Investing for equal opportunities: SI3 fund from Shaping Impact Group

PIET COLRUYT | PIETER OOSTLANDER | JAMY GOEWIE 

Piet Colruyt, Pieter Oostlander and Jamy Goewie are impact pioneers with deep expertise in everything from fund management to community building. The trio are now jointly partners at Shaping Impact Group, where they recently launched, SI3, a fund to support “an inclusive, solidarity-based society where no one is left behind.”

Investing for equal opportunities: SI3 fund from Shaping Impact Group
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Piet, Pieter and Jamy worked together long before SI3 or Shaping Impact Group took shape. Their previous collaborations – including Piet and Jamy launching Ashoka Netherlands, and Piet and Pieter’s trailblazing work in venture philanthropy – built the know-how and the network that enables the group and its activities to thrive.

 

What was the inspiration for starting the SI3 fund?

Jamy: With Shaping Impact Group we already managed two funds, SI2 and INZET. When thinking about a new fund, we spoke to our network of investors. During these conversations we often heard that they got plenty of propositions of impact funds focussing on clean energy, circular economy, climate change and food transition. However, they missed an impact fund that focussed on problems closer to home: the polarisation and inequity in society, people who are left behind and are not able to participate, diversity and inclusion issues.

With our SI2 fund we noticed that naturally we tend to focus on societal issues with a humanitarian angle, so we had a full pipeline of leads that would fit the thematic areas of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. That’s how we decided to launch a fund fully dedicated to equal opportunities.

Pieter: A fund focussed on such a specific societal theme is, we believe, the next step in the development of for-impact investing. As shown before with SI2 Fund and INZET, we enjoy pioneering this territory and helping to push the boundaries for the benefit of making the sector more mature.

Piet: Making a societal impact through investing is a long-term purpose and it was always the idea to continue with another fund after SI2. SI3 fills a need with a focus on poverty and increasing polarisation at the moment. These are personal concerns for me, alongside concerns about the environment and climate change.

Jamy: Lastly, we were inspired by what we learned from our previous work. As a team we have a specific experience in working with social enterprises in an early growth phase. Since we decided to focus on a thematic, and we wanted to invest in solutions close to home, we decided to launch a fund with a similar size and structure as SI2 Fund.

Piet Colruyt
Piet Colruyt

What are SI3’s goals? Who benefits?

Jamy: People who currently don’t have the opportunity to fully participate in society or don’t have enough opportunities (because of a disability, socio-economic status, gender, cultural background, etc.) should benefit from the innovations that we invest in. In terms of numbers, we aim to reach 1.000.000 people through the investments of SI3 and realize a 300% Social Return on Investment. It will take our strong focus to reach these goals alongside a financial return of 3-5%. We aim to fundraise over €20 million and invest in 15-20 social enterprises within the thematic focus. At the time of launch, Piet Colruyt is the cornerstone investor, and next to him we have 13 families from BE and NL, 3 charitable foundations from NL and two semi-government funds from Belgium.

Pieter Oostlander and Jamy Goewie
Pieter Oostlander and Jamy Goewie

How will SI3 measure impact?

Pieter: As Jamy mentioned, we use the Social Return on Investment methodology as promoted by Social Value International. This allows a bottom-up assessment of impacts rather than a top-down directive on social-KPIs to be measured. We put a lot of value on our investees assessing what their impacts are and then agreeing targets based on self-identified social KPIs. Based on these social-KPIs we allocate the impacts generated to the relevant SDGs to report our portfolio’s overall impacts in those selected areas. And we look at overall value of impacts relative to the value of inputs on a portfolio level.

 

Why did you choose to launch a regional fund for equal opportunities? And why now?

Jamy: We felt no one is specifically focussing on social issues close to home, specifically the Benelux region. Moreover, we want to really get to know our entrepreneurs, so it helps when they are not thousands of miles away. This makes it easier to build a community of investors and portfolio companies, as we can bring them together more easily.

Pieter: And why now? Well, look around in society, and have a look under the shiny surface. On an overall level, western societies are doing well. But you don’t even need to dig very deep to find huge disparities. The difference between the haves and the have-nots is growing. A significant group is at the edge of or below the poverty line. Many people are indebted and unable to find their way out. Governments are maltreating substantial groups of citizens who consequently get into trouble. Integration and discrimination are still big issues, there are distances to the labour-market for specific groups, etc…

Piet: Inequality is all around us, it is growing and it is a threat to democratic society as we know it. In summary, the urgency is significant.

 

What does an ideal social enterprise for SI3 look like?

Jamy: An enterprise with a lockstep model: the impact needs to be part of the business-model. An existing team that can demonstrably reach goals. A proven product and some proof of market (demand).

Pieter: We also look for teams that are in love with the issue they address (rather than the solution). Finally, we seek enterprises with a viable business plan and exit potential to make it an investable case.

 

You’ve announced a first investment in PLINKR. Can you describe why PLINKR. stands out?

Jamy: We all know stories of people not being able to pay their bills on time, which leads to high debts and a vicious circle of money problems. That is why SI3 Fund welcomes PLINKR. as a first investment. PLINKR. is one of the leading digital innovations in the Netherlands tackling debt issues. With their accessible and user-friendly digital platform, PLINKR. helps indebted people to get a grip on their financial administration and supports debt counsellors, judges and social services with the right tools to get the right insights. With these insights, the right people can provide the right guidance to stabilize the financial situation and stimulate the increase of self-reliance.

PLINKR is one of the eight accredited solutions of SchuldenLabNL, an initiative backed by Dutch national and local government, all major banks and a broad range of private and public organizations. SchuldenlabNL aspires to end debt distress in the Netherlands with Her Majesty Queen Máxima as honorary president of the board. Accreditation by SchuldenlabNL is only awarded to those innovations that are proven effective and scalable.

 

What kind of non-financial support do you envision offering to SI3 investees?

Jamy: Both our own team and our investors provide non-financial support; we open our networks to look for specific expertise. Mostly the need of the companies is around business strategies, financial modelling and CFO services, marketing and sales support, HR and IT.

Pieter: We decide on where and how to help based on the match between investee needs and in-house and in-network capabilities. One area where help is almost always needed is in impact analysis. It apparently is rare when social enterprises have fully assessed their societal impact on their own. We use a comprehensive, generally applicable and standard methodology (in line with EVPA’s impact measurement approach) to help assess social returns.

 

Can you describe how your individual expertise informs the support and advice you offer?

Jamy: I am probably best in supporting on HR issues (leadership), marketing and sales.

Piet: I leverage a large network to support our companies by connecting them to relevant stakeholders. I can often offer advice on how to organise for the next phase or investment round.

Pieter: My core expertise is in management information, business analysis and strategy, accounting, legal, tax and IT. And in impact measurement and management, of course!

 

For more information on SI3 fund and Shaping Impact Group, please visit their website.