The need for social impact

and why local solutions often are the best solutions?


A blog post from
here we are partner Social Terrain , a UK based  business involved in social risk mitigation, evaluation and impact assessment, dedicated to the development of social impact projects and initiatives.

There are a number of orphan social problems around the world… Problems that nobody seems to have the resources or the mandate to deal with.

Social impact investment or impact investment is a way to fill gaps in national and international solidarity. It is a new finance industry, combining private equity and foundation work, situated somewhere between the two. The purpose is to make investments that generate social impact and financial return simultaneously – ideally the two should be mutually reinforcing. It is estimated that some US$60 billion was invested in this way globally in 2016.

Drivers for social impact projects

In the UK, we see four drivers to the growing requirement for social impact projects:

  • Globally, government sponsored aid is declining.
  • Governments are looking to others to create impact, and see private social impact projects as an effective means of delivery.
  • The private sector is beginning to understand that doing good is not incompatible with doing business, on the contrary it can be very good for business.
  • And an emergence of a younger entrepreneurial generation, both business owners and investors, who take social impact seriously.


Involvement of local communities

Social impact projects can be initiated by various interest groups, but behind all social impact projects there needs to be stakeholder engagement and understanding. Local communities affected by the challenges being addressed, are therefore the best place to start. After all, these local communities have a vested interest to make the intervention work.

In the UK the creation of Community Interest Companies (CICs) is an acknowledgment that communities are often best placed to solve problems at a local scale. Over 60% of CICs operate in health care and social care, but the spectrum of CIC activities is vast and includes everything from growing oyster mushrooms from waste coffee grounds to Beer and Blues festivals. Find many more examples and case studies at gov.uk.

In emerging markets where central government influence is often weak or even negative, local intervention is often the only route to create social impact. As an example we can highlight Social Terrain’s work in the extractive industry. This industry is often the center of local conflict, particularly issues around artisanal mining. International mining companies, with operations in countries affected by weak governance, frequently expend considerable brand investment in sustainable mining, and yet face serious artisanal mining problems affecting their most valuable assets i.e. what they see as theft.

Resolving the issue requires a multi-stakeholder effort and positive change is created by minimising risks to the company by ensuring better stakeholder engagement. The solution includes the creation of a positive pull factor that will get the miners away from the concession activity by creating agricultural livelihoods, possibly linked to nearby industrial development and creating popular support amongst the local population against artisanal mining through a sustained and well-conceived campaign of transparent communication.

The social impact of a concerted effort includes changes in relation to a) community outreach and engagement by the mining company, b) improved security measures by public authorities and mining security contractors, and c) alternative pull factors for livelihoods and cultural acceptance for artisanal miners. Given that artisanal miners are sometimes part of the community and that the non-mining community also feels aggrieved, addressing basic community issues provides an essential foundation for rural development.

What can here we are do?

So how does this fit in with here we are? In the context of the partnerships that are required in establishing these social impact projects, Social Terrain has collaborated with here we are members to establish Unum, a social enterprise in the Kyrgyz Republic. Unum is Latin implying ‘unity,’ and also Kyrgyz for ‘my voice’.

Unum addresses the complex interaction of factors that are contributing to isolate the Kyrgyz Republic and more generally pushing qualified national workers to seek employment abroad, keeping foreign visitors to surprisingly low numbers (when one considers the tourism potential of the country) and limiting the competence development of the youth.

Another good example for The Kyrgys Republic is collaboration with a here we are member who used her skills and experience within  project finance, risk assessment and due diligence in contributing to a cross national project on ethical recruitment.

Partnering for social change

To us, here we are holds great potential as a network of highly skilled and knowledgeable people with valuable insights on the local context. Collaborating to find smart solutions to orphan problems is one of the ways in which this innovative network makes a difference.

Emery Brusset is one of the network’s Key Resource Persons. He is the founding partner of Social Terrain and holds more than 20 years experience within development, monitoring and evaluation and is spearheading social impact initiates across a variety of countries.

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