Using insights from the Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare, the $96.1 million Try, Test and Learn Fund is trialing new or innovative approaches to assist some of the most vulnerable in society onto a path towards stable, sustainable independence.

The fund focuses on priority groups identified, through analysis of Priority Investment Approach data and other policy considerations, as being at high risk of long-term welfare dependency.

The objective of the Try, Test and Learn Fund is to generate new insights and empirical evidence into what works to reduce long-term welfare dependence. Project selection is based, in part, on the value of the evidence that they will generate. Projects will be evaluated to produce high-quality policy evidence about the effectiveness of interventions, for whom, and under what circumstances. In this way, the fund will allow the Government to identify approaches that work, and use this evidence to transform our investment in existing programs or make the case for new investments.

The Try, Test and Learn Fund takes an open and collaborative approach to policy development. This approach is focused on seeking new ideas from and collaborating with a diverse range of stakeholders, including the community sector, business, academia and the general public, in order to develop new ways of tackling complex social challenges. Co-development activities are embedded into projects supported by the fund to refine and optimize project design. These co-development activities are tailored to the needs of each project and may involve collaboration with end users, the Commonwealth and other stakeholders.

The Try, Test and Learn Fund will help achieve the objectives of welfare reform—that is, to develop a modern welfare system that increases the capacity of individuals, reduces the risk of welfare dependency and maintains a strong welfare safety net.

Tranche one and tranche two

The first tranche of the Try, Test and Learn Fund was open for ideas from 9 December 2016 to 24 February 2017. Read more about tranche one.

The second tranche of the Try, Test and Learn Fund was open for applications from 22 November 2017 to 28 September 2018. Read more about tranche two.

Source: Australian Government, Department of Social Services:

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What planning issues should be considered

when establishing a social enterprise?

When a social entrepreneur considers beginning a new social enterprise or when the directors of a charity or NPO consider introducing a new social enterprise program, a range of issues must be addressed. Having a well-considered business plan is vital to success.

Andrew Valentine, LL.B. • Partner, Miller Thomson LLP in brilliant fashion, outlines the various factors to be taken under serious consideration, in detail. This blog-post will provide his description of the operational priorities which should be questioned and clearly addressed in the business plan; for directors to consider when planning to introduce a new social enterprise.

Operational priorities

Determining the operating goals and priorities of the social enterprise is crucial. What is the enterprise’s fundamental purpose? Is it to further a social purpose directly, for example, by providing employment to marginalized individuals? Or is it primarily to generate a financial

return that can be used to support the operations of a charity or NPO.

These questions affect both the initial structure of the enterprise and ongoing operational decisions, so thinking them through carefully is crucial. As the organization operates, it will likely encounter tension between the competing priorities of revenue and social mission.

For example, if revenue from the enterprise disappoints, how flexible should the enterprise be with its business model or its willingness to seek new revenue opportunities? Should such changes be made even if they might diminish the social mission? Or should the social mission

remain paramount, even if this means lower revenue and greater need to supplement revenue through grants or public donations?

These questions can be answered more coherently and consistently if the founders of the social enterprise have established a clear purpose and set priorities for the social enterprise at the outset.

Source: 20 Questions Directors of Not-for-Profi tOrganizations Should Ask About Social Enterprise, Andrew Valentine, LL.B. • Partner, Miller Thomson LLP, Charted Professional Accountants Canada:

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ACTIAM is a trendsetter when it comes to impact investing. They launched they’re first institutional funds in microfinancing as early as 2007 and 2008: ACTIAM Institutional Microfinance Fund I and II respectively. The firm’s strength is making investment opportunities scalable in high-impact themes. With a track record of over 12 years in impact investing, our team demonstrates a sound performance.

Making Impact Investing Scalable

ACTIAM offers capital and knowledge and develop small initiatives into scalable investments. They monitor the progress, measure the impact, prepare reports and safeguard the robustness of the process. The firm is also active in the professional development of the sector. In 2018, ACTIAM was the co-author of the ‘PRI Impact Investing Marketing Map’ of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investments.

