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Wim van der Beek, the importance of social impact failure, and Why I'm at SOCAP09

SOCAP Global September 3, 2009

By Gloria Sweida-DeMania

Wim van der Beek

Wim van der Beek

Wim van der Beek is the founding partner of Goodwell Investments, a for-profit business development company that invests in entrepreneurial microfinance organizations on a socially and commercially sustainable basis.
1) Where do you see your organization fitting into the capital market spectrum?
We invest in entrepreneurial microfinance organizations that improve access to affordable money to millions at the “base of the pyramid.”  Many believe that there is a difference in investing in pure philanthropy, which occupies one end of the spectrum and the pure for-profit investing on the other end. I don’t think that is necessarily the case. Traditional investing and investing in social enterprises shouldn’t be thought of as two different strategies. We use the traditional model that is used in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. We invest in the for profit world. Our investors make a profit from their investments. So this means it is commercial money into the social marketplace and – commercial money out of the social marketplace. Our investors receive equity from their investments. The difference in our model of investing is our investors. Our investors are social capital investors so the social mission is as important to them as a financial return.
2) What are you getting out of SOCAP09?
I wanted to get a few things out of SOCAP this year. I wanted to connect to the community here on the west coast. Specifically I wanted to understand the development of the social capital market here on the west coast. I also wanted to be inspired to create change. Of course I wanted to raise money for what we do but that would be the icing or maybe even the cherry on the cake. There is no doubt this conference has been meeting my expectations. I am seeing a shift in thinking in the community here that is very positive. Crisis has made people aware of new opportunities.
3) What questions are you raising at SOCAP09?
I was part of a panel discussion yesterday and posed a challenge for the social capital audience to accept higher levels of social impact risk when investing in social enterprises. This means that what you support may not work. By doing this they also achieve potentially higher social impact. It is the same as the main stream capital marketplace; higher risk generates higher financial returns.  With a higher tolerance and acceptance of failure you are positioned to be a part of innovation. Main stream investors accept failure maybe 7 out of 10 times on the financial side, maybe more. They are banking on the few that succeed and provide a windfall of profit. In the social marketplace we need to accept social impact failure the same way and realize that the few that accomplish their mission will create huge social impact.

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