Sir Ronald Cohen arrived in London as an 11-year-old refugee from Egypt. He eventually earned an Oxford scholarship, attended the Harvard Business School, and co-founded a venture capital firm. He grew to see that social entrepreneurs could benefit from the same services that he’d long offered business entrepreneurs: connecting them to capital markets, helping them scale their organizations, think strategically, and innovate. The key, he concluded, is access to a range of funding sources.
He launched Big Society Capital in 2011 to give social entrepreneurs capital opportunities on par with business entrepreneurs. “We’re trying to show not-for-profits that they can build a better balance sheet,” he says. To make it work, not-for-profits will have to link their performance to financial return—a merit based model where the best-performing organizations can grow and scale. Cohen, a pioneer in impact investing, is working to fundamentally transform the way that the social sector accesses capital.