We’re Proud to Announce our Paper on Sustainable Development

When we came together to create PATHFINDER, one of our motivations was to build a system that perpetuates solutions that really, truly work. We were done accepting status quo because the status quo is very clearly not enough. Sure, we’re tiny voices speaking to a worldwide industry that is quite set in its ways. But tiny as we may be, we’re here to make a difference. 

This paper was our first endeavor and we’re so proud to publish it. What makes things even more exciting is that Canada’s Impact Investor extraordinaire himself, Joel Solomon, signed on to write a Foreword, having just published The Clean Money Revolution.

We believe our paper is the first of its kind. And so, we hope to inspire meaningful thought, conversation and with a little luck, even change. 

We contend that social entrepreneurship is a far better – and infinitely more promising – response to the calls for global sustainable development, than not-for-profit organizations. Here is why, in summary and in detail. 

We invite you to read and share this publication, and to let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!

With Regards,

Jess and Shivani

Announcement: PATHFINDER’s first White Paper

PATHFINDER’s first White Paper: “How to do Sustainable Development Right: The Case for the Social Enterprise”

Have you ever found yourself in a passionate discussion about what works in our global systems, and what doesn’t? Do you ever get frustrated with the state of the world, and wonder why we can’t do better? Do you ever wonder why not-for profit agencies seem slow to evolve with the times? These were some of the questions that would eventually lead to our first white paper. These are also the questions that would lead to PATHFINDER.

We’ve spoken often about how we began PATHFINDER to challenge the models of international development that don’t work, and replace them with those that do. First though, we needed to study. A lot. This paper is a byproduct of that study.

In this paper, we contend that social entrepreneurship is a far better — and infinitely more promising — response to the calls for global sustainable development. We lay out where not-for-profit organizations fall short, and how for-profit social enterprises deliver. And we make a bold call to action for the industry to change.

With this paper, we would love to start a meaningful discussion. We would love for this to inspire collaboration. And we look forward to any opportunities the publishing of our paper creates.

Releasing on May 7th, and introduced by Canada’s most influential impact investor and visionary, Joel Solomon, look out for “How to do Sustainable Development Right: The Case for the Social Enterprise.”



PATHFINDER is pleased to announce a new partnership with CIYOTA.

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“COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa’s (CIYOTA) mission is to improve the lives of young people through functional education, socially responsible leadership and social entrepreneurship activities. CIYOTA has established various programs within Kyangwali refugee settlement camp in Uganda to address critical challenges faced by the refugee community such as poverty, violence, disease and insufficient access to quality and functional education.”

CIYOTA focus on three main activities: delivering primary and secondary education to youth, university guidance and women’s empowerment, and community work and involvement.

Most recently, CIYOTA has expanded to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to help educate children and youth, build communities, and enable entrepreneurs with relevant skills. DRC “is the big country with big problems but also big potential. For 134 years Congo has gone through slavery, assassination, dictatorship and decades of wars. This resulted into 6 million people killed in cold blood and hundreds of women raped. Congo never got a chance to build strong institutions.”

CIYOTA is the incredibly successful passion project of our friend, Bahati Kanyamaza, a former child soldier and refugee himself. We met Bahati a few years ago, and he told us about the story of refugees who grew up in the camps of central Africa, only to one day rescue others from a similar fate.

Bahati and his partners swore to change the world around them. And for so many children and youth, they have!



Why I paid it forward

PATHFINDER’s Shivani Singh recently spoke about her experience at Social Venture Institute at Hollyhock, and the importance of paying it forward.

Here’s what Hollyhock shared:

We’ve spoken often about how generous and collaborative the social enterprise community is. And indeed, we are a community. We help each other. – Shivani Singh, PATHFINDER

An incredible thing about Hollyhock is the community of people that are brought together by this place. It’s this community which has been the driving force in bringing even more social change leaders to our shore through financial support.

Shivani Singh is one of those people. A social entrepreneur and co-founder of PATHFINDER, she received financial assistance to attend our Social Venture Institute last year. Since then, she has been an active advocate, working to raise money for our Dana Bass Solomon Scholarship Fund in support of other extraordinary change makers, like herself.Shivani BW.jpg

“When PATHFINDER was just beginning, the pro-bono services and resources of others who had been there before us, helped us get off the ground. We learned so much, we built fast, and we grew tremendously.  And we did it all on minimum expense because of the generosity of perfect strangers, people who were connected to us only by a shared passion to help build a better world.

