At last, somebody is talking about failure.

With this report, EVPA is making a radical plea for failure, intelligent failure. And, for the permission to fail.

Why? Because to drive social innovation, we need experimentation, disruption and creativity. And risk and failure are part and parcel of these.  

This message came through very clearly from practitioners as the EVPA worked on their latest research on failures, a report we are proud to share with you today.

Collecting lessons from 12 EVPA member organisations and ten years of Venture Philanthropy /Social Investment (VP/SI) practice, ‘Learning from Failures in Venture Philanthropy and Social Investmentlooks at strategies and investments that failed and the reasons they did.  Outlining risk mitigation strategies, the report focuses on overcoming risk in three areas; in the organisation, strategy and execution of investments.

The guide will be useful to all those that would like to mitigate risk, but also to fail better.

The report also outlines concrete advice such as:

  • Why focus and flexibility are key to succeeding in VP/SI
  • How to deal with the risk of investing in an SPO with an undeveloped product/service
  • What skills your board and that of the SPO require to be well placed for success
  • Why you should consider handing your management team more power in decision making
  • How to mitigate risk in a co-investment strategy

Why a very specific sector focus will enable you to build more effective partnerships and networks

We believe this guide will go a long way to create more transparency and openness around the failures that mark our sector and ensure we fail better. Or to say this in one of our members' words:

Peter W. Heller, Executive Director of Canopus Foundation: “Looking back at 2014 as venture philanthropists, we have seen brilliant entrepreneurial initiatives fail, apparently sound projects collapse and courageous ventures unlikely ever to survive surprisingly flourish. I firmly believe that these unexpected ups and downs are an essential part of our mission, taking the risk to reach out to yet unexplored territory in the world of societal change.”

We hope this report proves useful in your day to day work!


This report could not have happened without a number of supporters: Fondazione CRT, Impetus PEF, Invest for Children as well as Acanthus, Adessium, BMW Foundation and Omidyar Network. It was also made possible due to the input from Experts from BonVenture, Bridges Ventures, Impetus PEF, Inspiring Scotland, The King Baudouin Foundation, LGT VP, NESsT, Noaber Foundation, Oltre Venture, The One Foundation, PhiTrust Partenaires and Shell Foundation.

Originally published February 10, 2015

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