Track record ACTIAM Financial Inclusion Fund (previously ACTIAM Institutional Microfinance Fund III -AIMF III)

The fund was launched in December 2014 and provides debt capital to MFIs (microfinance institutions). The fund capital committed by the participants amounts to €106.5 million and has a net asset value of €116.3 million (Q4-2018). The fund invests in 47 entities divided over 25 countries (Q4-2018) and achieves an IRR since inception of 3.8%, year-end 2018.The average maturity of the loans is 2.5 years.

The ACTIAM Financial Inclusion Fund applies the sector-specific responsible principles of the Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance (PIIF) and achieved the highest rating A+ (2018).

The ACTIAM Financial Inclusion contributes among others to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 1 (no poverty), Sustainable Development Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth), Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure) and Sustainable Development Goal 10 (Reduced inequalities).

The fund has provided 230,000 employees (2018) with (improved) access to funding; almost 80% of these employees are women and more than half of them live in rural areas.

Continually Innovating

ACTIAM launched its first institutional funds in microfinancing as early as 2007 and 2008: ACTIAM Institutional Microfinance Fund I and II respectively. Both funds have continuously outperformed the SMX Microfinance Index. As a thought leader in impact investing, they keep looking for new solutions for example, in the area of food and agriculture. Due to a growing world population and increasing prosperity, the demand for energy and food rises accordingly.

Please read their case study on impact investing about a loan to Khan Bank in in Mongolia.

Source: Actiam:

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Vital Capital Fund is a private equity fund with approximately $350 million in assets. The fund invests in developing areas, principally sub-Saharan Africa, in businesses and projects designed to enhance quality of life, and also offer substantial investment returns. The primary investment focus of the Vital Capital Fund is on the development of infrastructure, housing projects, agro-industrial projects, renewable energy, health care, and education. Among the fund’s investments are the Luanda Medical Center in Angola and WaterHealth International (Source: Investopedia (

Impact Mission

At the core of every investment and decision they make at Vital is impact mission. The firm’s goal is to improve economic, personal and social well-being for low and middle-income communities in sub-Saharan Africa.

An Outcome Based Approach

Refining their focus, the firm has broken down their mission into four distinct but interrelated outcomes. They believe that investing in businesses that tackle these four broad themes will feed directly into tangible improvements in the economic, personal and social well-being of target populations.

Vital Essentials

Increased access to food, clean water, healthcare, housing and other essentials which are currently inaccessible (unaffordable or unavailable) to target communities.

Vital Employment

Increased quality skilled and unskilled job opportunities to improve economic well-being and social mobility.

Vital Capabilities

Increased local capacity and know-how which will result in sustainable, long-term improvement in well-being.

An Outcome Based ApproachRefining our focus, we have broken down our mission into four distinct but interrelated outcomes. We believe that investing in businesses that tackle these four broad themes will feed directly into tangible improvements in the economic, personal and social well-being of our target populations.

Vital EssentialsIncreased access to food, clean water, healthcare, housing and other essentials which are currently inaccessible (unaffordable or unavailable) to our target communities

Vital EmploymentIncreased quality skilled and unskilled job opportunities to improve economic well-being and social mobility

Vital CapabilitiesIncreased local capacity and know-how which will result in sustainable, long-term improvement in well-being

Vital InfrastructureImproved infrastructure to provide for safe, connected and sustainable environments which facilitate economic growth and improved well-being

Managing Impact

Translating their approach into practice, they have established an investment process that integrates impact considerations at every stage. Industry-standard benchmarks as well as proprietary tools help Vital to evaluate each investment in terms of its potential and actual, short- and long-term impact.

Download Vital’s Impact Reports here:

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The Firm

S3IDF uses its Social Merchant Bank Approach (SMBA) to provide entrepreneurs with three bundled services: leveraged co-financing, technology access and knowledge, and business development support. By tailoring the approach to local conditions and markets, S3IDF enables the poor access to employment, asset-creation and ownership opportunities, and basic services. Our project portfolio includes solar, biomass and biogas, water, and other technologies for small-scale industries.

S3IDF’s Perspective on Impact Investing

“Doing well while doing good.” This unofficial slogan of the impact investing community, which indicates that it is possible and expected to achieve both financial returns and social impact through investments into companies, rarely encourages discussion of what is truly meant by “doing well” and “doing good.”