The opportunity to attend SVI at Hollyhock came about when we had no money.

Our earliest champion and new friend, Joel Solomon, really wanted us to attend, so he paid our way. While at SVI, we tried to pay him back, but of course, Joel was not interested in the money. He wanted us to meet him and other incredible people in that powerful setting. In this discussion, where we refused to just take this sizeable gift and Joel refused to have it back, we came up with an idea: Why not pass it on – the entire gift – so that others may have access to the amazing opportunities we did? Those before us were kind and generous, and we were enabled by their spirit. Why not participate in this most wonderful and powerful cycle of generosity, so that future social entrepreneurs may have a better shot at success too?

And so, here we are. Our first order of business, as soon as we had made some money, was to contribute our entire SVI Hollyhock gift amount to the Dana Bass Solomon Scholarship Fund. We made ourselves proud, sure; but more than that, we hope to have started something amazing.

We hope to have started a chain of good people doing more good for others like them. We hope to have inspired the SVI community to join us. We hope many more social entrepreneurs can now attend the fantastic Social Venture Institute.”


To scale or not to scale? A quick guide in scaling your social enterprise

By Jessica van Thiel

cook ethos team photo.JPG

“Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The challenge of the 21st century is to find out what works and scale it up.” -Former US President, Bill Clinton

In the past few decades, social entrepreneurship has gotten a lot of attention. From academia to business, people are recognizing the importance of social entrepreneurs and the invaluable work they do. Social enterprises are like any other business; they must have a strategy for growth and to scale once they are out of the startup stage.

Many business owners fall into the trap of wanting to scale before they are ready. They want their business to grow so they scale up their processes to inspire that growth. Unfortunately, this can actually result in stalling the development of a business. Scale too quickly or recklessly, and you’ll create a lot of organizational problems that will be hard to undo. Scaling before you’re ready may even cause your business to fail. Scale too slowly, however, and you may miss out on key opportunities that come with greater resources and revenue[1]. So how do you go about doing any of this? First, it’s crucial to know what you’re scaling to begin with.

Measuring impact?

While every business has to consider its customers, social enterprises have a particularly important task; they need to consider social impact and how to measure it. Measuring social impact is often one of the most difficult things to do as it’s not tangible. From education to gender equality and environmental impact, these issues often take years before one can see results and even then, how can an entrepreneur really know if they are using the right indicator or measurement? You’re not selling t-shirts after all, so how do you know you’ve done well?

The key might lie in the research. You need to really understand what your service is, and what your goals are. Once you’ve identified it all, and it may take months or even years to define, you can then start to look at what works and what doesn’t. By eliminating what doesn’t work you can adjust and refine the way you approach solving the issue.

Additionally, assigning appropriate measurements is critical. Although social in nature, you should find a way to measure your impact in numbers. If the goal is to provide access to education for children in India for example, then the first unit of measurement can be the number of children your social enterprise has put through the school system. The number enrolled, attended and completed. Why is it so important to be able to measure impact, almost from the start? Because, if you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know when it’s time for the next stage – i.e. time to scale.

Scaling can be a daunting task for any small business, let alone a social enterprise. With the objective of understanding the process further, PATHFINDER spoke with cook ethos, a startup social enterprise with the mission of connecting people through food, to learn about what strategies, if any, they had in scaling their enterprise. Cook ethos is “a fun and fresh approach to learn how to cook new dishes and gives you the chance to learn about cuisines and meet people from all corners of the globe – in the region of London” (think Airbnb meets cooking lesson). The startup was launched this year by three young female entrepreneurs.

While they are very much in the startup phase, they’re already considering how to scale their company. And for them, it needs to happen quickly if they want to make an impact in their community, be successful and eventually turn a profit. Although they have many ideas and potential business avenues they could explore, at the core, their service is to connect hosts and guests for a unique cooking experience. So the way they’ll measure impact is simple: it’s in the numbers. Guests provide testimonial for their experience, and with an overwhelming percentage of testimonials being positive, it is safe to say in their case, that the more people who book their service, the more impact they’ll have on the community. This, they explained, was a relatively easy question to answer. The next question, how to scale is more complicated.

Do they scale regionally or internationally? Do they expand their product to offer different services or do they focus on the bookings?

