The Editors' Post: Church of England says sorry – with an impact fund

Church of England makes £100m commitment to address historic slavery links; UK's Impact Investing Institute sees first change of leadership as Sarah Gordon steps down – and SDGs under scrutiny in our latest Awkward Questions column. The editors' view from this week's Pioneers Post newsletter.

Happy New Year! If you’re just getting into the swing of 2023, we’ve got plenty to get your teeth into.

News that the Church of England is creating an impact investment fund to make up for historic links to slavery made many headlines this week. But it’s not the only religious institution thinking this way, as we found out – in fact, the £100m proposed by the Church of England may soon sound rather small in comparison. 

Britain’s dubious history also came up as the latest New Year Honours were announced, bestowing a string of letters on another batch of the country’s social entrepreneurs and impact leaders. Once again, some expressed conflicted emotions at accepting an award that explicitly references the British empire. Many social sector leaders have backed a campaign to update the wording of their awards; even achieving that simple change seems to be a battle.

‘Complete converts’

The UK’s Impact Investing Institute is seeing its first change of leadership since it was created in 2019. Former business journalist Sarah Gordon is stepping down to take on a rather different role – one that will involve trying to rebuild trust between business and the media. I spoke to her this week about what the Institute has achieved, what frustrations remain – and why now was the right time to hand over to her successor. 

It’s always encouraging to hear anecdotes about how much things have changed. Like the conversations Gordon was having back in 2019, with people who at the time were “utterly dismissive” of the idea of impact investing, and are now “complete converts”. In some ways, it’s fascinating to see how expectations and norms change in just a few years. But – as Pioneers Post hears time and again – the change isn’t happening fast enough. 

Contributors Oliver Matikainen and Tom Rippin take on this question of urgency in our latest Awkward Questions column. Everyone loves an SDG – all those colourful boxes and pictograms, and plenty to choose from; whatever you’re doing, there’s a good chance you can pin it to one of the 17 goals, 169 sub-targets or 232 indicators. But… what if the Sustainable Development Goals have got it all wrong? What if they’re a contraction in terms, an encouragement to address symptoms, not systems – and a too-easy means of taking on one area while ignoring the rest? Matikainen and Rippin explain why the SDGs are flawed, and suggest some different ways of tackling today’s problems.

Social unicorns, ecommerce, and more

Also this week, an accelerator announces it’s seeking the world’s next social unicorns, while eBay shares what it’s learned from a new programme helping social enterprises to sell online. Plus, why you might hear more about the ‘social value economy’ in 2023, and why social and affordable housing could become more attractive to institutional investors this year.


This week's top stories:

Impact Investing Institute's Sarah Gordon steps down amid 'fast-closing' window of opportunity

Are the SDGs a dangerous distraction?

Church of England to set up impact fund as part of £100m commitment to address historic slavery links


Photo: A stained glass window in Durham Cathedral (credit: K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash)

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