How do we create impact and change? How to we do something meaningful? That´s what I have been looking for, and to be honest, I cannot say I have found it. I have seen bits and pieces of change, but the scale of the impact I have been involved in, has felt small in terms of the ever-changing, global world in which we live.
I often find myself thinking about this question: if I were to stop what I was doing, would anything change in the world? And usually, I find myself answering no. I’m not trying to be negative or say that what I’m doing is a waste of time, but in the grand scheme of life, I have not create something that potentially someone else could have done or that has changed how people live in a drastic and better way.
I am now working with Yunus Social Business (YSB) in Colombia looking for early stage Social Businesses to invest and support. The organization was founded by Muhammad Yunus, who was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in microfinance and is the founder of the Grameen Bank. A “Social Business”, by Yunus’s definition, is different than a “Social Enterprise” in that a Social Business does not issue dividends and all profits are reinvested in the business. The idea is that every dollar made, goes back into the business and is not taken out.
Check out the organization’s website here: http://www.yunussb.com/
Right now, I´m focused on screening, evaluating and presenting potential Social Businesses for the organization to invest anywhere from $50k to $500k. These types of businesses could include a high-quality coffee company exporting to buyers in the US and providing higher margins to farmers to reward them for good quality, a telecommunication company working to connect rural regions of Colombia that have historically been disconnected, or an ethically and sustainably sourced clothing company that provides fair wages and safe working conditions to workers, just to give a few examples.
I am also creating an accelerator program which would provide support to early stage Social Businesses, providing them with resources and mentoring helping them become investment ready. To elaborate just a bit, this would include doing a diagnostic on the needs of the business, providing them with a mentor to work with them one-on-one, and having a 3-6 month long program to help them identify ways to grow and scale the business. The program would also prepare entrepreneurs in becoming investment ready, meaning helping them prepare documents and information (pitch deck, financial model, contracts, ect.) to approach and begin discussions with impact investors and/or traditional investors.
The pictures above are where I’ve been working, in this little blue office in the Impact Hub Bogota. The Impact Hub is a co-working space that also has some smaller private office spaces, like the one we have at YSB, for organizations that have a social impact.
I don´t want this blog to be about my work at Yunus; however, it’s probably helpful to know what I am doing day-to-day in this role and how I think about this job in terms of finding purpose. While I feel it is important to support early stage entrepreneurs, particularly those who have a social impact, it is also sometimes difficult to see the impact of the change, since many of these business are just starting out and may only be “impacting” (employing, selling to, servicing, ect.) a handful of individuals. What I do find interesting about supporting entrepreneurs at this stage, is as a consultant and finance professional, I am able to somewhat shape and influence how these entrepreneurs think about and develop their businesses. To contrast with later stage social entrepreneurs, where they more or less have their business models and finances figured out.
Through this work experience, I wish to continue to learn and support early stage Social Business and see how to scale the impact and change that is created. Over the next few months, I hope to follow up with my reflections on the work, and I would also be interested to hear any of your thoughts (via comments or email).
A few weeks ago, I gave a little live-stream conference on “Global Perspectives on Impact Investing” with Santiago in Spanish. If you want to check it out, you can watch it here (Sorry no subtitles in English!): http://page.tuproyecto.co/enlaconversa
Below are also a few pictures from the event.
I´m going to have to work on my resting face…I’m so serious!
Hope that explains a bit about Social Businesses and the role of impact investing in supporting this sector of social impact and change.