Charlotte Morrison, COO and Co-Founder of cook ethos explained,

In order to get things right, we’re now trying to focus on just one area to scale but in doing so, we don’t want to neglect the hosts in other areas because they are still very valuable to us. We don’t want to lose sight of them. So the question is how do we find a balance. That would probably be our biggest challenge regarding scaling at the moment.

These are the kinds of questions that every entrepreneur faces. How to keep the integrity and goals of the business intact while scaling? In the beginning you might not have the luxury of being selective. When you’re desperate for cash, it’s easy to cut corners, compromise your values and deliver a subpar product or service. But the businesses that manage to weather their growing pains and stick to their guns are the ones that last longest and shine brightest[2].

So what’s the solution if you want to scale successfully? In short, maintain your focus. As entrepreneurs, we tend to want to seize every opportunity that comes our way. And although it’s good to pursue some, it’s alright to keep your focus narrow in the beginning and expand once you’ve gotten it (whatever it may be) right.

Once you’ve achieved product-market fit and started scaling up based on that main offering, don’t go crazy trying to add features or related products. Make sure you can do one thing better than anyone before you start building new stuff” Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE points out.

Cook ethos is doing just that, keeping focused. And it’s working.

To scale or not to scale

Knowing when to scale is important. Knowing how to scale is essential. Because making money doesn’t always equate success, especially if you are a mission driven enterprise. Charlotte Morrison explains,

When it comes to scaling, one thing we anticipate that will be difficult, is keeping our integrity and respecting our mission. If we expand internationally, for example, different countries will almost certainly have their own way of doing and managing things. We operate like a family business and we don’t ever want to lose that, no matter how big we get”.

This is a tricky one. On the one hand as a startup, it’s difficult to turn down work, especially when clients aren’t exactly knocking on your door. On the other hand, without consistency of the product or service, an enterprise can quickly lose its brand integrity.

The trick is in the balance. When a company scales too quickly and doesn’t have the structure to support the growth, failure rates will increase[3]. You need to expand to operate and this should be a natural, cyclical process. Chelsea Segal of Cox BLUE highlights the biggest mistakes a business can make when scaling is over hiring, over spending, and over building. She explains, “You need to stay lean during the scaling process. Don’t hire too many people (especially middle managers or specialists). These take away from your core competencies and leave you prone to trying to scale other areas too quickly” and “there’s a tendency for startups to get loose with their money once they’ve raised a lot during the fundraising stage. Keep all of your spending focused on growing the business”.

Balancing act

Balance is crucial here. Check back in with your values and mission regularly. Think quality not quantity. Eventually, if you do a good job, more work will come your way. And when it does, get it done. You don’t want to compromise the quality of the work; however, you don’t want to say no to new clients (especially if they’re the kind of clients you’ve been seeking). So even if you don’t have the infrastructure in place to complete the work or project, you make it happen anyway. It’s a tricky thing to get right, but in the beginning like all successful startups, you’ve got to work your butt off.

Cook ethos has considered this very scenario,

We’ve considered a situation where we might have more work than we can handle. Ultimately we would never say no to clients and we would just work it out. Although we don’t foresee this happening in the next year, if it were to happen before we had the infrastructure in place, we would adapt. We’d probably get all of friends and family on board. We’d do whatever it takes to make it happen!”

This is a good problem to have for any business. And the difference between a successful business and a non-successful one is all in the approach and attitude. In short: adapt to the research, know your product or service better than anyone, and check back in to find your balance.

[1] https://www.coxblue.com/5-important-tips-for-scaling-your-startup/

[2] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/299214

[3] – Jeanna McGinnisReResumeMe®


Love What You Do: PATHFINDER’s Leadership Journey

By Jessica van Thiel

This article was first published in Leader Stories


My colleague Shivani and I founded PATHFINDER, in 2015, as an international social enterprise based in Canada and France. PATHFINDER consults with business, academia and policy for innovative solutions in the world of sustainable development. Our mission is to perpetuate solutions that protect and enable the world’s most vulnerable.

Everything about our organization is unique, from our business model to our daily operations. Living on different continents with different time zones has been an opportunity for us, instead of a challenge, and one that has driven much of our success. We love what we do.

Here’s a little more about our (and my) story.

Q: Why did you decide to go into the nonprofit/social purpose sector?

A: Well, first, it’s good old-fashioned passion. We’ve both dreamed of doing this work our whole lives.  We started PATHFINDER after casually discussing, over dinner, the major gaps and opportunities in the NGO/nonprofit sector. We wanted to create a social enterprise that addressed these industry challenges, instead of perpetuating them, and we wanted to implement a business model that strives to do good while doing well.

