Paving the road to social finance leadership with VERGE

Feb. 27, 2018

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Author: 
Vijay Venkatesan

With the recent success of VERGE and the Breakthrough Fund launch, you might not know that VERGE is a mere 6 years old. It was 2012 when a small grant from London Community Foundation was given to Lina Bowden, community leader and innovator. Forming the “Social Finance London” group, the grant lead to research, with help from Ivey Business School, highlighting that social finance holds a great deal of potential in our community.

Not only was there investment potential in London and Middlesex, but our community was believed to have the right environment for social enterprises to thrive: eager local entrepreneurs, government funding available, and organizations that support social finance.

London Community Foundation, Sisters of St. Josephs, United Way and Pillar Nonprofit Network took a giant leap and applied for additional grant money from the national government – and got it.  $500,000 later and VERGE was born.

VERGE is a powerhouse, to say the least. As a key player in the social finance world, they provide loans to entrepreneurs who have a vision of making a difference in our community. The wrap-around supports VERGE also provides assists entrepreneurs in strengthening their businesses, similar to that of a bank – a comprehensive, due diligence process that allows for re-alignment and tweaking of ideas. VERGE takes their services a step further by ensuring that all loan recipients, potential applications and other social enterprises have the opportunity to engage and share best practices, whether it be through workshops, seminars and/or conferences. They’re all about educating the public and have been vocal and active in highlighting the importance and impact social finance can have in communities across Southwestern Ontario.

As the years have passed, VERGE supporters and contributors have come and gone. London Community Foundation remains as one of the initial partners, believing that social finance plays a vital role in supporting and ensuring that social enterprises in our community are successful. An extension of what the foundation already does through our own Social Impact Fund, supporting VERGE only made sense. Together, VERGE is able to leverage dollars and our team as a resource in order to carry out their mission, unlocking and providing capital to great impact.  As we continue our relationship, we see two incredible organizations working together:

-          Supporter: whether it be financially or other means, such as the due diligence process

-          Co-investments: partnering together on larger initiatives to support both VERGE and our own Social Impact Fund

-          Knowledge building and awareness of social finance in our community

For more information on LCF’s Social Impact Fund click here

For more information on VERGE click here