Innovative Finance and the Search for the Next Big Idea

Friday, October 17, 2014
by Rehana Nathoo, Program Associate, Rockefeller Foundation
In early September, The Rockefeller Foundation conducted a social media outreach campaign during the annual Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) Conference. A longtime supporter of SOCAP and a strong believer in the power of networks to identify solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. 
Over the course of three days, Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin encouraged the SOCAP community and the broader social impact network to send us ideas, examples, and solutions that might unearth new innovations in financial inclusion and growth. Our Innovative Finance team monitored the conversation to gain inspiration around exciting ideas that meet the criteria Dr. Rodin laid out in her keynote address on September 3rd. 
Since The Rockefeller Foundation launched its impact investing work in 2007, we’ve invested nearly $50 million to build the necessary architecture and infrastructure for the field. Philanthropic and public-sector dollars represent only billions against problems requiring trillions to solve, but there is unrealized potential in private markets to generate greater social impact. Given the enormous potential of private capital markets -- estimated at $210 trillion -- our innovative finance work seeks to leverage private dollars for social impact. 
In keeping with The Rockefeller Foundation’s commitment to constant innovation, with a focus on new and exciting ideas being surfaced within innovative finance, we launched a Twitter campaign at SOCAP. This campaign targeted philanthropists, social entrepreneurs, finance professionals, and those interested in social impact. We encouraged individuals to send us solutions that they’ve unearthed in their own work or new concepts that they’re eager to test.
The responses we received were illuminating. 
The Rockefeller Foundation team combed through ideas, aggregating exciting suggestions around multiple different themes, including: innovations in energy, job creation for young women, community development solutions, public transit, financial leadership, youth employment, the sharing economy, education, social impact bonds, and many more.
Across the Foundation, we will continue to use our expansive network of investors, enterprises, stakeholders and policy makers that are already active in the space to learn more about both the challenges and solutions for innovative finance. Most importantly, we hope to learn more about how we can apply what we’ve learned to solve increasingly complex social problems. 
You can always contact us @RockefellerFdn #BigIdeas to tell us more about what you’re working on.
Rehana Nathoo is a program associate at The Rockefeller Foundation, where she works on program initiatives that pertain broadly to economic development, including the coordination and facilitation of the Foundation’s engagement with the Impact Investing industry and it's Innovative Finance work.
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