After six years of setting up and running the Knowledge Centre, over two years of being formally responsible for EVPA’s policy activities and becoming a cornerstone of its management team, our dear colleague Lisa Hehenberger is moving on to join the faculty of ESADE business school in Barcelona. Lisa will stay engaged with EVPA as a strategic advisor on research and policy as of April 2016 and remain EVPA’s representative in the GECES. On the occasion of her leaving Lisa shared this note on how she has seen EVPA, the sector and her own activities change and grow over the past years.
Getting into VP
Come to think of it, I have been engaged with EVPA for the past decade! My first annual conference was in Paris in 2006 and I have attended all since then (except the one in Amsterdam in 2009 when my son was born!). At the beginning, I was interested in venture philanthropy from a research perspective as I was conducting a PhD at IESE business school. My thesis supervisor, Prof. Johanna Mair introduced me to the topic through some of her contacts in the private equity field. I found venture philanthropy very appealing as I was interested in doing social good, while finding the discourse and culture familiar from my background in investment banking. However, a big difference compared to the financial sector was the openness to share information, and the willingness to collaborate and build something together – EVPA’s founders and members are wonderful examples of this mentality.
I was quickly drawn into VP and when EVPA looked for someone to set up the Knowledge Centre at the beginning of 2010, I eagerly applied for the position. As with EVPA’s trajectory as a whole, setting up and building the Knowledge Centre turned out to be a true entrepreneurial project. Although I was lucky to count on the financial support from five core funders (Fondazione CRT, Impetus Trust, Invest for Children, Natixis and Noaber Foundation), and the non-financial support of the Advisory Committee, the foundations of and plans for EVPA’s research work had to be set, objectives defined, processes developed, resources mobilised and methodologies defined. For the first industry survey, we used a simple word forms template where the answers had to be converted to excel to be analysed – and many of the questions had not been phrased clearly and were misunderstood. Still, when EVPA’s Chairman at the time, Serge Raicher presented the first data on the VP sector in Europe at the Turin conference in 2011 from the KC industry survey, it felt like a great accomplishment. We were learning by doing and learning from failure, but we also started feeling increasingly confident that we were doing something right as the recognition and credibility of the KC increased over time.
The work on impact measurement with Anna-Marie Harling and Peter Scholten was pivotal in the terms of the credibility of EVPA also in policy discussions. The KC publication has been widely cited and used by practitioners and in training courses, but also gave EVPA a seat at the table in discussions on the topic at EU level (in the sub-group on social impact measurement of the GECES – that used the EVPA framework to develop the EU standard on impact measurement) and in the G8 taskforce on social impact investment. All in all, the KC has produced 17 publications in six years, some of which have been translated to several languages.
Since I entered the venture philanthropy (VP)/ social investment (SI) sector, I have witnessed important developments and changes. The core of the VP/SI sector continues to be the ‘pure’ players – the VP and SI funds that apply the VP model fully and would qualify as full members of EVPA – a segment that continues to grow steadily. Grant-making foundations continue to expand their VP activity, with important corporate foundations such as the IKEA Foundation and Bosch Foundation joining the community recently, as well as foundations that have been involved for some time, such as KBF and Fondazione CRT upgrading VP from pilot projects to mainstream strategies. Important financial institutions continue to expand their work both in terms of VP advisory services and setting up impact investing funds. Large NGOs, with the likes of WWF and Oxfam setting up VP-like structures, have more recently entered the field. Impact investing as a broader phenomenon has taken off during the past few years and is attracting institutional investors seeking a combination of impact and financial return. The boundaries of the VP/SI sector continue to be drawn in terms of the practices used – providing tailored financing, organisational support and impact management to social purpose organisations, to help them achieve more sustainable and greater societal impact.
The broader eco-system has also changed. Several universities and business schools are now offering impact investing or VP programmes, including Saïd Business School, Erasmus Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Bocconi. In terms of service providers, these are becoming more specialised in the VP/SI field, including impact measurement and fundraising consultants and specialist lawyers (see for example ESELA). At EU level, last year, the European Commission renewed the composition of the private experts in the GECES for the second three year mandate – GECES provides advice to the European Commission on policies to develop social entrepreneurship in Europe. The EIF launched its Social Impact Accelerator and has since invested in EVPA members such as Ananda Social Venture, Bridges Ventures, Impact Venture, Oltre Venture and PhiTrust. In 2015, the Global Social Impact Investment Steering Group (GSG) was formed, with EVPA as an observer, succeeding the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, to act as a framework organisation driving forward the implementation agenda of a global impact investment agenda.
EVPA continues its bridge-building role, connecting practitioners with researchers and policy makers, building evidence of the impact of VP to attract further resources to the sector, and helping practitioners become more effective in their work by providing them with guidance, tools and vital connections. As an organisation, EVPA has developed from the start-up that was run out of Doug Miller’s guest room, with the other four founders and Rob John providing financial, human and social capital, to a professional non-profit association based in Brussels at the heart of the EU institutions. In 2014, EVPA signed a 4-year partnership agreement with the European Commission – DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion – in application of the financial Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) – recognising EVPA as the leading European network in the promotion of social enterprise finance. This partnership allowed EVPA to more fully engaged in policy work, further develop communications and dissemination, establish a presence in Central and Eastern Europe, and more recently hire local representatives in France and Germany. Under the leadership of Kurt Peleman, and supported by the EVPA board, EVPA has taken a great step forward.
A special thanks
My experience at EVPA has been extremely rewarding and I would like to thank EVPA’s members, the founders, the board, the funders, as well as the team for all that I have learned during this time!
I am now taking on a new challenge as a professor at ESADE Business School in Barcelona. In my new position, I will continue conducting both academic and practitioner-oriented research on VP and social impact investing, as well as teach in ESADE’s various programmes in strategy and entrepreneurship. I am pleased to continue advising EVPA on research and policy issues, and to continue as EVPA’s respresentative in GECES.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me there: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours sincerely, Lisa
For any questions related to research and policy at EVPA, your contacts are:
• Knowledge Centre: Priscilla Boiardi, EVPA’s Research Manager, will take on the leadership of the EVPA Knowledge Centre (KC) that now also incorporates EVPA’s training activities. She will soon inform about the new KC 2.0 strategy, that we have developed with the support of one of the KC’s original funders, the Noaber Foundation. The KC continues counting on the support of Fondazione CRT. Priscilla’s email is: PBoiardi@evpa.eu.com
• Policy and public affairs: Elinor de Pret, EVPA’s Public Affairs Manager, will take on the leadership of EVPA’s policy work, working closely with the Policy Committee. Elinor will take over as EVPA’s representative in the Global Social Impact Investment Steering Group (GSG). Elinor’s email is: EdePret@evpa.eu.com
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