At S3IDF they believe that too often impact investors fail to explore what financial returns are realistic given the complexity of certain types of social problems. Addressing complex issues in the world’s most difficult-to-serve communities simply costs more. Why?

Among myriad reasons are inefficient supply chains, weak infrastructure, ambiguous or counterproductive regulations and policies, and lower ability-to-pay and education levels of target consumers. Entrepreneurs that take on the challenge of delivering products and services under these conditions need more, sometimes significantly more, money, time, and support to achieve impact.

The issue is not that these entrepreneurs need more resources but that there are too few impact investors willing to trade market rate financial returns for additional high-value social impact. Until this changes, too many of the world’s most intractable problems will remain underfunded and unresolved.

S3IDF, as a conscientious investor, supports pioneering early-stage entrepreneurs that aim to improve lives and livelihoods in underserved communities. We recognize that in order to do so, entrepreneurs need to re-make markets to be more inclusive – a process that often involves trailblazing new business models and building out enabling infrastructure. The benefit is that impact is achieved on both the community level as well as on the market level, laying a strong foundation from which further development can be pursued and additional impact can be realized.

Accordingly, they assess entrepreneurs’ business models by considering their potential financial return relative to their expected direct impact on customers’ lives and livelihoods and their ability to confer other benefits within the local economy. We call on others to do the same. Together we can push impact investing to its next logical evolution to truly ensure that we are “Doing well while doing good.”


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Excerpt taken from the full report, available here:


“Opportunity for Impact Impact investing is a term that has recently been introduced into the investment community. It describes a range of finance and investment approaches that have the goal of generating both financial return and benefit to society. In the past five years, the impact investing industry has grown tremendously. In 2010, global assets under management in impact investing were estimated to be approximately $50 billion and are expected to reach at least $400 billion by 2020 (Source: Ibid).”

“The impact investing market in Canada is taking root and poised for significant growth in the coming years, with promising signs for new opportunities. In mid-2012, TD commissioned a team from Purpose Capital and the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing to develop a white paper on the subject to provide investors with a summary of the key trends, issues, and opportunities around impact investing (Source: Ibid).”

What is Impact Investing?

A relatively new term, “impact investing” has been applied to a broad range of activities. The most widely cited definition describes impact investing as “investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial returns”(2) for society. Impact investors put their investments to work to address pressing social and environmental challenges. Some of the impact investing sectors that have gained popularity include:

• Clean technology financing: green infrastructure, alternative energy and energy conservation;

• Community economic development investments: investments in community-based initiatives such as affordable housing, Aboriginal-led businesses, and social enterprises;

• Microfinance: the provision of financial services, such as micro-lending, to undeserved populations;

• Social impact bonds: financing tool for initiatives in the social sector that blend public and private investment.

However the parameters, and the terminology surrounding the concept, continue to evolve. Figure 1 shows TD’s perspective on where impact investing fits within the spectrum of investment approaches:


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The RBC Generator is a $10-million pool of capital for investment in businesses that tackle social and environmental challenges, while generating a financial return.

What They’re Investing In

The RBC Generator aims to generate market, or near-market, returns by investing in Canadian for-profit businesses and third-party funds tackling social or environmental challenges. Investment opportunities will be evaluated based on their potential to deliver long-term financial return, as well as benefits in at least one of our four strategic areas.

Global demand for energy continues to grow, while rising greenhouse gas emissions risk destabilizing our climate. Innovative, energy efficient solutions are needed to drive down costs and reduce environmental impacts.

How They Invest

The RBC Generator makes debt and equity investments from $100,000 to $1 million through a flexible range of structures. They will also consider follow-up investments for organizations with proven scalability that require additional financing.

RBC is looking for organizations with unique business models and third-party funds that drive economic growth while helping to create a more sustainable future. Our goal is to provide organizations with early-stage financing to help them to build success and attract commercial financing in the future.

Investee Support

They want our investees to reach their maximum potential, and will provide them with appropriate support to meet their business and community goals.

  • Legal support
  • We will help investees establish affordable relationships with external legal counsel.
  • Financial advice and mentoring
  • Investees have access to a network of RBC advisors offering expert financial advice. We will also invite investees and prospects to take part in networking opportunities with successful businesses and investors.
  • Skills for running a high-growth company
  • Investees will have the opportunity to participate in accelerator programs for social entrepreneurs.

