March 2, 2010

blog moved to

Filed under: food, life..., projects, psyche..., social economy 101, social finance — benmetz @ 2:06 pm

I’ve moved my blog over to my own hosting.  You can find me at  Everything should be working as before.  If not then please let me know.

If you RSS this blog you’ll have to update your feed to this link.

Thanks to Amanda at Red Button Design for keeping me on the straight and narrow during this process.


February 8, 2010

Marine Conservation and Katoomba

Filed under: projects, social finance — benmetz @ 1:13 am

So I find myself back in San Francisco on my way down to Palo Alto for the first Katoomba conference focused on marine based Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES).  The Katoomba Group, run by the organisation Forest Trends, is an international network promoting and improving capacity related to markets and payments for PES.  Katoomba is a forum for the exchange of ideas and information about ecosystem service transactions and markets, as well as site for collaboration between practitioners on PES programmes.

PES is a fascinating topic.  On the one hand it can be viewed as a fantastic market driven mechanism designed to realise financing for communities on the front line in the fight to preserve and improve their environments.  On the other hand it can be viewed as the systematic commodification and monetisation of something that cannot be quantified so, our environment!  I’m currently agnostic in this debate but my guess is that, over the next few days, I’ll be forming a range of opinions…  We shall see!

I’m attending Katoomba thanks to Forest Trends providing bed and board and a supporter of Blue Ventures contributing a bunch of his air miles.  The objective of this trip, other than to eat my way across the Bay area, is to identify and open dialogue with organisations working at the enterprise end of PES.  If I can find and start pulling together best practice in community based marine entrepreneurship that delivers significant ecosystem benefits, such as the mariculture initiatives of Blue Ventures I blogged about a while back then the jet lag and increased carbon footprint will be worth it.

September 18, 2009

SoCap recap

Filed under: life..., projects, social finance — benmetz @ 2:50 pm

Annapurna – the high point of SoCap!

The quote of SoCap09 for me was an amazing Indian social entrepreneur, Annapurna (I forget her last name) running a cloth weaving social enterprise and moving it to scale. When asked “how do you value your company” she simply replied “I value my company”. I’ll flesh out her full answer a little more… she said:

“I value my company.  The people who I work with value my company, their children and families value my company.

For me value is an emotional word, not a financial one.  For me equity is about equality.

I value my company.”

In my opinion Annapurna captured what was missing from SoCap and what the social capital markets should really be about – the redefining and recapturing of terms such as value, that have been perverted by commerce and finance, and their re-anchoring into real meaning….

Supply vs. demand?

Another observation from SoCap was the dominance of supply (of finance) side people and thinking.  While arguably this is what such events are about it is also clear that such an aggregation of folk without balancing representation from the demand side of the equation (for benefit organisations needing finance) can have negative consequences.  I think I just bore witness, once again, to the creation of a bunch of soon to be redundant architecture – this time a proliferation of systems for metrics, monitoring, evaluation, benchmarking etc…  Undoubtedly some will survive but the aggregate cost to the sector will be high and perhaps better spent doing deals, developing organisations?

Dont get me wrong, it’s great to have the supply side visionaries finally on side.  But those of us coming from the demand side have an obligation to keep these guys feet on the ground and their approaches in reality – with reality being a balance of immediate need (deals to be done) and aspiration (frameworks and global systems for the sector).

Connections and Vignettes…

At the end of the day the acid test for any conference or gathering of people is whether I’ve come away inspired and connected to my fellow attendees.  And in this respect SoCap wins out – in fine style.

I was inspired by people like David Green and his Solar World For All project, looking to radically reduce the costs of photovoltaics and revolutionise the PV supply chain.  I caught up with Ron Layton from Lightyears IP and found out he’s looking at up to a 17 fold increase in current activity levels over the next couple of years (astounding work – check out the website).  Over a conversation about China I met Wayne Silby, founding chair of Calvert, and exchanged crazy ideas…

Oh, and as a bonus I came away hugely better informed about the work I’m doing for the private equity firm I’ve mentioned before.

I met old friends and strengthened friendships.  I met new friends and began new friendships.  I laughed lots with inspiring people (jeffweee, awdweee!!!).  Oh and I ate a fair amount of fantastic food too!!!

Looking forward to SoCap10!


