Social finance’s ‘tipping point’: the inside story of how Canada’s ecosystem evolved, and what needs to come next

A decade after Canada’s social finance task force, its members say COVID-19 is a wake-up call

Why It Matters

Ten years ago, a concerted effort began to accelerate Canada’s social finance ecosystem. In 2020, this ecosystem faces the most significant social challenges yet – but is it ready? We spoke to those who helped build it, alongside international experts, to find out how far Canada has come, and what must happen next. This story is in partnership with MaRS.

“Well, I’m very flattered but I just have one question: what’s social finance?”

That was Tim Jackson’s response 10 years ago when he was asked to join the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance. He had been practicing ‘social finance’ by funding social impact businesses in his venture capital job in Waterloo, Ontario, but had not used the label.

Jackson became one of 10 experts to join the task force. A global movement had been growing to find ways of utilizing private capital for public good, from social entrepreneurship to impact investing. Ottawa wanted to understand what Canada should do to support it.

The experts were tasked with mapping out which innovations were happening at home and abroad, informing a list of recommendations. In December 2010, they published their landmark report: ‘Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good’.


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