Last week, I was at the Good Deals conference. I was lucky enough to have been awarded one of the five bursary places at the social investment conference and decided that this was a good time to improve my understanding of the subject. Walking into the venue, I was daunted by the scale of my incomprehension. I knew that I knew little about the world of social investment. But I had underestimated just how little that was. So I decided to not pretend any more and armed with my ignorance, I ventured into the various sessions. I was soon thrown into a maze of investment-speak. SROI, impact measurement, sandbox, social innovation, triple bottom line, scaling up, risk mitigation, equity…I was boggled.
Some time during first tea break of the morning, I got talking one of the delegates who I knew was pitching for a £50,000 investment that afternoon. It must have been her warm Glaswegian accent that drew me that I confessed to her that I was feeling a little out of my depth. She assured me that I wasn’t alone. She’d felt the same when she had come to the conference for the first time last year and look at her now, pitching for an investment! She sounded genuinely excited about her project and at the platform Good Deals presented to aspiring social entrepreneurs such as ourselves. And as she spoke, the little fog that had daunted my own imagination started to lose its grip. I began seeing the power of possibility. Before I knew it, it all started to make a whole lot more sense.
Sometime during the next session, someone said that money is just a tool and without the social innovation and motivation to drive it, it can do nothing. The vocabulary of investment could be learnt, the language of money understood. But the real grassroots work, the kind that social entrepreneurs do – creating change, addressing social issues, providing sustainable livelihoods, raising standards of living, helping with education, – now that stuff, that’s the heart of it all. I got stuck into the next few sessions which saw robust disagreements and discussions on challenges facing social ventures. And if some of it went over my head, it didn’t matter. I’d figure it out sooner or later.