Q: What keeps you here?

A: The opportunity, flexibility and excitement this industry brings. It has been such an exciting journey so far, and we’re just getting started! We imagine a future with even more opportunity to do what we love. In the meantime, we’re just happy to be working in such a fast-paced and evolving field.

Above all, to us, this is a calling. There is no other plan but this one. It’s a feeling we each share, deep in our bones. It’s a certainty we know.

Q: What is your favorite thing about your work day?

A: The variety. Every day is different. A day can include meetings with partners, clients, media and researchers. It can include everything from writing research reports and articles for mainstream media outlets, to attending and presenting at conferences, and facilitating workshops. Our days are often unpredictable too.

Another very cool thing is that we are constantly inspired. We regularly connect with some really amazing people doing some really great things. We learn all the time. We collaborate with like-minded individuals. We create solutions to real problems. How many people get to feel these things in each work day? It’s a phenomenal experience.

Q: What impact or success are you most proud of?

A: In December 2016, we organized a humanitarian mission (our first) to some refugee camps along Syria’s border with Lebanon. Through generous donations, we were able to provide much-needed resources to over 500 children and their families.

Q: We all have our “failing forward” moments. Can you share a failure that in retrospect led to growth or learning?

A: Being a social entrepreneur and starting a business has been a huge learning process, both professionally and personally. We’ve had to re-evaluate our business model often, which is a difficult thing to do.

Also, one of the first big lessons we learned from failing at pitches was that not everyone will believe in our work or even in us. There is a lot of feedback out there, both positive and negative. We conscientiously decided to solicit and accept all feedback, to then review, choose and learn what we could while moving past any ignorance or negativity. We learned from everything while we learned not to be beaten down by anything. It took a lot of practice and now this process comes naturally to us.

Q: In a few words, what most gets in the way of your ability to be the leader you want to be?

A: Ourselves. There are no real obstacles, only excuses. For us, it has been juggling responsibilities like jobs, studies, families, etc., that perhaps if we didn’t have, we could focus all of our time on PATHFINDER. However life doesn’t work that way, nor should it. It’s healthy to have a balanced life, and the trick is being able to use the time you have in the smartest way possible.

We’re making progress and we’re getting closer to where we want to be. At the end of the day, the only limitations are our own.

Q: Tell me about a learning experience that supported your leadership development.

A: I participated in the American Express Leadership Academy in New York City in October 2017.

Among other things, it reinforced for me that a good leader is compassionate, empathetic and seeks opportunities to learn. A good leader always works to grow. These possibilities were made available to us at the Academy. We met people who introduced us to lives we were fortunate enough to never know, and we listened. We met experts and we learned. We grew a little, professionally and personally. These are all lessons that make us better people, and stronger leaders.

I also left with a fantastic network that I have committed to remain active in.

Q: What has been your biggest area of growth as a leader in the past year or two?

A: We’ve become stronger people. The more we’ve learned, the less we’ve accepted we know. We’ve also learned to never lose sight of what our goals are as entrepreneurs, while staying true to our values.

Q: Why is it important that today’s nonprofit and social purpose leaders get professional development supports?

A: Because, at the end of the day, you are an entrepreneur running a business. You need to have the skills and tools to be able to do that successfully. It’s great to have the passion and theory, but without the practical skills and professional development, you can only go so far.

Q: What is something that people don’t know about you from reading your resume? 

A: We are passionate about travel and learning about new cultures and people. We each come from international backgrounds and have travelled and lived all over the world. We actually met on the idyllic island of Mauritius where Jess was working with the United Nations Development Programme and reporting to Shivani’s friend, mentor, and then UN Resident Coordinator for Mauritius and Seychelles.

We’re also big fans of good wine. Cheese isn’t bad either.

Q: Please share your greatest piece of leadership advice for your social sector peers across the world.

A: Believe in yourself. Believe in your purpose and others will want to follow. If you are unsure, it will be difficult to convince others. Passion is contagious and every good leader should have the ability to express it. Also, never stop learning. Ever.

Q: Three words: If you had to name three specific abilities, skills or mindsets that you think every 21st century nonprofit leader needs, what would they be?

A: Passion, Tenacity, Flexibility.

This is not the sort of thing you do without a deep belief in its value. You need to commit to success, no matter what it takes. And we can assure you, it takes a lot.



