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Innovative Impact Investing in Canada

SOCAP Global June 26, 2023

A Money + Meaning Podcast with Richard Muller of Impact United, Jeffrey Cyr of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, Kate Murray of TAS, and Janis Dubno of Sorenson Impact Center

As impact investing makes a difference in communities around the world, practitioners are addressing regional challenges with innovative approaches that can inspire others. Made-in-Canada impact investing approaches to social and environmental issues get the spotlight in this Money and Meaning episode. 

The episode highlights part of an interactive discussion at SOCAP22 featuring Richard Muller of Impact United, Jeffrey Cyr of Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, Kate Murray of TAS, and moderator Janis Dubno of Sorenson Impact Center. Impact efforts have gained momentum since the Canadian government adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2021 and committed to legal, economic, and moral actions that acknowledge and recognize the harms done to Indigenous peoples during colonization.

“The government is a very active player in Canada, more so now than ever before,” Muller said, adding that the federal government has committed $750 million to a social finance fund, while millions more in funding are part of provincial initiatives. “Government is very much a partner, in some respects, and very much bringing money and funding to the table.” 

Muller pointed to the dichotomy between the industries that historically have powered Canada’s economy — forestry, oil and gas — and its predominantly socially progressive population. “We have this strange interplay between the new economy that many of us would love to see take hold and take shape, and the reality that our wealth traditionally has come from extractive industries,” he said. “We have an affluent country and a high standard of living as a result of those extractive industries.”

At Impact United, Muller is part of a growing movement for collective social and environmental impact through innovative investment. “We’ve been actively curating and involving about 250 members in that community,” he said, in addition to cultivating thought leadership opportunities and education in partnership with universities and practitioners. 

Since its start about five years ago, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners has worked to decolonize the investment process and connect Indigenous entrepreneurs and innovators with capital. “There’s no roadmap, there’s no destination. We’re just trying it,” he said. “We want to figure out how to do it … so founders keep wealth inside Indigenous communities and hands. … That’s been missing from Indigenous communities over the last couple hundred years.” 

By focusing on investments in climate and health, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners sees the potential to disrupt two centuries of extractive federal programming and shift toward practices that protect people and the planet. “We see an inflection point in the Indigenous community where you’re pivoting from a surviving mode from colonization to a thriving mode,” Cyr said. “There’s a real innovation culture among Indigenous peoples and communities.” 

Community is at the core of TAS, a family-owned business that uses real estate as a tool to create positive community impact. The TAS team members reflect the diversity of their hometown of Toronto, Murray said, with a workforce that is over 30% women and 60% people of color. “It comes out in the fabric of our businesses and the way that we go about things,” she said. 

TAS uses a four-part impact framework that starts with a corporate commitment, then incorporates project commitments to tackle climate change, broaden housing affordability and equity, and build social capital. “As a developer and manager of property across Toronto and Hamilton area, we focus greatly on engaging with local neighborhoods and community stakeholders. It includes working directly not only with neighbors but local organizations, seeking the wisdom of Indigenous elders, for example, in the design of our places,” Murray said. “(We’re) looking to understand from the people what it is that these places mean to them, how they can serve the community better, what their needs are that are currently being met and what opportunities there are through development to enrich the community.”

Listen to the full conversation on Emerging Trends and Innovative Investment in Canada.

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Money + Meaning is the official podcast of SOCAP. The series aims to expand the conversation around impact investing and strategies to finance and support social change while stimulating innovative and valuable new partnerships across sectors.

Impact Funds / Impact Investing / Place-Based investing
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