The Impact Papers: honest conversations on investing for impact

How do we make sure the growing social impact ecosystem stays true to its mission? What’s the role of the various organisations involved – both those investing for impact, and those investing with impact? EVPA's Alessia  Gianoncelli and Priscilla Boiardi introduce our new series, The Impact Papers, exploring what's next for venture philanthopy and social investment.

Fifteen years ago, venture philanthropy was a new concept and social investment was uncharted territory.  

But a handful of venture capital investors, eager to give back to society, decided to apply their VC approach to the greater good. Meanwhile, some foundations recognised they could support their grantees for longer and in a more engaged way, with increased focus on impact. In this context, EVPA was born, and venture philanthropy and social investment began spreading across Europe.

Nowadays, venture philanthropy and social investment, together with impact investing, are terms that appeal to a broader audience and are becoming well-established industries.

As the sector has matured, attracting more and more organisations, we see the emergence of a spectrum of impact strategies. On one side, there are investors for impact who take risks that no one else can (or is willing to) take, putting the business model of the social organisation at the centre. On the other side, there are investors with impact who want to put their money to a good cause, but need to guarantee a certain financial return. 

As we look back on EVPA’s 15 years, and forward to the next era, we’re asking: how do we make sure that a certain level of integrity is preserved in this growing social impact ecosystem? What is the role of the different actors – from venture philanthropy funds to social investors, from foundations to impact investing funds to institutional investors? How can they best contribute to making lasting, positive change?

We recognise that much more discussion and reflection is needed to understand all the nuances the two impact strategies have, the factors that influence how investors shape their own impact strategies, and which strategy is most appropriate to address certain social challenges or support different organisations. So, through our Impact Papers series, a new partnership with Pioneers Post, we’re inviting eight thought leaders to reflect on where the social impact ecosystem is going, and how investing for and with impact are different yet complementary strategies.

The series kicks off with Luciano Balbo, founder and president of the first Italian impact investing fund Oltre Venture, and one of the founders of EVPA. As provocative thought leader, he shares his critical view on the direction impact investing is taking, stressing the need to recognise the uniqueness of investors for impact.

Stay tuned for the next contributions and join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #ImpactPapers.

You can also share feedback with us here or by contacting us.

EVPA, the European Venture Philanthropy Association, is a pan-European community of 280 organisations interested in or practising venture philanthropy. EVPA co-creates, shares insights and brings members together to learn how to become better at investing for impact. Read more about EVPA’s Impact Strategies Journey here.