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SVP International

Social Capital: Underutilized Partner Resource

Posted by Social Venture Partners Portland

by Katherine Fox, SVP Business Partner Arnerich Massena

Recently, the Portfolio Management Team (PMT) considered how we can work to maximize opportunities to leverage our social capital in a way that is equitable in opportunity and can benefit all of our Community Partners. While we often focus our attention on contributions of Partner money and time, the Partnership has valuable yet underutilized social capital and influence that can have an equally profound impact when leveraged in support of our Community Partners. The question is whether we’re fully recognizing, aggregating, and directing it with intention toward our goal.

As a new member of the PMT, this was my first view inside our Partner-powered decision making. Here is a look into PMT’s behind-the-scenes process as well as our thoughts on the importance of an often overlooked Partner resource: our social capital. 

The PMT discussion centered on several goals, with two most notable. First, we need to develop a shared understanding of SVP’s social capital: why, what, and how. Second, we need to brainstorm risks, opportunities, and consequences to direct Partner giving to Community Partners.

From this, three questions and answers are worth sharing.

Q: What do we mean by social capital?

A: Three things rose to the top of discussion.  First, connection to resources, including people with power, influence, and access to funds. Second, the ability to elevate community voices, particularly those that are or historically have been marginalized, that are closest to the issues we seek to impact. Third, direct giving by Partners along with collective fundraising by Partners among their networks.

Q: From a community impact perspective, is advocating for direct donations a role that SVP should play?

A: Partner comments reinforced what we already know: the highest value resource SVP offers CPs is our human capital through our capacity-building work. That being said, the PMT concluded that Partners play an important role in supporting CPs fundraising efforts by championing their work among the SVP network and beyond.

Q: What might be the unintended consequences of exercising social capital for direct benefit to Community Partners?

A: The PMT determined that we must be cautious with efforts that might favor one CP over others as that runs the risk of perpetuating inequities in philanthropic giving. This concern is mitigated if we provide equitable and transparent opportunities for any/all CPs to mobilize the Partnership’s social capital.

The PMT plans to continue exploring whether we are maximizing opportunities to leverage our social capital, and would like to think innovatively, but in a way that benefits all Community Partners. It was agreed that providing capacity-building support in the form of development expert assistance is not one of our core competencies, but that it could be part of this discussion for the future.

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