Archive for the ‘Stephen Huddart’ Category

Introducing Solutions Finance: A New Vision for Our Work

SF for newsletter

Erica Blog Author_ENBy Stephen Huddart and Erica Barbosa VargasStephen-Huddart-author

In the coming weeks, the Foundation is rolling out several new resources on Solutions Finance: a series of white papers and related case studies, illustrating some of what we’ve learned over the last decade from our successes—and failures—in deploying capital for systems change. The first white paper is available today. We hope these resources will be useful to a growing community interested in financial innovation for positive social and environmental impact.

Until recently, we did not talk about Solutions Finance. The new term requires a bit of unpacking.

Social Finance refers to financial instruments that generate social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. It is a term widely recognized in the field and the umbrella term we have been using to describe the Foundation’s market-building and impact investing activities. However, as our experience and practice expand, we see that the promise of this work goes beyond investments with blended returns.

Successful systems innovation requires adequate resourcing, and calls for different forms of capital allocation across the multiple stages of design and implementation. To make this happen in the context of our work, we’re advocating for — and adopting as our own practice — an integrated approach to deploying financial capital and adapting financial models to catalyze, sustain and scale systems transformation. In other words, Solutions Finance. This approach includes, but is more than, continuing to grow an investment portfolio with the expectation of a financial return as well as a positive social or environmental impact.

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Working with Cities, Provinces and First Nations – the Winnipeg Boldness Project

Speech delivered at the Philanthropic Foundations Canada Symposium, Toronto, October 28, 2015. 

Winnipeg Boldness

This presentation was originally called Working with a City and a Province, but I’ve modified that so it better represents the work we are doing in the Winnipeg Boldness Project, hence: Working with Cities, Provinces and First Nations – the Winnipeg Boldness Project. The lessons that we’re applying in Winnipeg stem in part from the formative experiences that we gained from two other initiatives.

Stephen-Huddart-authorVibrant Communities is a partnership that the Foundation embarked upon with the Tamarack and Caledon Institutes, and is a ten-year collective impact initiative to reduce urban poverty. Today, 47 cities and nine provinces are part of Vibrant Communities Canada.

Another initiative, ALLIES, was a successful cooperation between McConnell and Maytree to improve the rate at which professional immigrants find suitable employment. It was the first time that we co-funded significantly with governments and the private sector.

In retrospect, these successes seem clear and concise, but at times they were anything but. Working on complex challenges with cities, provinces and First Nations is, well — complex.

A commitment to positive change 

Two years ago, we were looking for a place to support improved outcomes in Indigenous early child development, possibly through the use of a social impact bond. We came to Point Douglas in Winnipeg’s North End, a community of 50,000 people, many of whom live in conditions of toxic stress. 87% of Indigenous babies born here are deemed at risk; 50% of Indigenous children arrive at kindergarten deemed not ready to learn, and 20% of kids born here are removed from their families and placed under care of the state. A completely unacceptable set of circumstances.

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Why Vibrant Communities? 10 Reasons Why Canada Needs to Reduce Poverty

The following are some notes drawn from a speech I made at the Tamarack Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa, May 6.

Stephen-Huddart-authorJohn Wilson McConnell, who in 1935 established the Foundation for which I am privileged to work, was born in 1877 to Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada that same year, illiterate and bankrupt. Like many in those days, and millions more since, his family came hoping to find a better life here.

We now know that the promise of plenty that brought families like the McConnells to Canada – often with the offer of free or low-cost land – had devastating consequences for others. The colonial/settler era resulted in the systematic displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, it is striking to consider that, starting out from such humble beginnings, by the time he was 50, McConnell had become, in all likelihood, the wealthiest person in Canada. How did that happen?

The advantages of coming of age in the 20th century

McConnell attended public school, and even in those days, Ontario’s schools were world class. As his biographer notes, “At the Paris Exhibition of 1887, the Ontario Department of Education won awards in six categories – more than Britain and the rest of the empire put together.” When his family moved from their farm in the Muskokas to Toronto – from rural to urban poverty – McConnell found work in the bookkeeping department of a dry goods trading company. He also took night courses at the YMCA. In this way he learned about business, and he soon began trading wood, wheat and other commodities.

rileycabin

The Muskoka cabin where McConnell grew up would have been almost identical to this one. Photo courtesy of Walker and Kapya Riley, circa 1889.

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Reflections on the 2014 Evaluation Roundtable

Stephen-Huddart-authorLast week, the Foundation co-hosted [1] the Evaluation Roundtable in Montreal. This Washington DC-based network of some 30 US and Canadian foundations meets every 18 months to study a case in philanthropic strategy and evaluation, and this time the subject was Social Innovation Generation (SiG), the Foundation’s seven-year partnership with the University of Waterloo, MaRS Discovery District and Plan Institute. Its purpose is to foster a culture of continuous social innovation in Canada.

By many measures, SiG is a success.  Through a happy convergence of intent and circumstance the term social innovation is in wider use, and the partners, along with SiG’s national office, have contributed individually and collectively to Canada’s ability to address complex and persistent systemic challenges. Examples include SiG’s role in introducing impact investing and social labs; the first Ministry of Social Innovation, in BC; teaching and research into the nature of systemic change; the introduction of new philanthropic platforms such as Innoweave; and many more.

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Social Innovation Nation

Stephen-Huddart-authorRecent events suggest that the field of social innovation is maturing to the point where it is possible to envisage adaptive, evolutionary shifts in our social, economic, and environmental systems.

Consider: May 25-27, MaRS Solutions Lab (MSL) hosted Labs for Systems Change—the world’s first gathering of practitioners leading this type of work, with individuals from 30 countries. In her remarks to the gathering, Frances Westley— J.W. McConnell Chair in Social Innovation at the University of Waterloo—described how our understanding of psychology and group dynamics; design thinking; and complex adaptive systems theory—together with data analysis and computer modelling—affords us new ability to examine and improve institutional behaviour, and to generate testable solutions to wicked problems.

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