The Gender Landscape After #MeToo

By Jessica van Thiel


The #MeToo Campaign is one of the most powerful social media campaigns of all time. On October 15 2017, actress Alyssa Milano encouraged the use of #MeToo (originating from social activist, Tarana Burke, 2006), to create awareness and a sense of the magnitude of sexual abuse and harassment. While there is no one leader of this movement (rather thousands of women who are speaking out against this prolific problem) several Hollywood names helped to propel the campaign into global action.

Actress Ashley Judd was the first of many who spoke out in October of 2017, about unwanted sexual advances by Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most prolific and successful movie producers. Since her admission, over 80 actresses have come forth against Weinstein, including stars like Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow. And, as allegations against him continue to pour in, on May 25th 2018, Weinstein was charged by the city of New York, with rape and sexual abuse in two cases. It seems like only eight months after women began to come forward with their stories, the Weinstein name is now more synonymous with sexual assault than it is with movie-making.

For decades apparently, this sort of behavior was common practice in the entertainment industry. Weinstein’s abuses have been referenced as Hollywood’s greatest open secret. Why was this accepted? How could he have gone so far, with so many women, and gotten away with it for so many years? It seems incredible when you think about it. But the truth is it’s not uncommon. In fact the #MeToo campaign has proven just how ubiquitous the problem is.

However, a silver lining has emerged to this awful story. The celebrities who have spoken out have paved the way for regular, everyday women to do the same. The campaign had incredible success on social media and #MeToo (also adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and others), has provided support and solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories. The movement itself has been so successful, that as at November 2017, 82% of American polled said women are more likely to speak out about harassment since the Weinstein allegations, and that 85% say they believe the women making allegations of sexual harassment (Time Magazine, 2017).

The “Silence Breakers” – victims who spoke out about their stories of sexual harassment – made such an impact on society that they were voted “2017 Person of The Year” by Time Magazine. With widespread success of the campaign and Weinstein’s recent arrest, it appears that steps are being taken in the right direction. But what are these steps and how will they ensure the sexual abuse, harassment and silencing of women is no longer accepted?

#MeToo has received attention in all corners of the world. With access to internet and media in certain countries already being an issue, it’s no surprise that the campaign has had more success in some countries than others. In India for example, where in recent years outrage over sex crimes has sparked waves of public protests, it makes sense that #MeToo resonates with the public. However, not everyone has access to internet, and although the campaign reached only a small number of people with respect to India’s population, as Sian Brooke of the Oxford Internet Institute points out, “it has brought the idea of sexual harassment and assault into the public consciousness. And even if the discussion around the movement is criticism, you are still bringing about an awareness that this happens” (BBC, 2018).

In Canada, women are sharing their experiences of sexual violence like never before, resulting in a huge increase in demand on Canada’s sexual violence support services. For example, calls to the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre increased 100% in the last year alone (Canadian Women’s Foundation, 2018). One initiative, the #AfterMeToo (partnered with the Canadian Women’s Foundation) has created a fund that addresses the increased demand on sexual violence support services across Canada.

In the US, from October to December 2017, calls to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network crisis hotline rose by 23% compared with the same period in 2016 (BBC, 2018). The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in Washington DC has, as a result of the campaign, been matching victims with lawyers who can offer them free advice (NWLC, 2018).

Another initiative which has been very successful in addressing the #MeToo question is the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. The Fund was launched by more than 300 actresses, writers and directors in January 2018 and raised $21million in legal assistance for people who suffer harassment, abuse or assault at work in its first operating month alone (The National Women’s Law Center, 2018).

An interesting takeaway from the campaign is that men are also often victims of sexual violence. 1in6 is a Los Angeles-based non-profit group that supports male sex abuse survivors. #MeToo had direct impact on the number of men reaching out to the organization, saw a 110% increase in web traffic, and a 103% increase in the use of online helpline services between September and October 2017 (BBC, 2018).

With an overwhelming number of people worldwide speaking out in a very personal way, is it even conceivable to continue to ignore such an issue? As a hopeless optimist I am tempted to say we have learned this lesson, society has grown, and mankind will not allow these errors to continue to occur. However, the reality is far more complex than that. Sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation of women (in a variety of forms) is so ingrained in our societies that it may take decades and several generations before we can truly move forward.

