Last week, Fast Forward Fund had its final interview with Social Venture Network judges and professional staff for SVN's Social Innovation Award. Except for my mortification at not being able to figure out how to mute my new fancy schmancy Blackberry during the interview, I enjoyed and valued the experience immensely. Totally impressed with SVN's process, caliber of judges questions & engagement, stellar roster of fellow finalists. Thrilled, honored, humbled to be selected as finalist, and in such good company, for this award. One of the best parts of the interview was a fun & provocative question posed at the beginning: what's the most surprising thing that's come up for FFF in past 2-3 weeks? My answer: seeing how many cool SoCap09 people already knew about Fast Forward, that we've come so much further than I'd realized while simultaneously have so much further to go, and that there is even greater demand and opportunity than I'd imagined to build the pipeline for Next Gen social investors!
Leading a SoCap09 "unconference" session on Building the Pipeline for Next Gen Social Investors, together with founding FFF Board Member Michele Kahane (The New School), and FFF Advisory Council Members Justin Rockefeller (Uhuru Management) & Nathaniel Whittemore (Asset Map), we explored what's working, what's needed, and what we've learned so far. Interesting issue arose around use of term "social investor" v. philanthropist. The FFF "social investor" model aggregates philanthropic capital through what we call a "diversified social investment portfolio" to leverage impact of social investments to youth-led social enterprises (for profit, not for profit, and hybrid social ventures). FFF does not offer financial ROI, rather we offer a social return on investment (SROI) and a charitable tax exemption to investors. So why not just call FFF supporters "philanthropists," "donors," "givers"? Isn't it confusing to say "investor"? Well, that confusion is a risk we're bumping up against, and frankly, we may need to reconsider our language, maybe sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the reason we say social investor is that we mean it! We very intentionally want to instill the value that philanthropy through FFF is not just a charitable donation rather it's a real investment with real returns in social terms. Directing capital to and through FFF is part of shifting philanthropic "business as usual" to a new era of strategic giving as a social investment, one that will build the society, the social context, of the world we want to create & embrace. That said, language matters. Semantics can be important. So what's in a name? What do you think? Is a philanthropist a social investor?
And Back in NYC...BGIA & CGI
After two summer FFF trips to California, I've settled back into New York where I happily began fall semester teaching "Global Social Entrepreneurship & Strategic Philanthropy" at Bard Globalization & Int'l Affairs ( BGIA ) last week. Splitting my time between NYC & mid-Hudson Valley, I feel autumn in the air from upstate apple orchards, back-to-school buses & kids w/bulging backpacks, to city slickers wearing long sleeves for first time in months. I'm looking forward to the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), where I'll be blogging both for FFF and on change.org. What are the top questions or issues you'd like to see raised at CGI re:next-gen social investors, innovators, and change-makers? who are the top people you'd want to meet?