The first in a series of First Avenue Ventures blog posts on Social Capital. 

Social capital is a concept not easily nor well-defined. In this series, we define social capital as the use of capital (for our purposes, we examine it primarily as financial capital) to have a social benefit as well as a financial benefit. This definition also includes the concepts of impact investing, “double-bottom-line” investing, and “doing good by doing well.”   

From our perspective, social capital is an amorphous term with shifting meaning. From bitcoin to food waste to affordable housing, “social capital” concepts and constructs cover an array of seemingly disparate themes. This broadness is helpful in the sense that the idea of social capital can help formulate thinking in the many different areas in which First Avenue Venture is involved. However, this broadness is frustrating when trying to answer the seemingly simple question: What is Social Capital? Even the Wikipedia article on the topic provides a multi-paragraph explanation that invokes more questions than answers. 

Additionally, written works on the subject tend toward advocacy. Often, the writer tries to persuade the audience on a particular perspective with respect to the nature of capital. Of course, these perspectives are necessary to move the idea forward. However, there are a lack of resources providing a general background of the idea, which limits the understanding of the field. 

In this series of blog articles, we will seek to do just that: provide a resource that gives a simplified basis for these concepts. While we certainly have perspectives and opinions, we will try to present these topics in as unbiased a way as possible. We invite others to help us — we are by no means the experts.  People much smarter than us devote much more of their time and effort in this area.

Hopefully, by way of an introductory series on social capital, we can set a framework for looking at money, which will help frame a discussion around Impact Investing.  Impact Investing and social capital are closely related concepts.  By putting a different perspective around investing, impact investors provide the capital that fuels social capital.  They provide the fuel for the fire.  Our goal is to begin that conversation so that Birmingham begins to have these conversations.  We want to have our mission- Growing Birmingham Organizations — help impact other mission driven organizations so together we can create a better Birmingham.