Yes, the #MeToo campaign is a good step. Yes, this is extremely encouraging. Sadly though, the numbers speak for themselves. It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives (UN Women, 2018) with some nations showing up to 70 per cent of women having experienced sexual abuse in their lifetime (WHO, 2013). And this is not only in developing countries. In the UK, one in five women have experienced sexual assault (The Guardian, 2018). And these are the reported cases.

The stigma associated with victims of assault is often the leading reason women will not come forward. Society has trained us to question the victim rather than the ‘predator’. This is something that has become the norm. We’ve been asking the right questions but to the wrong people (TIME Magazine, 2017).

So with the recent arrest of Harvey Weinstein and the countless initiatives emerging in light of #MeToo, it seems that change is happening. Although the #MeToo campaign has a long way to go in ridding the world of sexual abuse and predators, one thing it has been successful in doing is identifying a massive, global issue.

Rebecca Seales of the BBC News explains that “perhaps, then, #MeToo is not an endgame – but a clarion call to something bigger. A reminder for people to seek change in their communities, and push to make damaging systems better – especially for those who lack the power to fight alone” (BBC, 2018).

The #MeToo campaign has created a platform in which victims of sexual abuse can be heard and supported. It has shown that victims are not alone, far from it, and that collectively we can effect change.


BBC News (2018). What has #MeToo actually changed?

Canadian Women’s Foundation (2018). After MeToo.

MeToo (2018).

Time Magazine (2017). The Silence Breakers.

The Guardian (2018). Sexual harassment and assault rife at United Nations, staff claim.

The National Women’s Law Center (2018). The Time’s Up Legal Defence Fund.

UN Women (2018). Facts and figures: Ending violence against women.

World Health Organization (2013). Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, p.2.


PATHFINDER Starts 2018 Strong

2018 strong.jpg

2018 has started strong at PATHFINDER, from new advisory board members to new international memberships. We’re also very proud to announce we’ve been invited to the prestigious American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit 2018!

This year’s American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit, held in New York on April 16-17, convenes 72 social purpose leaders from around the world. While there, we will have the opportunity to connect with these extraordinary civic trailblazers and learn so much.

For more on this and other exciting things we’re up to, see our latest newsletter below.

We have some exciting things to share!

First and foremost, we’re so happy to welcome to our Board of Advisors, Joel Solomon and Neeraj Jain.

Joel is one of Canada’s greatest and most influential impact investors. Neeraj is a successful lifetime entrepreneur and investor. Both gentlemen have informally guided PATHFINDER since the very beginning… since we were just an idea, really. It is our great honor to have the gentlemen onboard.

Next, we were recently selected for a couple of prestigious events.  Shivani was accepted to the American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit 2018. This year’s American Express Leadership Academy Global Alumni Summit convenes 72 social purpose leaders from around the world. While there, we will have the opportunity to connect with these extraordinary civic trailblazers and learn so much.

Jessica now represents us as a member of the prestigious Institute of Directors (IoD), an organization for company directors, senior business leaders and entrepreneurs. The IoD is the UK’s longest running organization for professional leaders (founded in 1903) and stands for “free enterprise, entrepreneurialism, wealth creation and good corporate governance.” We look forward to attending many engaging events and networking with other IoD members in the UK and beyond.

And for those who haven’t checked it out yet, we started the year with our first HuffPost publication. Most recently, we were featured on Your Mark On The World Center for our interview with Purpose Capital Co-Founder, Assaf Weisz.

Finally, we are proud to report that our former placement student, Beccy, is carrying forward PATHFINDER’s values. This autumn, she’ll be in Kathmandu to volunteer as a researcher for Street Child UK, a charity that aims to create educational opportunities for the world’s most vulnerable children. And, she’s cycling there! In order to fundraise for her time in Nepal, Beccy will embark on a solo cycling trip from London to Kathmandu. This 100-day journey will take her through 16 countries and various terrains. We’re rooting for you Beccy!

Slow, But Steady: The Growth of Impact Investing and Social Enterprise

By Shivani Singh


In January this year, we connected with Purpose Capital’s co-founder, Mr. Assaf Weisz, to check in on the (financial) health of the Impact Investing space. Sure, we hear more and more about how interested financiers and indeed, young people are, in the idea of socially driven business or financial models. But what does this interest look like out there, in reality, and on the field?

Mr. Weisz began Purpose Capital with two other founders “back in the year when The Rockefeller Foundation coined the phrase ‘impact investing’”. Since then, he’s developed a decade of expertise in his field. He’s the perfect person to discuss industry developments with.

What are the overall trends in the space of financing for social purpose businesses?

