Social Finance Accelerator Initiative

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will be commissioning up to three contracts to launch the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative. The Initiative is designed to build and apply practical skills and expertise through a combination of brokerage and advisory services, mentorship, networking opportunities, and investor introductions over a short period of time; thereby, quickening the developmental stages of innovative ideas.

Social Finance Partnerships

The Accelerator Initiative contractors will launch their own solicitation processes to identify promising social finance ideas and select individuals or organizations interested in sharpening these ideas and becoming investment ready. Social impact accelerator programs leverage the skills and expertise of multiple private, not-for-profit (NFP), and academic partners to deliver a range of services to social enterprises, social purpose businesses, non-profit organizations, charities, and cooperatives. The ultimate goal is to prepare the projects for financing opportunities. Accelerators also connect participants with investors and help them secure financial commitments from investors.

Budget Commitments

Since 2011, the Government of Canada has underscored its commitment to exploring the potential of social finance and the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative delivers on this commitment. The 2013 final report of the National Call for Concepts for Social Finance, Harnessing the Power of Social Finance, committed to bringing together innovative not-for-profits and private sector organizations to sharpen their social finance ideas. Budget 2015 has delivered on this commitment by announcing that ESDC will be implementing a Social Finance Accelerator Initiative to help promising social finance proposals become investment-ready.

Purpose of the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative

The Social Finance Accelerator Initiative will help individuals or organizations trying to advance a social objective by helping them translate their ideas and projects into measures that could attract private capital investors who want a return on their investment.

The Accelerator Initiative can help expose social entrepreneurs to a range of innovative ideas and expertise from private, not-for-profit, and academic partners and open up new partnership opportunities.

Objective

The long-term objective of the initiative is to encourage the generation of investment-worthy proposals to meet the increasing supply of private capital. As such, a key outcome of this initiative is a lessons learned report on how to set-up an accelerator in the social sector, focused on social entrepreneurs advancing their ideas and projects and helping them be more effective in addressing social and economic challenges.

Targeted Entrepreneurs

Social entrepreneurs who want to turn new ideas into action and who need access to capital for their projects to take off may benefit from accelerator services. These social entrepreneurs may lead such impact driven organizations as charities, non-profit organizations, co-operatives, and social-purpose businesses, or consider launching such organizations, and need new sources of money for such activities as structuring a new project or program, consolidating existing activities, or expanding their service offerings.

Possible outcomes

Social finance projects could achieve such social impacts as improved employment and educational outcomes for vulnerable groups, better child development outcomes, and increased seniors’ well-being. To address specific gaps in current accelerator services offering, contractors may choose to focus on specific social issues, regions or types of organizations.

Potential bidders

Given the dollar value of each contract, ESDC is required to be NAFTA-compliant and opened the Request for Proposal across North America for bidding. Potential bidders may be intermediary organizations that can establish strategic partnerships to bring in the needed competencies, experience, and expertise for the winning bids, if they do not already have such capacity.

Forms of financing

Through introductions to investors, it is possible that participants, depending on the strength of their pitch and business plans, could access various forms of finance (e.g., loans, mortgages, equity or quasi-equity financing) and new tools specifically designed for social finance (e.g., community bonds, social impact bonds).

Cost of participation

It is expected that contractors will ensure accelerator participants are not charged to get their proposals fast-tracked through the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative.

Timelines

August 2015 – Launch of the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative, up to three contracts will be awarded.

October 2015 – Contractors would begin launching their own solicitation processes through an open call to identify promising social finance project proposals. ESDC as the Project Authority will have final approval of all proposed projects for fast-tracking.

January 2016 – Contractors will have completed their selection processes and will begin fast-tracking accelerator participants and their proposals through the Social Finance Accelerator Initiative. Fast-tracking should take up to four months to complete.

Evaluation

The Social Finance Accelerator Initiative will be evaluated by an independent evaluator (through a separate contract) to ensure credibility and impartiality. Lessons learned, gathered across up to three accelerator contracts, will be incorporated into the final report to be made available upon the completion of the accelerator services and upon the completion of the evaluation contract.

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