Outi Annala of AVPN

Making a Difference Through Social Impact Investing

By Michaela Villaroman


Everybody wants to change the world but not everyone knows how to. While we’re all capable of making a difference, creating a positive and lasting impact requires strong collective action.


Social entrepreneurs are equipped with the vision of developing sustainable businesses through  solving the relevant problems of our society. So far, we have seen innovation pave the way for us to address the many issues in the world. And it will be through supporting innovative efforts that we could help further alleviate the lives of people affected by these problems.


Through impact investing, social entrepreneurs can receive the support and resources they need to help move along their efforts. Although the concept of impact investing is relatively new, it has gained traction and popularity amongst the philanthropic crowd of entrepreneurs and investors.


Asian Venture Philanthropy Network or AVPN is a Singapore-based funders’ network that aims to promote impact social investment in Asia. The organization seeks to connect social entrepreneurs and investors in order to facilitate an active exchange of financial, human, and intellectual capital that will fuel positive social change through entrepreneurship. Outi Annala, AVPN’s SEA Director walks us through what they provide on their platform and what they hope they can achieve through their efforts.


What goes into making an impact


“Impact investing is a tool that can be utilized in bringing positive social impact in the region,” Outi explained. “It is a tool which is comprised of creating and looking not only at financial returns but also at social returns.”


In their 7 years of operation, AVPN has amassed over 500 members in 33 countries. The organization looks at the whole continuum of capital. This is defined by how funding and resource providers utilize and leverage different types of financial tools and resources to bring the best possible impact. They have investors on board who are solely interested in social returns, and then there are investors who are looking at purely financial returns while considering the social impact of their work.


For the most part, AVPN caters to this whole continuum by providing many different services and initiatives. At the core of their operations is their Knowledge Center, wherein they produce   research and information on how social economies are developing. Their Policy Forum is another addition to their programs wherein they study how policies impact social economies.


They also offer a Deal Share Platform for members to share, promote, and connect with recommended and endorsed social purpose organizations as well as fellow social entrepreneurs. Outi said, “Something we have found of great interest among social entrepreneurs is that their journey is often very difficult and lonely, so to learn and connect with those who have gone through a similar journey is something we provide access to.”


While AVPN provides trainings and workshops for members under their Knowledge Center, Outi also shared that they are creating a Training Academy that will focus on talent pool development.“We have been running a lot of trainings and different workshops on impact investment readiness, corporate impact strategy, and more. We wanted to take a more focused approach and we think the Training Academy will be of great resource to enhance the talent pool; we want to make it easier for people to join and remain in the industry. This means training people at different levels to work in the social investment sector,” Outi explained.


Social impact investing in the Philippines


AVPN has always been heavily involved in the SEA region. In the Philippines, the organization has been very much active in promoting social impact investing. Outi shared that several of their core members come from the country, and that they were looking at more opportunities to inspire collaboration between the local members and the regional stakeholders.


Outi shared her thoughts on the Philippine startup ecosystem, “In general, it’s a really encouraging country to look at since there are a lot of good conditions that would really enable things to work. The Philippines has one of the fastest GDP growths in Asia; their demographic structure creates a continuous pool of young talents; and there is also a really good network of incubators and accelerators already in place.”


That being said, she pointed out that the challenge for the Philippines is that local organizations are are not yet quite mature, and therefore, not quite investment ready at the moment. “While there is a huge pool of opportunities and organizations in the country, most are not yet ready for investments. That’s the challenge of the ecosystem in the Philippines,” Outi explained. “But through the AVPN Deal Share Platform, we hope to actively contribute in promoting and supporting these organizations to improve their capacity towards becoming investment ready.”


She added, “Our success stories really come from the enabled connections we helped establish between different types of stakeholders.” So far, AVPN’s efforts in strengthening the impact investment community in the Philippines involves convening investors from different social sectors to share and learn from one another in an effort to identify roadmaps forward.


Making a difference in the world


“Since we have over 500 members across the globe, we are in a very unique place to tap into a variety of capital to enable long lasting social change,” Outi said when we asked what major accomplishments AVPN has made so far. “We have created many different funding collectives and led very successful partnerships between our members. Our success stories are that of our members, who we have been able to grow and support through AVPN.”


While AVPN has continuously made great positive impact, they are looking to create even better opportunities to impart knowledge on investment readiness in the future. This will be done to increase their efficiency in matching of opportunities. In fact, AVPN is working on an expansion of their existing platform to more comprehensively focus on improving the ability of the Inclusive Business sector in the ASEAN region to work with investors and resource providers to scale for impact.


AVPN wants to leverage its experience in the Inclusive and Responsive SME sector and expand the current AVPN programs and projects to support medium to large inclusive businesses with a focus on gender. Their plans are to create a 3-step process from awareness to training and matchmaking, intending to bring inclusive businesses and impact investors together.


We can also expect more development from the startup ecosystem itself. Outi shared her thoughts, “We encourage and facilitate collaboration and it’s become something that's picking up greatly. We see that the different types of organizations and investors are looking to create greater social impact through their work. This kind of eagerness for collaboration and learning really excites us.”


Furthermore, Outi is optimistic about the predicted shifting of wealth to the hands of the millennials in the near future. “Millennials are generally known to be more socially conscious, open, and passionate about different causes. I feel they would be interested in looking at how they can use their wealth to create social impact and change.”


AVPN hopes to continue supporting the innovative minds of social entrepreneurs around the world. After all, changing the world doesn’t come so easy. As Outi puts it, “Social entrepreneurs usually have very difficult journeys ahead of them, but since they have the right motivation and purpose, they get by. And we at AVPN hope to help them become the difference.”


For more information about AVPN, you may visit their website here.