4 July 2016 GeneralHuman development

A turning point for social investment

The G8 Lisbon meeting

This month, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation hosted the annual meeting of G8 countries on the theme of social investment, a meeting that may prove a turning point for the entire European Union if the resulting commitments towards the implementation of social investment friendly practices are put into practice in the different European countries. Maria Manuel Leitão Marques, Minister to the Presidency and for Administrative Modernisation, Carlos Moedas, European Commission for Innovation, Science and Research, Sir Ronald Cohen, chairman of the Global Impact Investment Steering Group, and Artur Santos Silva, president of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, were among the leading figures participating in this meeting.

In 2013, G8 countries, with the exception of Russia – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States–, joined together to found the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce to reflect on the development of social investments on a global scale. In the wake of this reflective study, the G8 members launched an annual event that took place for the first time last year in London and was attended by around 250 government figures, CEOs and representatives of financial institutions and as well as some of the most important international foundations, such as the Rockefeller Foundation and Bertelsmann Foundation.

In Portugal, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was on the front line of this reflection on social investments with the founding of the Portuguese Working Group for Social Investment, which brings together representatives from the social, public and private sectors within the scope of fostering a dynamic social investment ecosystem in Portugal. The recognition attained by this initiative resulted in an invitation for Portugal to join the G8 member states within the scope of this overall reflection and taking advantage of the work undertaken by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in catalysing the social investment sector in Portugal and the potential for replicating the Portuguese experience across other countries on mainland Europe.

The first ever social impact bond was launched in Portugal in 2015 focusing on the field of education and testing whether the teaching of computing and programming skills to primary school pupils proves able to improve their capacity for problem solving and their academic performances in the subjects of Portuguese and Maths. The innovative financing mechanism, through which a public sector entity may sign a contract with private investors based on specific social results, was produced by the Social Investment Laboratory, a non-profit project set up within the framework of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation designed to catalyse the social investment market in Portugal through developing financing mechanisms appropriate to funding social innovation. With the launch of the social impact bond, Portugal thus joins the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands as the only countries in Europe with this type of financing instrument option.