A NSW free from poverty and inequality

5 questions with NCOSS CEO Tracy Howe

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We speak to Tracy Howe, Chief Executive Officer here at NCOSS, about social impact investment in the lead up to this year’s Investing for Good Conference and Marketplace

You’re about to host the Investing for Good Conference and Marketplace (I4G) for the second year. What changes have you seen take place in the social investment space since last year’s event? 

Last year we were just dipping our toe in the water. The key players were largely in their own corner, but since last year’s event we’ve all started coming together with a common interest in ramping up operations around social impact investing. It’s like bits of thread have come together to create one strong piece of rope – and it’s been a big seismic shift. 

Underpinning social impact investment is the understanding that we face major social problems. What do you see as the key social issues for NSW right now? 

First up is housing and homelessness. It’s a huge issue, but it also presents a huge opportunity for government, civil society and investors to come together to create change. We’re dedicating a stream to housing at this year’s conference because of that, and because of the significant work NCOSS has already done to achieve social outcomes with the Social and Affordable Housing Fund. 

Two other key issues are cost of living and domestic family violence. We’ll be exploring some great case studies in these areas and believe there’s incredible scope for partners to work together to develop entrepreneurial solutions. 

We’ve seen an increase in investable social enterprises in recent years. Is there a success story that’s particularly close to you and why? 

Last year we saw an Aboriginal community-led early childhood service in Lismore called Jarjums. It offers children a safe, trustworthy environment, gives them a sense of community and prevents them from needing out-of-home care. It’s an amazing community-led service with social outcomes that go well beyond simply providing a place for kids to go for the day. 

When they spoke last year they had a huge wait list, and couldn’t give kids that desperately needed their support a spot. A year later – because of the connections they made and what was ignited on that special day – they now have the finance to build a new centre. For us, that’s the ultimate outcome. We want to see a great community-led solution achieving social outcomes that far outweigh the core purpose, as well as the capacity to scale up and make the results even more deeply felt within the community. 

What excites you most about Investing for Good 2017? 

We already have a view of what worked last year – almost accidentally – which is the incredible partnerships that resulted from ad hoc networking. This year builds on this success in a more targeted way, ensuring all delegates interact in some way. If you’re in the housing market, for example, you’re going to meet some not-for-profits working in housing assistance.

I also like the idea that we can continue to follow through, knowing it’s not just going to be an annual event. This is just the beginning of a long road for us. 

What’s the one thing you want attendees to get out of this year’s event? 

A view of a different sector. On one hand we have organisations already established in this space – I4G allows them to build on what they’ve already achieved and look for other opportunities. At the other end of the spectrum, we have members who are totally new to social impact investing. I hope to see them invigorated, with a bag full of business cards and some tangible ways to move forward.  
Investing for Good 2017 is being held in Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh on Thursday 9 November. To learn more visit www.investingforgood.sydney

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