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Designing the future – complex social problems, social innovation and the role of impact investment

Joe LudlowImpact Investment Director at NESTA

Forum for Social Innovation Sweden asked Joe Ludlow of NESTA to share his view on the impact investment scene in connection with the recent SOCAP: Designing the Future in Malmö. With a keen eye for social innovation, impact investment as well as insights into the Scandinavian market, Sweden in particular, his outlook brings an interesting perspective to what is moving in Europe and the world today.

Recently Malmö hosted SOCAP: Designing The Future, a conference for the small, growing, and potentially transformative impact investment industry. Impact investment is where people invest to achieve a positive outcome for society and a financial return on their money. The arrival of SOCAP in Malmö, after its first European conference last year in Amsterdam, is another indication that impact investment is becoming a global movement.

But why is this interesting or helpful? What’s it got to do with the needs of ordinary people in Sweden or in my country, the UK?

Well, I believe that the growing interest in impact investment is part of some very significant changes that are happening in our patterns of consumption and investment. These are changes driven by strong desire from citizens to see their money doing good for society.

The old world

Across the developed world we are used to a situation where private enterprise sells us goods and services, some of which we need and some, frankly, we don’t. We are also used to the state providing a range of services that we couldn’t buy as individuals, but which we need collectively as a society like flood defences, schools or railways. And we’re also familiar with civil society playing a dual role – both providing services where the market and state has failed to do so, and campaigning for change to address this failure.

But this familiar three sector model is not well equipped to deal with some of the most complex, long term problems our countries face – like an increasingly ageing population in need of activities, care and pensions, or climate change and declining carbon fuel supplies. Around Europe, with public sector finances in turmoil, it is increasingly clear that these big problems will be drains on public finances in the long term. In the UK, citizens are feeling a loss of trust in the big institutions of the old world – political, financial, and media.  There is a loss of trust in the old three sectors to supply us with what we need as individuals and collectively as a society.

To continue reading, please follow the link to Mötesplats Social Innovation, where this item was originally published