Impact Metrics

The impact of an investee organization should be quantifiable and reportable. RBC will work with successful investees to measure community impact. In addition to regular financial reporting, all investees must report on the impact their business is making, or will make, in one or more of the following areas:

  • Reduction in energy use
  • Reduction in greenhouse gas or other emissions
  • Improvement in water quality
  • Reduction in water use
  • Change in number of people employed
  • Change in value of wages and benefits paid

Bring it to Scale

They value organizations committed to scaling their operations and taking their unique approach mainstream. To succeed, investee organizations must have:

  • A strong idea, product or service combined with a unique business model
  • The right management expertise
  • The ability to attract prospective clients
  • A foundation of strong governance
  • A track record of success
  • Revenue

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The Rashi Foundation is an independent, private philanthropic foundation dedicated to assisting the underprivileged in Israel, particularly children and youth. They focus on the geographic and social periphery and on education and welfare solutions that create opportunities and advance social mobility.

The Foundation was established by Gustave Leven (1914-2008), a French-Jewish businessman who came from a family strongly ingrained in philanthropic tradition and culture, and whose experience during WW2 was a key factor in his focusing on Israel.

We have been working since 1984 to realize Gustave’s vision of a stable and prosperous Israel that draws its strength from a society in which every individual has an equal opportunity to realize his or her full potential.

After starting out as a typical grant-making foundation, Rashi has gradually evolved into a social entrepreneur that identifies needs and responds by initiating and building innovative education and welfare solutions.

In the next stage, they developed a unique form of venture philanthropy further by going into direct operation of programs through affiliate associations, and by creating an extensive network of partnerships with other philanthropies, as well as with government agencies. This approach allowed us to increase greatly the scope of our work while remaining highly attuned to the field and responsive to its needs.


Aiming to advance the field of impact investments in Israel, and social impact bonds in particular, a joint initiative with Social Finance Israel is carrying out feasibility studies to identify social issues that can be addressed through the SIB model. In addition to facilitating the development of innovative solutions, the initiative can pave the road for more players to join in. SFI will develop the bonds for issues that are found to be suitable and will manage their implementation.

In view of the alarming statistic regarding the high poverty rate among single-parent families in Israel, the first feasibility study deals with this issue. Specifically, the study focuses on the 17,000 families who get an alimony allowance from the National Insurance Institute, and represent the most deprived single-parent families. To improve their situation, the intervention will be designed to remove obstacles to gainful employment and improve the earning capacity of the mothers.

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A Report by MaRS Centre for Impact Investing


What is social finance?

Social finance, or impact investing, is an investment approach that focuses on achieving positive social and/or environmental impact alongside some form of financial return. This includes debt and equity investments that range from producing a return of principal capital to offering market-rate or even market-beating financial returns. Impact investing encourages positive social or environmental solutions at a scale that neither purely philanthropic supports nor traditional investment can reach.

Philanthropic grant making and program-related investments can also fall under the broad umbrella of social finance. However, a narrow definition of social finance would only include investments that could generate some form of return. Examples of impact investments could include:

  • A $5,000 equity investment in a local community solar power firm such as SolarShare
  • A $50,000 loan to a fair trade, organic coffee company such as Planet Bean Coffee
  • A $450 million bond issue for a social housing project such as Regent Park, in Toronto, ON

Impact investing is a large and growing asset class. In the United States, JP Morgan and the Rockefeller Foundation analyzed five key sectors—affordable urban housing, rural access to clean water, maternal health, primary education and microfinance—and predicted that over the next 10 years the impact investing market in just these five sectors will grow to between $400 billion–$1 trillion.

In Canada, the social finance marketplace is also expected to grow significantly. From persistent poverty to climate change, we are faced with pressing social and environmental problems at a local, provincial, and national level. Unfortunately, the ability of governments to tackle these challenges is constrained due to ongoing economic challenges and structural financial problems. Social housing providers are longstanding innovators and practitioners of social finance approaches in Canada and around the world.

In Canada, we have been experimenting with debt and equity financing approaches to purchase, build or improve housing with a positive social impact for decades. What is supportive housing? Supportive housing includes housing units or complexes funded specifically for persons living with mental illness and/or mental health problems, persons living with concurrent disorders (co-occurring mental health and substance use issues) or other persons who need support to live independently.

