The Dan show
The ‘Dan Show’, with hosts Daniel Brewer (Resonance) and Danyal Sattar (Big Issue Invest) aimed to challenge the audience to leave Leicester with a different way of thinking or even concrete plans to start doing something differently. As Brewer said: “It’s not just about what The Gathering can do for you – it’s about what you decide to do as a result.”
The hosts introduced a quickfire debate – inviting selected participants to share their views on the various themes, with live polling among the whole audience to take the pulse on some major questions concerning social investors. Below we share some snippets from each of the themes, and reveal how the audience voted.
Are we already all history?
Have mainstream investors already claimed impact investing, or are we still leading the pack?
“We’re blazing a trail, but we need to up our game. We ‘swim with sharks’ by working with mainstream investors… but we’re asking them questions they’d never thought about, like: what’s your theory of change? Influencing mainstream capital is systems change. I don’t think we should fight them.” – social impact advisor
“Funding [for social businesses] shouldn’t be top-down, it should fit their needs - but that leaves you with a set of really quirky products that you then need to sell to the person on the street. Trying to sell a complicated product to an ordinary investor…[There’s a risk] that mainstream investors will come in and fluff over the social bit.” – ethical investing platform
“There’s definitely a big, growing interest in socially responsible investment… people get excited by a product that has a story to it… But that level of mainstream interest doesn’t filter down to the kinds of issues we’re dealing with. There’ll always be a need for those who call themselves social investors - those prepared to take a bit more of a risk” – social investor and support organisation
Are we likely to get 'Ubered'?
Will an app one day make us all irrelevant?
“Yes! It’s whether we can create the thing that creates the disruption, rather than it coming from outside with a different set of values. Uber really focused on users in a way taxi companies hadn’t. It’s not about tech, but about the focus on users - that’s what to bear in mind. Disruptors aren’t those with the coolest technology. We need more understanding of what people want from social investment.” – tech for good investor
“Technology won’t replace the power of people. Look at self-checkouts in supermarkets – there’s still always a space, even if it’s small, for that desire for human interaction.” – financial institution for social investment
Is our addiction to debt making us weaker?
“It’s not that it makes us weaker - a lot of debt is a good thing, it means there’s more capital out there. But we’re limited. We need to try so much harder on equity-like investment and blending from grants into equity. We can’t be satisfied with current provision. 95% of our own investment in social ventures is debt.” – social enterprise support organisation
“Debt has an important role, but we’re not thinking enough about what an organisation needs and when. Debt can move it to a certain point, but there’s not enough of a pathway to bring it to scale, make it sustainable or whatever the goal is.” – social investor backed by housing associations
What's the best intervention that government could use to stimulate social investment?
“None of these! Or rather, all of them, but more important is convening the right people to work together in a focused way. Government can bring focus, convening power and energy to something.” – foundation
“We’ve come far, but there’s lots more to do. We’re never going to have a fully functioning market without support. Social investment is just part of the mix. It’s really difficult to implement capacity building if you don’t have infrastructure, and it needs to be regionally available.” – financial institution for social investment