The Editors' Post: Student radical to ‘pain in the ass’ pioneer – IVPC’s Doug Miller tells his story

On the persistence of social change pioneers – and the life experiences that shape them; Locavore's last-ditch crowdfunder; and news from the Impact Investing Institute. The editors' view from this week's Pioneers Post newsletter.

What makes a social change pioneer? It’s a question that comes up regularly in our newsroom as we consider who to approach for a Pioneer Interview, our series featuring the most groundbreaking thinkers and doers in social enterprise and impact investing. 

We don’t always agree on the answer. But it was pretty clear that our latest interviewee fits the bill. Doug Miller has probably done more than any other individual to create and promote the concept of venture philanthropy. The five influential networks he co-founded, starting with EVPA nearly 20 years ago, now gather well over 1,000 organisations around the world that are using their capital – financial and otherwise – for good.

The philanthropist and private equity veteran is, as he puts it, “just slightly younger than the US president”, and the path that took him here started decades ago, in the Vietnam war. Night jumps out of planes; life-or-death decisions; intense pressure that sometimes caused him to throw up. And the crushing reality of knowing that a supposed enemy was just another young man, with a family at home anxiously awaiting his return. Since I heard it, his story has stuck in my head; I can only imagine how that experience has stuck with him, with a whole generation.

Doug was a rather reluctant interviewee. He insists that the success of EVPA and its sister organisations is largely down to others – the team who made things happen. Many would object to this modesty. Acquaintances and former colleagues have described him as a “visionary”, as someone who “single-handedly transformed” the sector. And, if pioneer also means a certain stubborn persistence, then Doug seems to fit that bill. As one of his buddies puts it – affectionately: “Boy… have you been a pain in the ass sometimes.” 

Shining example

Locavore was named the UK’s Social Enterprise of the Year in 2021. A social investor calls it a “shining example” of social enterprise success. So why did desperation drive it to crowdfunding recently – and what’s next for the Scottish food retailer? Julie Pybus finds out.

We recently brought you the news that the Impact Investing Institute’s first CEO, Sarah Gordon, was stepping down. This week we report on her replacement – a “key and influential figure” in impact investing, who will take over as CEO from May. Kieron Boyle brings previous experience from within government – he is described as a “key architect” of the efforts in the early to mid-2010s to establish the UK as a world leader in impact investing. He’s also spent seven years running a foundation that – unlike many other foundations – has set big ambitions when it comes to investing its endowment for impact.

Meet the UK’s leading women in social enterprise

And finally, don’t miss next Tuesday’s special award ceremony, where you can find out which four women are taking home the top prizes in our annual WISE100 awards, run in partnership with NatWest. Join us online from wherever you are in the world at 6:30pm UK time. See you there!


This week's top stories:

Doug Miller: Visionary, godfather of venture philanthropy, ‘pain in the ass’

Food retailer Locavore thrown crowdfunding lifeline as social investment refused amid cost of living crisis

UK’s Impact Investing Institute reveals new CEO


Photo: Doug Miller pictured in Vietnam in 1969, at the opening day of a school built by members of the US forces (photo courtesy of Doug Miller)

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