The SIMI Social Impact Day 2021 took place with the theme of “A Turning Point to the Impact Economy.” The event opened with a video message from one of the sponsoring organizations, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner. He spoke of the acute need of a “pivot” in order to address the growing challenge of creating sustainable and just societies in the covid era. Indeed, the event became an opportunity to explore the why and how of the pivot we all need to work on, by discussing with a diverse group of people how the idea of impact and practices of impact management can help us move faster and move together.
Social Impact Day, held online on January 21, 24 and 25, 2022, was SIMI’s sixth annual event. The total number of registrants was 584, almost the same level as the last year’s first online event. Previous Social Impact Days were held in the International Conference Hall in Tokyo with a capacity of 300, and the number shows both the growth and diversification of who are interested in this topic.
Impact is now for Everyone
This year’s Social Impact Day featured a total of 15 sessions and nearly 60 speakers over the three days, demonstrating that people from diverse sectors are interested in the keyword “impact.” When SIMI was launched in 2016, most of the people who reacted to the term “social impact” were from the social sector, people from corporate CSR departments and national and local government agencies and others. Most expressed interest in the measurement of social impact and thus became key stakeholders of SIMI.
Five and a half years later, “impact” (in both Japan and overseas, “social impact” is now simply called “impact”) has become an unavoidable part of life for people in a wide variety of sectors and fields. Among them, the financial sector is the one that is shifting to “impact” in a big way. There is no doubt that this shift started with impact investing in the world of private equity and other unlisted stock instruments, but interest in impact has grown among all those who deal with money, including investors in listed stocks, major banks and insurance companies, and regional financial institutions.
In addition to these financial institutions, this year’s Social Impact Day brought together speakers from a wide array of sectors, including government agencies (the Financial Services Agency), policy advisors, foundation officials, practitioners in the corporate and social sectors, and researchers. The idea of impact has started to create a common language for all.
Impact Economy and Democracy
One of the highlights of this year’s event was to feature Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, as the keynote speaker. The exchange between Ms. Tang and Mr. Naoki Ota (President of New Stories Inc.) and the session “Building an impact-oriented society fueled by Technology” emphasized the importance of open data and citizen participation in the era of digital economy where impact information plays a major role.
Discussions on the digital economy normally focus on technological innovation, data utilization through big data, and evidence-based policymaking (EBPM). However, these sessions became an important reminder that it is essential to discuss how we can mobilize the power of the private sector and the power of citizens to collect data, use impact information effectively and have it owned by all people without infringing on people’s privacy.
At the sixth Social Impact Day, this was the first time when the impact economy was connected to democracy.
Can we make the pivot?
Besides Ms. Tang, we were fortunate to feature speakers from outside of Japan, including Bruno Roche, Founder & Executive Director of Economics of Mutuality , who spoke in the “Purpose-Driven Management and Social Impact” session, Fabienne Michaux, Director of SDG Impact , who led the session “SDG Impact – Moving from Standard Creation to Implementation,” and Sasha Dichter, Co-Founder of 60 Decibels, who presented his perspectives in the “Building an impact-oriented society fueled by Technology” session. All of them and every speaker from Japan provided invaluable inputs and insights to make social impact central to our concerns for the future.
As was discussed in the closing discussion of the SIMI board members, our collective concern as SIMI is to keep asking the question, “What is social impact for after all?” Can SIMI, in cooperation with many others, make the “pivot” that will force a shift in the direction in our economic life in the near future? Is it possible by making the most of the trend toward a common language of impact for diverse people? There is no prepared path ahead of the pivot, and we will continue to work together with you, in search of the right answers in a world without answers.
We would like to thank all sponsors who make the Social Impact Day possible.
Social Impact Day 2021 Session List