more resilient local economy. Read their full overview. 

4. Stop Now and Plan (SNAP) by Leena Augemieri, Director, Scientific and Program Development, Child Development Institute

SNAP® is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively. Read their full overview.

5. Global Catalyst Initiative by Shawn Smith, Co-Founder

Global Catalyst Initiative (GCI) partners with early stage impact entrepreneurs pioneering market based solutions to global poverty. Focused in East Africa, they connect ventures to the networks, technical assistance, and funding required to refine their business models and prepare for growth. Read their full overview.

6. WWF, Rebuilding Cod and the Grand Banks by Robert (Bob) Rangeley, VP Atlantic

WWF is trying to find ways to provide financial investment for critically important measures such as bycatch reduction, seafood certification and protected areas for biodiversity and habitats that build resiliency and allow marine ecosystem to recover. These measures are essential for long-term sustainability that will provide financial security to the fishing industry.   Their goal is to create a self-sustaining financial institution that will complement the economic incentives created by sustainable seafood markets, starting with the Grand Banks. Read their full overview.

If you’re not excited about the future now, you need to get your flux capacitor checked.

I’m looking forward to watching and supporting the progress of these initiatives over the coming year and beyond. 

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