SOCAP16 and the Continued Evolution of Impact Investing by GENE TAKAGI and MICHELE BERGER
For 2,500 social entrepreneurs, impact investors, and others passionate about the intersection of money and meaning, September’s SOCAP16 was the place to be. SOCAP (Social Capital Markets) is an annual gathering in San Francisco started in 2008 by a small group of investors focused on promoting a double bottom line—social and financial. Its stated mission is to create a platform where investors willing to put money into enterprises focused foremost on social return can meet the world’s most innovative entrepreneurs. This year’s iteration revealed both the growing popularity of the field and the growing tension between those focused on financial returns and those focused on social returns. Jed Emerson, a pioneer and one of the most familiar names in the field, reflected on last year’s SOCAP 15 and more broadly on the mainstreaming of impact investing. He showed disappointment about SOCAP 15 to place excessive amount of conversations on the strategy and tactics of impact investing (the “how”) instead of on a deeper understanding of the purpose of capital (the “why”). At SOCAP16, Jason Jenkins, CEO of Social Investment Business, felt a shift toward the “why”, claiming that people are no longer asking how the metrics should fit mainstream expectations. People are asking why we should fit the mainstream expectations when many of those are entrenched to only consider risk and return, not impact.