March 31, 2020

Calgary is latest Canadian city to establish social value fund, bringing social impact investing to the city

Haskayne students leading Calgary Social Value Fund seek peers from other disciplines to become involved; application deadline April 6
Haskayne students leading the Calgary Social Value Fund
Haskayne students leading the Calgary Social Value Fund Paolo Sabater

At the intersection of business and social responsibility you will find Haskayne students James Dick, Sebastian Bratu, Ana Garcia, Tori Hislop, Tyson Bilton and Laura Foster. The six students came together in the summer of 2019 to form the Calgary Social Value Fund (CSVF), a chapter of the National Social Value Fund (NSVF). With the addition of Calgary, there are now five chapters across the country with the others in Vancouver, Montreal, London and Kingston.

  • Photo above: Back from left: Laura Foster, Sebastian Bratu, James Dick. Front: Ana Garcia, Tyson Bilton, Steve Petterson (executive director of the National Social Value Fund). Missing: Tori Hislop. Photo by Paolo Sabater

What is social impact investing? The term can cover a wide range of financing, but across the board, these investments look for a financial return on the capital provided but in addition they are also looking for environmental or social benefits. The organizations receiving the investment can come in many forms ranging from not-for-profit to for-profit companies, but most would term themselves a social enterprise.

The post-secondary teams in the established funds have provided support for five social enterprises so far with a total of $315,000 invested. The Calgary group has been busy building their team, establishing their legal structure and raising capital. The students lead the investment team with community members providing support, and they are looking for additional volunteers in both capacities.

“I am very happy and honoured to be involved in the launch of the CSVF and watch what these exceptional students can accomplish,” says Blair Ward, managing director, investment banking, National Bank of Canada. “I have spent my entire career sourcing, evaluating and structuring financings for my clients and hope I can apply some of that knowledge to the opportunities the CSFV is considering and help finance great companies that are making a difference in society.” Ward is a part of the investment committee along with Haskayne’s Houston Peschl.

Although still raising capital, the team expects to be making an investment soon. They have been meeting with local social enterprises to see what value they add to the community and what impact further funding will make. The investment team is continuing to meet online regularly.

“So far we have been meeting with fantastic enterprises that I didn’t know existed,” says Bratu, a student looking to graduate in 2022 with both a BComm in finance and a BA in economics. “It is just so wonderful and inspiring to see the impact they are having beyond just the money.”

Members of the investment team attended What’s Next YYC, an initiative that was a part of the Social EnterPrize hosted by the Trico Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Centre at the Haskayne School of Business and the Trico Charitable Foundation, and connected with Calgary social enterprises at the event. Ventures that participated in this event have been in conversation with the fund, outlining how the support can help enable the vision of their organizations.

“Social impact investing is more than just finance and accounting,” says Bratu. “First you need to be passionate to learn and really passionate about the field. You also need to be able to rationalize and conceptualize the impact we are having and how you can support that impact.” Social impact investing isn’t as prominent in Calgary as it is in Vancouver perhaps or Montreal, he adds, but being involved with CSVF is a great opportunity to be involved with a relatively new frontier in Calgary.

Applications for 2020-2021 associate positions at the Calgary Social Value Fund are now open for undergraduate students currently attending the University of Calgary. Applications are due at 11:59 p.m. MST on April 6

Please note: The photo took place before physical distancing due to COVID-19 was put in place.