Over 2015, EVPA is producing a number of factsheets detailing venture philanthropy (VP) and social investment (SI) activities in countries about Europe. The below article is based on our recently published Norway factsheet.
Despite a strong economy, historically low unemployment rates and an efficient welfare system, Norway does have some pressing social issues. There is a looming uncertainty about what the economy will look like without fossil fuels as a dependable source of income and as the elderly population grows faster than the welfare system is prepared for, innovative solutions will need to be put in place to ensure extensive and high quality coverage in the near future.
And then there are other challenges: like trying to reduce school drop-outs, fighting relative poverty and inequality, dealing with present and future environmental degradation or tackling underlying integration issues in society. In this context, social impact driven initiatives provide an opportunity to increase efficiency, contribute to social cohesion and improve outcomes when reaching for change. The VP/SI sector still has room to grow in Norway but, as this article will highlight, progress is well under way.
In 2015 Innovation Norway, which is the Norwegian Government’s most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry, announced their commitment to social entrepreneurship. As a way to make use of all capacity for work in the country, national stakeholders were invited in 2015 to contribute to the “Dream Commitment” project, an open debate on how Norwegian industry can overcome challenges such as climate change and the post fossil fuel economy.
The government of Norway is also involved in an initiative that, among other actions, supports CEE and Southern Europe through VP funds that invest in capacity building. These are EEA Grants, in cooperation with Iceland and Liechtenstein, and Norway Grants.
Local initiatives to support Social Purpose Organisations
In the early 80’s Norway saw the birth of the first VP/Impact investment fund. Established by Cecilie Nustad, it is still being run by her son Tharald Nustad who is focusing on expanding it by including a focus on digital social innovation.
Since then the number of VP/SI initiatives is growing steadily. The Norwegian branch of SEB Bank is piloting a project to provide non-financial support to local social entrepreneurs (e.g. financial modelling and forecasting), Microfinance Norway is raising a new fund to provide microcredit to individuals living in social exclusion and Voxtra Foundation continues the Voxtra East Africa Agribusiness Fund.
Then there is EVPA member TD Veen which is capitalising on the financial skills of their team to upskill social entrepreneurs offering office space and access to network in Stavanger.
EVPA member Ferd Social Entrepreneurs is looking to activate equity investment when scalability is reachable for social enterprise.
Local initiatives to build the VP/SI sector
The first Norwegian conference on social entrepreneurship and VP was held by Partnership for Change in 2011. Academic institutions started taking notice of the field soon after, and most universities now offer courses on Social Entrepreneurship in Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees. The first program on Social Entrepreneurship was given by the University of Oslo in 2012 and the first book on the topic -“Socialt Enreprenørskap på Norsk”- was published in the same year, followed by a training program directed at social entrepreneurs.
In February 2010 Nordea bank adopted a new strategy on responsible Investment. Since 2007 Formuesforvaltning AS (Wealth Management) has offered pro bono advisory service for clients interested in entering the VP/SI scene .
The outlook for the sector
The VP/SI sector in Norway is growing rapidly: an increasing number of players are stepping into the sector, from corporations and banking, becoming more proactive towards the social challenges affecting the country. While social entrepreneurship as a method has been widely used within health care, it has not been very widespread in other areas. Innovation and new solutions should thus be developed to tackle inequality and facilitate social cohesion and civic engagement, especially of immigrants and vulnerable groups.
As the country wonders what a post fossil fuel economy will look like, social innovation seems to be gaining traction and generating interest from the public and the private sector.
EVPA’s activities in Norway
In 2014 EVPA’s Norwegian members contributed to the organisation of a Regional Meeting with Sweden, that took place in Stockholm on the 27th and 28th of August.
In partnership with Ferd and TD Veen, EVPA held a Field Trip in Oslo on the 19th of May 2015. During the event members spoke openly about challenges and opportunities of the VP approach to a group of interested investors in Norway. Ferd also maintains an active participation in EVPA thematic groups, i.e. employment, and contributes with case studies to EVPA reports.
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