Social Capital Partners


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How We Do What We Do

Posted by Bill Young on Friday, February 12th, 2010

I think our bias at SCP has always been towards action and perhaps that's the most important aspect of our "how".  Our belief is that we can learn more by "doing" than we can by "thinking" although we also believe that the two must be interconnected if we are going to have the most impact. That generally means we agree on a theory of change which is not necessarily supported by formal research, we test that theory of change through action, we step back and ask ourselves "what did we learn from that action?", and revise our theory of change to begin the next cycle again with more action.

The three phases of our evolution since inception illustrate "how" this works.   In Phase 1, we started with the notion that the best way to help people who face employment barriers get meaningful work was to employ them in "purpose-built" social enterprises.  We worked with and helped arrange financing for a number of these social enterprises in our first 5 years.  After five years of doing this we came to the conclusion that if we were going to have more impact we were going to have to both engage the private sector and make what we were doing more cookie-cutter. 

That led us to create our franchise financing/social hiring program.  Implementing that taught us that there was an even bigger opportunity to have impact by changing the way the Human Resources function operates in large companies with lots of entry-level positions with good career paths.  That has led to a new business plan for our "Corporate Community Hiring" initiative which you will be hearing more about in the coming months.

One of the things we've realized over our evolution is that while our strategies seem to have evolved rationally, their path was anything but. Our bias to learn by doing, reflect honestly, and act often has fortunately led us down a path where that allows us to build on our past successes and learnings. So my guess is that at some point there will be a Phase 4 based on the learnings we glean from this most recent plan of action, and the cycle will begin again.

How We Do What We Do

Posted by Joanne Norris on Thursday, February 11th, 2010

We've all heard the cliché 'money makes the world go around' at some point in our lives. This is true. Not always for the better... as we have seen recently with the breakdown in our global banking system and the economic outcomes that have flowed from this.

The purpose of this month's SCP team blog follows our earlier philosophical one about why we do what we do. This one focuses on how we do what we do. That's easy: we engage people to think differently about money and about how money makes the world go round. 

SCP is in the advantageous position to have access to money that was specifically set aside to 'do good.' Our objective is to use these funds to influence the people running businesses that need money to grow.  What I have found really exciting working at SCP for the last several years is that money can profit everyone if access to it is structured in innovative ways.  Lenders and investors can and are broadening the criteria outlining who can access their capital.

SCP for example has specific criterion that we demand of our portfolio organizations relating to the number of social hires a company makes. (they have to pay the money back too!)  In our loan agreements, we document the borrower's commitments for both financial and social hiring reporting.  As an incentive, we have structured a social hiring interest rate adjustment that decreases based on hitting certain social hiring targets. With each portfolio company, we work out realistic social hiring targets for the type of business and stage of growth over realistic timelines. One thing we have learned over the years is that social hiring must to link to the needs of the business.

Another thing that SCP does is take risks. By this I mean we try things, knowing we may fail but do so because we won't know if we don't try. Our modus operandus as a 'do tank' as Bill likes to call it, is one where we operationalize a strategy with the goal to figure out how to scale that strategy and have more social impact. Looking back on our eight year history, we can distinguish three distinct strategic phases; all of which have grown out of the previous phase.

As an organization, our goal is to distill the learnings from our work with social enterprises, franchises and other Canadian businesses to then feed into our vision to further scale the practice of social hiring across Canada.

How We Do What We Do

Posted by Karim Harji on Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Every business needs money and people. SCP's mission is to help businesses have access to both, and through this generate both financial and social returns. We don't do this ourselves, however - our role is to facilitate relationships where we connect good businesses with community agencies that help people find employment.

Agencies like the YMCA, JVS Toronto, The Career Foundation and others are contracted by the government to deliver training and skills development training to people in order to help them get a job. What often happens, however, is that employers don't think about these agencies as HR recruiting channels - despite the fact that agencies can often deliver a pool of pre-screened, job-ready candidates for employers. At a fundamental level, this is much better than placing an ad in the paper and receiving a few hundred resumes that you may have to sort through. At the same time, agencies can deliver training in areas such as conflict resolution and customer service that contribute to success on the job.

On the other hand, SCP facilitates financing at attractive rates to employers. The more people that are hired through these agencies, the lower the interest rates are. For employers, we've found that the benefit of getting the right people often outweighs the benefits of this financing - but particularly in this economy, favourable financing is always appreciated. SCP's role is to understand the employer's HR  needs, find the right match with local community employment agencies, and build an ongoing relationship that delivers a social dividend.

