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Case Studies in Social Innovation: MaRS Centre for Impact Investing

Opened in late 2011, the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing (the Centre) is designed to increase the awareness and effectiveness of social finance by catalyzing new capital, talent and collaborative initiatives to deliver innovative solutions to Canada’s social and environmental challenges. By delivering educational programs focused on research and policy, as well as market and product development, the Centre aims to strengthen their collective ability to mobilize private capital towards public good.

The Centre holds great promise as it is poised to help connect Canada with other hubs and initiatives around the world that are engaged in the emerging field of impact investing. The Centre’s role in increasing access to funding through social impact bonds (SIBs) accelerates transition in the social sector, from an output-driven grant economy to an outcomes-driven finance regime, whereby multiple sectors share in the responsibility of tackling the root cause of social problems.

The Centre builds on the foundational work of MaRS Discovery District and Social Innovation Generation (SiG), including the landmark report issued by the Canadian Task Force on Social Finance, Mobilizing Private Capital for Public Good.The Centre is an incubator that acts as a neutral collaboration space for all sectors—government, community and private—enabling collective participation and the development of both talent and product.

Facilitating collaboration between sectors

Increasingly, government, business and social sectors are working together. To effectively foster this environment of collaboration, the silos that prevent sectors from joining forces need to be dismantled. The Centre attests that large-scale impact will depend on establishing better ways of commissioning, mobilizing demand and using private capital. In light of this, the Centre has been positioned to facilitate this role in an effort to increase collaboration and communication between sectors. Indeed, it has championed that a successful social innovator will understand the system within which they are working and the motivations and incentives that drive it, and will find ways to make meaningful connections between all parties to affect change.

Social impact bonds (SIBs)

The Centre for Impact Investing is working to facilitate the process to build up SIBs. To achieve this goal, it is:

  • Strengthening the community of practice
  • Providing meaningful opportunities for learning and engagement
  • Identifying new intermediaries
  • Creating the necessary infrastructure to support and sustain further development

The reasons for these efforts are that it believes social innovators must be able to adequately position and explain their products to consumers and funders alike. The Centre advises that this approach will enable consumers to see the social benefits from engaging with the product, and funders will be able to see the financial benefits.

For more information about MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, visit:

The Case Studies in Social Innovation database is a joint initiative between SiG @ MaRS and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.