Francisco Noguera

Who’s Going to SOCAP 09? Alvaro Rodriguez from IGNIA Is

4 Weeks! That’s all that is left fot SOCAP ’09 (@socap09 in the Twitterverse) to kick off. Like last year, will be covering the conference with a team of Guest Bloggers that will give us a sense of the conversations taking place that relate to Base of the Pyramid approaches to sustainable development. We’ll also be running our own SOCAP preview: Who’s Going to SOCAP?, a series of short interviews to give you a sense of who will be at the conference and what the character of the conversations at the venue will be. Here’s Part 1 of our SOCAP Preview with Alvaro Rodriguez, one of SOCAP 09’s featured speakers.

Alvaro Rodriguez is the founder of IGNIA, one of the most interesting and innovative ventures in the Latin American BoP space. Mr. Rodriguez partnered with Michael Chu, a professor at Harvard Business School who has been previously featured in the pages of Much of his backgoround revolves around the development of the Microfinance movement. Indeed, his work at ACCION has been paramount for microfinance to become a true asset class and a viable commercial investment.

During last year’s SOCAP 08, Mr. Rodriguez was part one of the most interesting keynote panels. Moderated by Mr. Matthew Bishop, the conversation revolved around whether or not the profit motive was a necessary condition for social enterprise and BoP ventures to scale. Mr. Rodriguez strongly argued for YES, as did his partner Michael Chu in the aforementioned NextBillion interview.

Mr. Rodriguez will be at SOCAP again this year, participating as a speaker at a session titled “Showcasing the Social Capital Spectrum” moderated again by Mr. Bishop and featuring other interesting players of the BoP space like William Foote from Root Capital.

Without further ado, here are some of the answers provided by Mr. Rodriguez to’s interview about the coming Social Capital Markets Conference. Where do you think the social capital space is now, in 2009? Where do you see it going in the next 12-18 months?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Social Capital is a VERY broad definition. It can house from philanthropic capital, all the way to venture capital seeking an impact. So, because of this very broad definition, it is difficult to answer your question, but to do so, let me focus on what some people call “impact investing”. Which for me is the type of capital that is looking to demonstrate to the capital markets that investing with purpose can produce extraordinary financial returns.

I think Impact investing is a nascent approach towards investing with most people still considering it as “science fiction”. Despite clear demonstration cases, for example in Microfinance, few people still think its possible.

One of the biggest hurdles is the fact that, for example, if you invest to fight poverty, we still see the lower income populations as an obligation, but not as an opportunity. We see serving the poor as sacrifice and making a profit as greed. That has made us very confused about making a return when making impact investments. But I think that the whole discussion about returns is irrelevant. I think the discussion should be more about risk appetite. What is different about SOCAP versus other conferences?

Alvaro Rodriguez: The difference is that under one umbrella you have multiple stake holders that have a different definition of “Social Capital”. Traditionally these different approaches towards social investing do not collaborate. I think all types of investing are complementary with each other, we just don’t see it that way. I think that SoCap is an effort to achieve this. What useful lessons / connections came out of SOCAP08 for you?

Alvaro Rodriguez: I learned the reality of the answer in question No. 2. What are you hoping to get out of the conference this year?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Continue to push for the different approaches towards social investing to collaborate and complement each other.