At SCP, we don't see ourselves as a HR agency, but an organization that has the ability and resources to speak the language of both the nonprofit and private sectors. We've built a track record of facilitating good jobs for hundreds of people who face employment barriers, and for creatively delivering on partnerships between nonprofit and private sector organizations. And even though we are a nonprofit ourselves, we firmly believe that market forces can be harnessed to deliver social change, and have found a way to creatively "connect the dots".

And that's what we mean when we say that we Profit Everyone.


How We Do What We Do

Posted by Magnus Sandberg on Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

At the start of my career, one of my mentors told me that, often, building a successful organization is 5% strategy and 95% execution. At the time, I worked for a management consultancy company and I learned the importance for an organization to not only excel in both areas and balance the two, but even more importantly to effectively integrate and align the day-to-day execution with the overall strategy direction. It is relatively easy to change the strategy but an organization's effectiveness is really put to test when trying to align the big execution engine with the new strategy.

When I started at SCP, I remember being impressed of the way SCP has dealt with these issues throughout its journey the last 9 years, a journey that encompasses three fairly different phases and business model directions. So when answering the question "How do we do what we do?", I think there are a few cornerstones that  describe how SCP deals with strategy and execution, and how the two are intertwined and aligned.

It certainly helps to be a smaller organization but I think there is more to it:

  1. Stay true to our purpose - Even though SCP has gone through three different phases and business models, the purpose has always been the same: "Reduce poverty through giving job-ready people outside the economic mainstream meaningful employment opportunities".
  2. Utilizing market forces for social good - our experience is that the private sector and non-profit sector often operate in silos. SCP identifies best practices in both sectors and works on "connecting the dots". We consciously staff our company with people from both sectors who bring a breath and depth of experience across multiple areas.
  3. "Do Tank" - SCP is operating in the intersection between a "think tank" and implementing social change. We measure our success based on the scale of the social impact, and realize that scale comes with big ideas and efficient execution.
  4. Snowball approach - It all starts with an idea, which we then go out and test on the ground with a sense of the opportunity we're looking to examine. We then step back and analyze what we have learned, and usually engage our partners to clarify and validate the opportunity through formal research. We then get into execution mode, still with an opportunistic mindset. We constantly challenge ourselves to come up with new and bigger ideas and when we do, the process starts all over again.
  5. Utilize partnerships and network - SCP is a small organization and our preference is to establish partnerships with experts in different areas instead of always building up the expertise in-house. Having said that, we spend a fair amount of time meeting with people to share our experience and learning, recognizing that we have learned a lot from the experience of others who have also been generous with their knowledge and time.


Why We Do What We Do

Posted by Karim Harji on Thursday, May 7th, 2009

Increasingly, young professionals are looking to make a difference in the world - and not just by occasionally volunteering or unplugging their cell phone chargers when they leave home. They are looking to use their education, skills, networks and enthusiasm towards social and environmental change. This isn't simply a fad that will disappear in a few years: take a walk around a university campus or engage a group of young professionals in a conversation, and you'll see it not only in their innovative ideas but also how these ideas are being put into action.

I am one of those young professionals, and I have found a way to make a difference at Social Capital Partners - an organization that passionately believes that market forces can be harnessed to provide innovative solutions to address structural social problems. SCP facilitates financing to demonstrate that businesses with social objectives can become successful without compromising on their bottom line. As we continue to learn about what it takes for these businesses to be successful, we continue to push the boundaries on how we can scale up our social impact and how to leverage our human and financial capital towards achieving maximum returns. And we have demonstrated some success - though there is still much more to be done.

It's not often that you find a place that allows you to work on important social issues in innovative ways - while also providing the space to place this activity within a broader perspective. I'm fortunate to get paid to work on issues that I am passionate about, in a professional environment that respects creativity, inclusion, leadership, collaboration and hard work. What's even more exciting is the ability to build and test innovative models that can change the way we value social objectives and think about how they can be achieved.

At the end of the day, I do what I do because it's needed, and it's what I enjoy. We're in the midst of a particularly difficult economic climate, which has created even more impetus for new solutions to social issues. Many non-profits are finding that we cannot work in isolation if we are to make a significant dent in the issues we address, and we must find ways to collaborate within and across sectors. It is challenging work, but together with our partners and portfolio businesses, we're committed to this journey and to sharing our ideas and learning along the way. And I'm thrilled to be along for the ride!

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