Lina Bowden and the Social Innovation Shared Space London

In this year’s “Moving Money That Matters” Innovator Award we celebrate impact investments that are creating positive social and/or environmental impact through the innovative transfer of capital. In this post we profile Lina Bowden and her investment in the Pillar Nonprofit Network’s Social Innovation Shared Space.

Lina Bowden is no stranger to finance or social enterprise. Leaving a career as an SVP in an investment management firm, she has made impact investments in Textbooks for Change, an enterprise that sells used textbooks in North America while supplying textbooks to African universities, and El Batan, a skills development project in Chiclayo, Peru. Nominated this year for an investment she’s made closer to home, Lina continues to demonstrate her belief in the transformative potential of social finance.

This year Lina and her husband Chris provided a $200,000 loan to the Social Innovation Shared Space (SISS) in London, Ontario, a collaborative initiative led by Pillar Nonprofit Network (Pillar) with the London Arts Council, London Heritage Council, and Emerging Leaders. The SISS will create a co-working space that nurtures new ideas while fostering social innovation in London. Lina has been a strong advocate for the SISS project, understanding the place-based value in catalyzing innovation through co-working spaces and collaboration. The SISS is expected to have social, environmental and financial impacts, including:

  • Fuel transformational change – engaging diverse perspectives, fostering creativity, and inspiring social change that will have a lasting impact on London’s prosperity;
  • Create jobs – including employment opportunities for marginalized populations;
  • Build beneficial partnerships – promoting new ways of collaboration;
  • Benefit key sectors – enriching London’s arts and cultural community, environmental sector, and improving social service programs; and
  • Stimulate spin-off benefits – repurposing and preserving a heritage property, increased activities and events that contribute to the vibrancy of London’s downtown.

Bringing Partners to the Table


As a contributor to the SISS business plan and as a leader in promoting the shared-space concept to potential tenants, stakeholders, and other investors, Lina was intimately familiar with the project’s feasibility and had confidence in the team. It was this powerful personal belief in the project that ultimately convinced her to be the first-in investor. While Lina’s investment is less than 10% of the total capital committed to the project, it is an excellent example of the true value of a nimble and flexible investment and ultimately, the project credibility that these early supports provide.

Initially agreeing to a loan with a 3% annual return over 5 years, Lina’s commitment has been used as collateral held in a short-term deposit with Libro Credit Union, the primary lender. Once a threshold of committed leases in the SISS have been signed, the commitment will be available as a loan to Pillar for use in renovations. Lina’s willingness to go in as an early investor and accept concessions on her returns, created confidence for other lenders to join the project such as Libro, Sisters of St. Joseph and the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative.

Several community consultations confirmed that London would embrace this shared space for change makers, social entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs, nonprofits and community groups.

This confidence and enthusiasm along with the project’s early investor backing, has allowed Pillar and the SISS to also leverage grants from other groups such as, the Ursuline Sisters, Great West Life, McCormick Canada and Ontario Trillium Foundation, ensuring the viability of the project and expanding its scope for impact.

Building a Local Impact Investing Market

In Lina’s own words, she is “committed to bringing our community together to continue to create momentum for social finance here in London.” With her leadership in the community collective Social Finance London, Lina is working to grow both the demand and supply of locally-based social finance opportunities. These emerging opportunities will contribute to the growing social innovation ecosystem in London and complement the ongoing work of Pillar’s social enterprise support services. With the individual and organizational leadership demonstrated by the community, London can look forward to more opportunities for meaningful social enterprise investment.

By making a financial commitment to SISS, a project she knew well, Lina Bowden has been able to bring other investors to the table to help build a community asset that will provide a physical space to facilitate social innovation. At the same time she has been working to create the awareness, excitement, and organizational structures to help grow the demand for new social finance opportunities locally. In this way, Lina has been a leader in fostering London’s social finance ecosystem, making her a strong contender for this year’s “Moving Money That Matters” Social Finance Innovator Award.

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