Reflections on SOCAP 2017

Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) is the annual global gathering for those of us working at the intersections of money and meaning. Because SOCAP was founded in 2008 to explore a pair of seemingly separate concepts, it’s fitting that new versions of that interplay rose to the surface at Fort Mason this year. The relationship between discussion and action was an especially relevant one for me.

At PeakChange, we’re interested in building a collaborative, purposeful, and joyful impact investing ecosystem — which is a long-term endeavor. For this reason, I made a point to attend sessions at SOCAP17 that were focused on systems-level, long-term change. Sessions like “Impact investing as a Palliative or as a Systemic Intervention for Justice?” and “Unlocking the Power of Capital for Systemic Change” caught my eye, and the conversations in those rooms were thought-provoking.

Smoky view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Mason at SOCAP17

Smoky view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Mason at SOCAP17

Sunset image from Fort Mason during SOCAP17

Sunset image from Fort Mason during SOCAP17

It felt absurd, though, to engage in such theoretical conversations while the world around us was literally on fire. Devastating wildfires were burning through homes just a few miles away from Fort Mason. The air was hazy in San Francisco and I could smell smoke when I stepped out the door each morning. Balancing the immediate needs of the people who were dealing with the impacts of the fires with the decidedly less urgent need to connect with impact investors and social entrepreneurs made for an interesting study in tensions at SOCAP17.

How did I handle these tensions? On an individual level, I gave money to alleviate some of the suffering caused by the fires (here are a few organizations that continue to need support; the fire recovery efforts will go on for years to come). Then, I brought a renewed focus on developing strong systems that preempt and mitigate human disasters like the California wildfires to the conversations I did have with others at the conference (an aside: here’s an interesting historical take on fire management as a social and political issue in California).

How did I see others handling the tension between discussion and action at SOCAP17?

Strengthening Investor-Entrepreneur Relations — ADAP (A Different Approach to Poverty) hosted a Deal Room at SOCAP17, where eight entrepreneurs pitched and investors started to conduct a due diligence process that continued through the course of the conference. This event translated talk into action in an effective way, and the accelerated process employed by ADAP is one way that investors can expedite their due diligence process.

Supporting Innovative Impact Investing Models — PeakChange participated in a few events at SOCAP17 that celebrated innovative impact investing models. MCE Social Capital hosted a private reception at SOCAP that convened more than 65 members of MCE's community, including Guarantors, potential Guarantors, investors, lenders, staff, and partners, in order to celebrate the accomplishments and potential of their guarantor model, which leverages loan guarantees to transform women’s lives around the world. Donna Morton, CEO of Change Finance, spoke on the main stage about financial activism, game-changing women, and Change Finance’s Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), which represents “the best of public markets” and is now live on the New York Stock Exchange.

I hope that the discussions that took place at SOCAP17 serve as investments in the development of regenerative, just systems. I hope, too, that all of us continue to work together to develop a strong impact investing ecosystem — instead of just fighting the fires that we face on a daily basis.

For a look back, here are our SOCAP16 and SOCAP15 blog posts!