September 16, 2009

SoCap Recap UK – come one, come all…

Filed under: projects, social finance — benmetz @ 8:53 am

Below is an invitation to the UK SoCap Recap, an afternoon and evening review of SoCap09 for people who made it to the conference and for people who didn’t but are interested in finding out what went on…

Dear All,

Jonathan Jenkins, Director of Ventures at UnLtd, is kindly hosting some informal drinks for people who made it to SoCap09, and people who didn’t, to meet up, catch up and share/find out about peoples conference experiences.  Sort of a SoCap recap…

If you were at SoCap and you fancy a debrief please come along to the UnLtd offices at 4pm on Monday 5th October for a bit of a formal review, followed by informal drinks at 5.30pm through to about 7:30pm.  And if you didn’t make it but would like the low-down then do come along.

Those of us who want could make dinner arrangements after.

We’re a bit tight on space, so please RSVP to

That being said please do forward to people you think might be interested in coming along

UnLtd’s offices are at 123 Whitecross St, London, EC1Y 8JJ


all the best


August 30, 2009

Zazie and The Future of Fish…

Filed under: food, projects, social finance — benmetz @ 4:49 am

Brunch at Zazie with Cheryl Dahle who is working on a fantastic project – The Future of Fish.  And while it’s certainly worth mentioning the classic San Francisco brunch (avocado omlette, blueberry pancakes, that great extra thin crispy American bacon) Cheryl’s work gets the bandwidth over a plate of food any time!

Working through Central, a design innovation company, with Ashoka and funded by The Packard Foundation Cheryl has been leading a project exploring how to revolutionise supply chains right across the fishing industry.  The interim report is pretty mind blowing stuff.  She’s identified 120 innovative approaches to transforming the fishing industry, at all points, into a completely different beast – sustainable, viable and environmentally beneficial from hatchery through to plate!

Cheryl’s work is a rich vein of inspiration and opportunity, of particular interest to me as I start to discuss with Technoserve, a DC based emerging markets value chain development NGO, the possibilities of developing a marine entrepreneurship initiative.  The idea, in it’s infancy, is to build on the work of Blue Ventures to test and bring to market environmentally beneficial entrepreneurial approaches that deliver sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities in the developing world.  At first take there are probably six to ten additional initiatives in the Future of Fish report that could fit the bill for this potential project with Technoserve…

Which is why a blog post that started with the aim of describing a great omlette turned into a rant about Cheryl and The Future of Fish….

Why I’m going to SoCap09

Filed under: life..., projects, social finance — benmetz @ 4:03 am

There seem to be an increasing number of reasons why I am in San Francisco for SoCap09.  Obviously meeting up with friends, old and new, as well as sampling the range of culinary delights the city has to offer both rank highly but I keep having to remind myself of why it is I am here.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been working with a leading emerging markets private equity fund, to assist them in establishing a new charitable trust.  The conversation with them has been rich and broad ranging and it looks like I’m succeeding in getting them to back a highly engaged approach rather than simply making grants and throwing the occasional pro-bono bone to beneficiaries.  If they take what I am proposing forward we’ll be seeing a new organisation something akin to a hybrid between the Monitor Institute and CIFF creating and engaging with initiatives to develop market based solutions to poverty alleviation and sustainable development at the base of the pyramid.  So right at the top of my agenda at SoCap09 is to connect with individuals and organisations at the interface between corporate finance and these market based solutions…  Conversations might be focused on learning and exchanging experience, potential collaborations or even syndicating across investments and initiatives and sharing back office costs…

As it’s increasingly likely I’ll be freelancing in the social finance space, in some capacity, in the months to come I’m also here to network, to find like minded folk worthy of collaborating with and to adopt a sponge like absorptive capacity regarding new developments across the sector.

Another reason for being here is to build on my understanding of the barriers to social finance deployment and social economy development the world over.  Research for the above mentioned private equity firm is exposing a similar set of barriers globally – missing middle finance, lack of management capacity, certain legislative and regulatory barriers – and I’m interested in how we could coordinate a global response to aid the endeavours of the many good folk trying to break them down.  In this regard the UK has a phenomenal wealth of experience of how to do things well and how to make a complete mess of things and I’m pushing for a UK lead in establishing this kind of global resource.  Perhaps further collation of evidence identifying these barriers the world over might help shift come of the complacency and introspection back home…?  We shall see…..

Oh yes – and did I mention the food here is pretty good?!?!?

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