Individuals living in supportive housing could include older adults managing illness, persons who are chronically homeless, persons with disabilities, or other persons with mental health challenges.

“Housing First” is a variation of supportive housing that relies primarily upon private market apartments in scattered sites in the community. This is the approach that has been implemented in At Home/Chez Soi. Portable rent subsidies are key to this model, which enables tenants to rent apartments in locations they choose. The subsidies provide the difference between market rent and the amount available for rent through social assistance. Supportive housing providers have been using this approach to partner with private-sector landlords to increase the supply of rental housing where it is available.

In addition to ensuring affordability, supportive housing exists to provide supports to tenants. An affordable, secure home is essential to assisting individuals to realize their life goals. In Canada, affordability means that the market price or rent is affordable to low- and moderate-income households, measuring 30% or less of their gross household income, not including government supports.

Affordable housing includes what we commonly refer to as social housing: housing built with the financial assistance of governments to provide assistance to low- and moderate-income households. It includes supportive housing, non-profit housing, co-operative housing and housing supported by rent supplements. These monthly rent charges are usually geared to income.

Read the full report here:

International developments

Although the concept of linking private capital to societal improvement has been around for decades in many jurisdictions, three countries are on the leading edge of social innovations and social finance models:

United Kingdom (UK)

The UK is the world leader in the development of social finance. Since introducing the world’s first social impact bond (SIB) in 2010 – a prevention program to reduce recidivism among Peterborough Prison inmates – the UK has launched 14 national and local SIB projects that target a range of societal issues including “chaotic” families and homelessness. With its “Future for Children” bond, the UK was also the first country to present a public offer for investment in a SIB.

The UK is home to “Big Society Capital,” a social investment bank started by the government to help grow the social investment marketplace, as well as a public company titled simply “Social Finance” that has a similar goal. It has supported the creation of several social investment funds including the Centre for Social Action’s Innovation Fund (£14 million), the Social Outcomes Fund (£20 million) and the Department of Work and Pensions Innovation Fund (£30 million).

The UK is also seeking to improve its legal and administrative environment for social innovation projects by reviewing its Charities Act and making amendments to financial services legislation. In June 2013, the UK will host a G8 Social Impact Investment event in London to discuss, among other issues, the role of social finance in the economic recovery at national and international levels.

United States

To lead the work on social finance, the White House established the Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation, whose role includes working with the Social Innovation Fund, a grant program that helps non-profits expand effective programs. The 2014 Budget proposed by President Obama (Budget of the United States Government 2014) also included $495 million for “Pay for Success” pilot projects in areas such as job training, housing and education as well as an incentive fund for state and local governments.

A recidivism SIB is underway in New York City, and two other SIBs in the areas of chronic homelessness and juvenile justice are being negotiated in Massachusetts. In California, a demonstration project to test a health impact bond is being launched to address chronic asthma and reduce associated hospital visits by young children. The Harvard Kennedy School has created a SIB Technical Assistance Lab offering pro-bono assistance to states and local governments considering the Pay for Success model. A number of other states and municipalities (e.g., Philadelphia, Utah, Cook County) are also examining how Pay for Success approaches may work in those jurisdictions.


New South Wales recently signed a contract for its first “Social Benefit Bond” (SBB) which aims to improve services and lives through increased investment in the child protection system. Negotiations are underway for additional SBBs in the areas of family preservation and reoffending, and the region has also started a Social Investment Expert Advisory Group to provide advice on social investment and payment-by-outcomes options.

