SOCAP: At the Intersection of Money & Meaning

This week I had the opportunity to attend SOCAP10, one of the largest and most influential conferences in the field of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. The conference was themed around discussing the “intersection of money and meaning” and included major players in the field including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, US AID, Omidyar Network, Kiva, and Acumen Fund amongst many others. It was overall a pretty amazing experience to meet so many people who are not only interested in making money but to also making the world better and are willing to do what it takes to make that happen.

If you’re new to the social capital market, here are a few keys concepts to understand:

  1. Social capital market – a “new” understanding that charitable dollars are still capital investments of precious resources and thus for-profit ideals should be applied to the non-profit sector to maximize social impact.
  2. Impact investing – Socially responsible investing, also known as socially-conscious or ethical investing, describes an investment strategy which seeks to maximize both financial return and social good.
  3. Social enterprise – organizations that prioritize social mission over profit-making and apply market-based strategies to achieve the social purpose. The movement includes both non-profits that use business models to pursue their mission and for-profit businesses whose primary purposes are social
  4. Social entrepreneur – someone who recognizes a social problem and uses entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
  5. Earned Income Model – a decidedly for-profit model that includes selling services and products as a revenue stream but is increasingly becoming an attractive vehicle for nonprofits.
  6. Crowd-funding – inspired by crowdsourcing, describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to support efforts initiated by other people.
  7. Green Jobs Movement – Shift towards jobs that generates electricity using renewable or nuclear fuels, agriculture jobs supplying corn or soy for transportation fuel, manufacturing jobs producing goods used in renewable power generation, equipment dealers and wholesalers specializing in renewable energy or energy-efficiency products, construction and installation of energy and pollution management systems, government administration of environmental programs, and supporting jobs in the engineering, legal, research and consulting fields.
  8. Triple Bottom Line – People, planet, profit. TBL expands the traditional reporting framework to take into account ecological and social performance in addition to financial performance.

Two of my favorite sessions that I had the opportunity to attend at SOCAP10 was a discussion on “feedback as ROI” and also one on “Next Gen and Inter-generational giving.” The first discussion was particularly interesting to me because at Jolkona providing individual and personal feedback is key to our model. This feedback loop helps to provide a meaningful and tangible return on one’s “social investments” or donations. When we go to the mall and buy a sweater for $50, we get to take something tangible home with us so we feel a particular value attached with that money spent. Likewise, when we make a “donation” or investment to improve the world, we should be able to receive some tangible product so we know how to value that money we spent. Jolkona’s tangible product is the online proof of impact you receive for EACH donation made. In some cases that “tangible proof” is a photo, a story, a list, or video of who benefitted from your donation or how it was exactly used.

Needless to say, it was interesting to meet and have very specific discussions with others also interested in this space and to brainstorm what are the intangibles donors want as proof of an ROI on their donations and what others in the area are providing as feedback on donations. The reality is that, the average micro-donor doesn’t value actual impact as much as other emotions involved with giving. We discussed some of these general emotions that inspire giving such as feeling appreciated, or guilty or responsible, feeling social pressure from friends or family, or often one of the strongest emotions is having some kind of personal connection or tie to a cause. Like having a family member suffer from cancer is a strong emotion that drives giving to cancer research for example. Have you ever thought about what emotions tend to make you give? Is there a particular sequence for these emotions? The challenge for organizations like Jolkona is to prioritize working with innovative and impactful organizations that are making a lasting impact, but to also inspire other emotions often associated with giving through appropriate storytelling, feedback loops, and other technological innovations. It is interesting that these very concepts that were discussed in our recent Jolkona Leadership Team retreat.

The next talk on Next Gen and Intergenerational giving was also very interesting. It was co-facilitated by our good friend Diana Shenker of Fast Forward Fund, an organization that focuses on accelerating next generational social investing and philanthropy. This workshop highlighted the difference in mentalities among intergenerational and next Gen giving habits. Again, this is an area we are very passionate about at Jolkona. Our platform is catered toward Next Gen giving while fundraising for our operations is catered toward traditional philanthropists and require more intergenerational giving strategies.

One of the most valuable things about SOCAP10 is the interesting people and connections you can make. The conference had over 1200 attendees registered and drew influential changemakers in the non-profit, social enterprise, investing, private, foundation sectors and more. All in all, it was an inspiring weekend to be in the presence of so many changemakers and I look forward to the conversations and collaborations to come from these connections. I am really excited about the future of the social capital sector and the greater impact it will have in the future. And more importantly, I am excited about the role Jolkona can have in this movement to expand the social capital market by empowering a new generation of young professionals and youth to get involved. Start building your social portfolio of good with Jolkona today!


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  2. Mariana Amatullo / October 16, 2010

    Thank you for a recap that is on target and a good resource for so many who are new to the field. Bravo to SOCAP for including our session which was design and design thinking/education focused. we need more intersections and opportunities for creative professionals to contribute to the field. Believe me, as the cofounder of Designmatters at Art Center, I know first hand how powerful this contribution is in accelerating ideas for social impact and change. check our Safe Agua project for a tangible example at

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