Sunday, 29 April 2007

Moving Capital - John Elkington

Nelson Mandela Theatre, Said Business School
Wednesday 28th March 2007

• This session was happening at the same time as the “Scaling” workshop, but I got to see it streamed over the internet at a later time (thanks to the free broadband services in the local hotel). This workshop focussed on how social ventures can access different sources of external capital to increase their impact.

• The main speaker here was John Elkington who is a prominent British “thought leader” in the area of sustainability. His think tank, called SustainAbility is currently working on a three-year project with the Skoll Foundation to increase partnerships between social entrepreneurs and major corporations.

The workshop marked the release of a major report by SustainAbility which surveyed over a hundred leading social entrepreneurs on how they are working with the corporate sector, and how they raise money for their new ventures.
“ A growing array of apparently insoluble socio-economic, environmental and governance challenges presses in on decision-makers — including climate change, the risk of global pandemics, the growing threat to natural resources like water and fisheries, and the ever-present issues of poverty and hunger. At a time when such challenges seem to narrow our horizons, social entrepreneurs are creating a wealth of new opportunities. But to enjoy these opportunities over the longer term, we must ensure real opportunity for a very much greater proportion of the global population...” — John Elkington
The report concludes that for real system change to take place, we must focus on government and public policy. Governments need to do more to shape public sector targets, with tax incentives and pricing signals that ensure that markets can drive change — so that the new social enterprises can reach their full potential.

• The SustainAbility report gave some sobering figures on the comparative size of the social enterprise sector. Its rough estimate is that less than $200 million is going into social enterprises worldwide, and most of this is coming from the Foundations sector. This can be compared to the over $2 billion being invested into “clean technology” businesses worldwide, or the over $200 billion that is spent in philanthropy in the US alone. Elkington told the workshop that even though social entrepreneurship is growing quickly, it is still a very small field financially. His warning: “Are we growing a huge number of ventures that may not be able to sustain themselves into the next stage of their evolution?”
— Streaming video of this session “Moving Capital” featuring Jan Piercy, John Elkington, Penny Newman, Tim Reith, Arthur Wood, and Michele Giddens (Real Player required) 2 hours
“Growing Opportunity — Entrepreneurial Solutions to Insoluble problems” by SustainAbility and the Skoll Foundation (2007)
“Rising to the challenge?” by John Elkington in The Guardian 28 March 2007
The SustainAbility / Skoll project website

• Several other Sustainability/Skoll Reports are available for download from their website. These include a business primer on “scalable solutions”, a report profiling the “barefoot billionaires” who are backing social entrepreneurs, and a quick global overview of leading social entrepreneurs.
- Sustainability/Skoll Business Primer report
- Sustainability/Skoll Barefoot Billionaires report
- Sustainability/Skoll Hot Spots of Social Enterprise report

"Moving Capital" workshop (Real Player required) 2 hours