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SOCAP11 Panelist Spotlight: Ben Powell, Agora Partnerships

SOCAP August 31, 2011

What is your role in the Social Capital Market?
Our main role is identify and support outstanding early stage entrepreneurs working to solve key social and environmental problems in very poor countries. We’re currently focused in Central America and are expanding into Mexico. One of our challenges is figuring out how to develop a new entrepreneurial class in poor countries that sees business as a tool for creating social change, and that also has the management acumen to grow a company. By developing a community of entrepreneurs who see the world this way, and connecting them to similarly minded mentors and investors, we hope to increase the flow of all kinds of capital to those people with the potential to turn it into impact. Our theory of change is that their success inspires others to follow, bringing the ethos of sustainability, entrepreneurship, and innovation to conservative and static business cultures.
What is the single most important step to creating a more established social capital market?
More information, which leads to trust, which leads to action. Everyday opportunity is squandered because people with capital to invest, whether that be social, human, financial capital, don’t know how to find the right opportunities at a reasonable price. To be able to make these connections in a cost effective and scalable way, we need more info – not only financial info, but info about people – their values and aspirations, how they see their business solving problems. And these entrepreneurs, who are the front line troops in the global war on poverty, they also need info, they need to know that there is a community like Socap out there, that there are investors who care about social impact, that they are not alone, and that the market is now global. Getting the right people together won’t solve the problem itself, but I think it’s a key first step.
What does Money + Meaning = to you? What should the social capital market stand for?
Many of us are fundamentally re-thinking humankind’s stewardship of this planet and worried about the collective future  our current path is leading us. The social capital markets to me represents an alternative path, a pragmatic response that seeks to mend the (relatively recent) breakdown between the business and social sectors. For me, it’s about building the movement for a more sustainable capitalism/consumerism and a more sustainable social sector, everywhere in the world. It’s about connecting the right people together in strong communities with shared goals and values in a culture of optimism and transparency. What should it stand for? Maybe simply the ability of impact investors and high potential impact entrepreneurs across the world to find one another and do business together efficiently and effectively. When we get an efficient flow of investment capital, that’s when we will truly be able to challenge the status quo.

Impact Investing
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