Mr. Weisz reckons that while functioning, the space is still small.  There has been a steady increase in the number and even caliber of entrepreneurs. There’s been an increase in the number and variety of investors. There’s been an increase in infrastructure for the space. The entire development universe has grown.

“But, it all still remains relatively small compared to where it should be.”

It all began with a bunch of social entrepreneurs who had a hard time accessing capital because there was so little of it, Mr. Weisz explains. Then, slowly, investors started joining. First it was the few interested Angels and Foundations.  There were a small number of deals. And they were willing to accept lower returns for a higher social outcome. Purpose Capital has worked to increase the visibility of social entrepreneurs (“SocEnts”) and educate investors since this beginning.

But then things began to change. People wanted profit and social impact, compromising on neither. Indeed, they began to focus on building sound businesses that could also create impact, not just settling for one idea over the other. It’s been a few decades. Still, realistically and honestly speaking, social enterprises continue to struggle with capital.

There has however, been a more recent change from the last few years that is important.  Mr. Weisz elaborates that back in the day, most deals were done on the private market. These were conducted behind closed doors, with a lucky few finding each other. But increasingly, there is retail funding available. Retail funding includes a myriad of fresh financial models including the more popular one, crowdfunding. Also there are more public names getting involved. There are networks and exchanges now. No longer are social entrepreneurs and their financiers isolated to a lucky few private transactions. Social finance deals have begun to enter the mainstream world.

Often, financiers would like to fund innovation but insist on proven success. Innovation, proven at scale, in a young industry, is hard to come by. How do we get past this trap?

“That’s a tough one,” acknowledges Mr. Weisz. He gives it a few moments of thought and speaks again. It depends on the type of innovation too, he says. For instance, governments have historically been the most accessible and reliable for scientific innovation. Finding funding for business model innovation is definitely harder. Angels are always an option, though one must find the right connection. Investment also varies by place. Canada, for example, has been more risk averse than America. So there are options but in reality, for most, it is difficult to sell an idea in the space of global development.

So realistically, when will things change?

Like in the case of other great changes, a bunch of things need to happen to make a sizeable shift. For one thing, there has been a lot of focus and growth in the innovation economy over the past few decades, which is quite promising. Secondly, the growth of the industry will play a big role in its own shift. He explains, consider Silicon Valley. The investors in their industry come from within it. They started out as technology entrepreneurs who became successful and found their way to the top, to becoming power players and influencers. By contrast, prior generations of Toronto based tech investors came from backgrounds in banking or business in general, often finding themselves in uncharted territory.  Similarly, we need more social entrepreneurs to become influential power players, to bring attention and resources to our lot.

As a veteran of the industry who’s seen it grow from nothing, what are you most looking forward to in the impact investing world?

Mr. Weisz is excited for all the budding opportunities to come to fruition, of course. But what he most looks forward to is,“for the concept of social entrepreneurship to increasingly become invisible.” He elaborates that he looks ahead to a time when social impact and profit are so interwoven that there is no such thing as business without impact. A time when all entrepreneurs are impactful and all enterprises deliver both, financial and social success. A time when business, as a concept, has changed entirely because of what we do today.

This is no small dream to dream, Mr. Weisz, and indeed, it is a brave one. But then again, he knew about the industry before it was an industry. And so, we end the conversation on a note of hope.

This article was first published in YourMarkOnTheWorld.com

Keep it simple, make an impact

Meeting in Toronto

The new year is well underway and we started things off right! Although we work on different continents, in different time zones, one of our best strengths has always been making the distance work to our advantage. With Jess in France and Shivani in Canada, we’ve been lucky to each cover a vast area which has created many opportunities for us.

However, every now and again, we do get together. Last month, we met in Toronto for some face-to-face meetings about PATHFINDER’s goals and vision for 2018. It was pretty great to re-charge and re-focus for the year ahead. And we had a lot of fun, as we do, when we’re together!

Just like everyone else, there’s a lot we want to accomplish this year. But if there’s one message we’d like to convey, it’s this:

Keep it simple, choose one cause and make an impact! It’s easy to get swept up in the seemingly endless negative news we hear about the state of the world. If we each choose one cause that has meaning to us, and we help in every way we can (whether it be financially, through advocacy, volunteering, etc), we will collectively make a difference.

It’s making that first step and getting involved that will create impact, even for the most insurmountable of causes.

So go, get started! Do your best! And don’t forget to have a good time.