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Celebrating Canadian Women In Impact Investing

On Thursday Nov. 6th, the Social Finance Forum 2014 played host to an evening reception recognizing the work of four outstanding women who work in the impact investing field in Canada.

Organized by the Women in Leadership Foundation and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, the celebration highlighted the years of dedication and vision contributed by these women in order to create the impact investing industry that exists today. Emceed by the ever popular Allyson Hewitt, the evening was an opportunity for Forum attendees to celebrate the achievements of these four successful women and their tremendous contributions to the sector. Social Finance leads the way in doing business differently and the four women represented have taken the steps to make it possible.

Trailblazers in Impact Investing

Nancy Neamtan has been working to develop investment in the social economy in Quebec since the late 1980s. Currently, she is the President and Executive Director of the Chantier de l’économie sociale. She was the first person to convince government and various corporate funders to invest millions of dollars in the non-profit and cooperative sector, laying the groundwork for future investments and providing a model for partnership for the social finance sector.

Tessa Hebb is currently theDirector of the Carleton Centre for Community Innovationand also a full-time professor at Carleton University in Ottawa.In the mid 1990s, Tessa attended Harvard and Oxford pursuing post-graduate degrees in her field now known as impact investment. However, at the time of her studies, this term and everything associated with it did not exist. As Canada’s longest standing academic in the field of impact investing, Tessa had the vision to work in the field before it formally existed. She has since helped to form the policies, structures and terminology for impact investing in Canada.

In 2007, Mary McGrath, working in collaboration with Ruth Richardson, co-founded and developed Canada’s first crowdfunding site ‘Small Change Fund’. Pre-dating Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Small Change Fund allows Canadians to fund issues of environmental sustainability and social justice. The organization has enabled support for grassroots projects, mostly in rural and isolated locations. Mary’s leadership has given the sector its best tool to engage Canadians to connect to, care about and support the environment.

In 2009, Tonya Surman created Canada’s first community bond to buy and renovate the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. Now with three additional locations including one in New York, CSI leads the sector in innovative finance development made available to all people who want to build their communities. With facilities housing more than 800 social enterprises and non-profits, CSI has given impact investing a large scale, direct way for individuals to enact change.

For their outstanding efforts in the field of impact investing over the years, the four women were awarded certificates of achievement as well as the raucous applause of more than 200 reception attendees.

After the awards ceremony, the Women in Leadership Foundation was introduced. WIL is a national non-profit with chapters in 6 cities in Canada. WIL was created in 2001 with a vision to advance women in leadership roles and empower the next generation. From the achievements of the award recipients, it is obvious that Canada has had tremendous female leadership for many years in the social finance sector. The Women in Leadership Foundation was proud to have participated in a significant night of recognition.

To close-off the ceremony, a documentary film project was announced. Based on the achievements of 10 of Canada’s outstanding women working in impact investing and social finance, Nancy Neamtan, Tessa Hebb, Tonya Surman and Mary McGrath represent four of these female leaders. They will be joined on-screen by Nora Sobolov, Donna Morton, Bonnie Foley-Wong, Ruth Richardson, Carol Newell and Barb McInnes. With a projected release date in 2015, the documentary will give Canada’s social finance sector a chance to celebrate its history and successes through the achievements of its’ female leaders and to create a vision for the future; One with all the verve and vitality exhibited by these outstanding Canadian women.

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