Six global hotspots for social impact in 2023

Where are the most exciting places for impact investment and social enterprise in 2023? A selection of experts reveal the ones to watch.

Which areas will be the hottest on 2023’s impact map? We canvassed the views of a selection of leaders across the global impact economy to discover the cities, countries and regions they are most excited about this year.

Here are this year’s six social impact hotspots:


1. The Netherlands: This country was on the Pioneers Post list of global hotspots for 2022. The Hague has been known for its support of social entrepreneurs for several years. And this year, Amsterdam hosts the Social Enterprise World Forum 2023, one of the world’s largest social enterprise gatherings – which will undoubtedly further catalyse the movement across the Netherlands, building on Amsterdam’s work to transform itself into an ‘impact city’. “This global event is a milestone in our city’s journey to creating a wellbeing economy that prioritises people and the planet,” says deputy mayor Sofyan Mbarki. And as Suzanne Wisse-Huiskes, outgoing CEO of European social enterprise support body the Euclid Network, says: “The Netherlands and Amsterdam have always been an exciting place for social enterprise, but this year it will be gaining a lot of attention!”


2. Brazil: Jair Bolsonaro’s defeat in Brazil’s presidential elections has raised the spirits of people fighting hard to save the Amazon. One of new president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s first actions was to name a green activist as environment minister, building on his election pledge to safeguard the rainforest.

“With President Lula’s arrival in Brazil, we see high possibilities for improving impact investment in this country, particularly in the Amazon Basin area,” says Carolina Suárez Visbal of Latin America’s impact investor network Latimpacto. President Lula’s election has “opened the door” for new investments that combat deforestation and move forward the energy transition and global decarbonisation which are a “significant interest” for global investors, she says.

What’s more, Rio de Janeiro, will host Latimpacto’s 2023 conference in August, bringing venture philanthropists and impact investors to Brazil from across Latin America and the Caribbean as well as further afield.


3. China’s Greater Bay Area: South China’s entrepreneurially vibrant Greater Bay Area encompasses nine mega-cities as well as the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao. Tristan Ace of Asia’s social investment network AVPN believes that the recent reversal of China’s Zero Covid policy and the fact that Hong Kong is once again open “offers an opportunity for the world to reconnect with this critically important region for driving forward the impact agenda”.

As evidence that the region is progressing in the arena of sustainable finance, he points to the first Greater Bay Area Green and Sustainable Finance Summit which was held in November 2022, co-hosted by the China Alliance of Social Value Investment. What’s more, says Ace, large Chinese corporations, such as Tencent (headquartered in the Bay Area’s city of Shenzhen) are also mobilising resources towards impact. 


4. Wales: While England’s ministers have been lukewarm about social enterprise and impact investment in recent years, its neighbours have shown more interest. “It feels like the time has come for the Welsh government to deliver on its profound interest in social enterprise, co-operatives, employee ownership and the wider social economy,” says Dan Gregory, director of international and sustainable development at Social Enterprise UK. The Welsh government has pleased many involved in the social economy with its plans to eliminate profit-making companies from running children’s homes and foster care provision in the next few years, instead highlighting ministers’ preference for public sector, charitable or not-for-profit providers.


5. France: “The French impact ecosystem is experiencing very strong growth at all levels,” says Santiago Lefebvre, founder and CEO of ChangeNOW, which organises the Paris-hosted three-day ChangeNow summit for entrepreneurs, business leaders and policy-makers. He points to the favourable political environment for the social economy. And, like the rest of the EU, it benefits from Brussels’ flagship Social Economy Action Plan running from 2022-2030.


6. Ghana: Impact Investing Ghana, which is the country’s representative body on the Global Steering Group for Impact Investing (GSG), is making waves, according to Frank Aswani, CEO of AVPA, which represents social investors in Africa. “I believe the work being done by Impact Investing Ghana, under the very able leadership of Amma Lamptey, will bring Ghana more into the limelight,” he says. Dan Gregory highlights this country for the activity of Social Enterprise Ghana which, he says, “is beginning to mature, grow its membership and further foster the development of social enterprises across the country”.

Header image: Making plans for Amsterdam Impact's 2019-2022 programme during a co-creation event (credit: Jurre Rompa)


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