Canadian initiatives

Many social finance initiatives are already successfully operating in Canada. As social finance has been a bottom-up phenomenon to-date, these activities are largely in the private and NFP sectors. The following are only a few examples of the changing social finance landscape across the country:

  • The Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI-CF) was created in 2011 in Toronto to support young social innovators. The Fund provides finance (loans), resource support (networking and mentoring) and impact measurement support to help youth develop and launch their social innovations and social enterprises.
  • The MaRS Centre for Impact Investing was established in late 2011 to act as a hub and incubator, encouraging collaboration among private, NFP and government sectors. The Centre is working on a Social Venture Exchange, the certification of “B” corps in Canada (corporations that use the power of business to address social or environmental problems) and the annual Social Finance Awards.
  • The YMCA Toronto issued a “community bond” in December 2011 to fund 300 housing units for women and children. Worth $1 million, the bond was purchased by the Muttart Foundation and will pay a reasonable rate of return.
  • LIFT Philanthropy Partners uses venture philanthropy to strategically invest in Canada’s NFP sector to deliver social impact to tackle pressing societal challenges, including employment, literacy, skills training, health and wellness to improve the social well-being and economic prosperity of Canadians.
  • BC Social Ventures Partners (BCSVP) pools funding and expertise to donate money, time and advice to help targeted NFPs achieve their goals. BCSVP helps organizations build capacity and assists community organizations to grow and work effectively toward their missions. The group focuses on assistance to children, youth and families as well as local social enterprises.
  • RBC’s Impact Fund, created in January 2012, is investing $20 million to support the development of solutions for environmental and social problems. Priority areas include employment opportunities for newcomers and youth, environmental sustainability and water management projects.
  • In British Columbia, the Vancouver Foundation and credit union Vancity created the Vancity Resilient Capital Fund with a grant from the Government of British Columbia. The pool of $15 million dollars is earmarked for investment in social enterprises.
  • Quebec credit union Mouvement des Caisses Desjardins developed the “Placement à rendement social,” an investment fund focused on housing, environmental and cultural projects that allows the public to invest via their retirement vehicles (RRSPs) or tax-free savings accounts.

Governments of all levels have taken notice of these exciting developments in the NFP and financial communities, and many governments are exploring innovative ways to tackle intractable societal problems – including:

British Columbia

The British Columbia Social Innovation Council recommended in 2011 that the private and NFP sectors partner with the provincial government to create SIBs to fund prevention services, improve social outcomes and attract new sources of social investment capital. It further recommended that social enterprises gain access to government programs and supports typically provided to small and medium-sized enterprises, for which they are currently not eligible. In 2012, the provincial government co-sponsored “B.C. Ideas,” a province-wide innovation competition that generated 466 ideas with winners sharing over $270,000 in funding. The province’s Budget 2013 highlighted British Columbia Social Innovation Council’s recommendations, and echoed continued support for social innovation and entrepreneurship.


Alberta’s Budget 2012 mandated results-based budgeting and reviews of all government programs and services, as well as support for spending based on outcomes. Budget 2013 committed to accelerating this process, including work to evolve Alberta’s Persons with Developmental Disabilities Program into a more outcomes-based service delivery orientation.


Ontario’s Budget 2012 committed to exploring opportunities for new partnerships that encourage improved outcomes at a lower cost by transforming traditional approaches to the delivery of services. The 2012 Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, also known as the Drummond Report, recommended pilot projects to test SIBs across a range of applications.


The Minister for Industrial Policy and the Banque de développement économique du Québec planned to introduce a framework law in the National Assembly during the Spring 2013 Parliamentary session to recognize, promote and develop the social economy. To combine many economic development programs and simplify access to funding for NFPs, the Province will create the Banque de développement économique du Québec. Budget 2013 committed to increasing access to AccèsLogis Québec, a financial aid program that encourages pooling of public, community and private resources to produce social and community housing.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2012 Speech from the Throne signalled an interest in exploring innovative initiatives for tackling complex challenges.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s Budget Address 2012 committed $200,000 to develop a social enterprise strategy that will support communities and businesses. Innovative strategies have also been outlined through the JobsHere agenda, which includes implementing a Social Enterprise Loan Guarantee Program. The 2013 Speech from the Throne declared that Nova Scotia would be the first Canadian jurisdiction to offer SIBs.


Social finance initiatives are also being developed within municipal governments. One example is the City of Toronto’s Toronto Atmospheric Fund (TAF), which seeks to address emissions from buildings and transportation. TAF’s three programs — Incubating Climate Solutions, Mobilizing Financial Capital and Mobilizing Social Capital — promote energy efficiency retrofits in buildings, electric vehicles for fleets, efficient transportation of goods, natural gas alternatives like geothermal, and social innovation to support emission reduction strategies.

Source Article:

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