The market for businesses and investors that do good just came into focus thanks to new online maps that track the fast-growing but still emerging capital market that includes fair trade, microfinance, social enterprise, independent media and clean technology.
The growing data emanating from http://www.xigi.net/ (pronounced "ziggy," from zeitgeist) confirms there is a new investor mindset at work. More investors are ready to put money into enterprises (both non profit and for- profit) that are designed for both social and financial gains.
To date, more than 800 organizations have been input into the xigi database by the community themselves, helping to generate the sharpest view to date of who's who in the social enterprise market and how they are related to each other. Investors who want to do good with their investment dollars are funding businesses that have, for example, found profitable ways to fight poverty, expand fair trade industries and provide expansion capital to independent media.
The xigi volunteers knew there was a growing need for a tool that showed how businesses, their investors and their partners in the growing social capital market are linked. Whether it's cross board memberships, co- investment or collaborative projects, the picture of this emerging market of businesses making a difference is becoming clear on xigi, and is growing daily as the community continues to build its own "group photo."
In addition to the "wikipedia-like" database linked to live graphical relationship mapping, xigi provides a rich forum for conversation with a blog open to registered users, and comments open to all. It seeks to collectively create one of the richest knowledge bases on social enterprise linked to investment anywhere, while developing tools that help expand the market.
There's been a dramatic increase in the number and sophistication of deals being structured in this space and the amount of dollars moving into it. xigi seeks to track this activity and is building a platform that can both lead to market formation more quickly and make that market smarter, faster.
"This is an open source, community-driven effort that is already providing a lot of value to the industry," said Tim Freundlich, a xigi Steering Committee member and the director, strategic initiatives for Calvert Social Investment Foundation, which is providing fiscal agency for xigi. "There's a wave building, and xigi allows both social enterprises and social investors to ride it."
xigi was co-founded by Kevin Jones of Good Capital, Sara Olsen of SVT Group and Mark Beam of Collective Intelligence. As the effort has attracted attention, the xigi team's pass-the-hat, shoestring efforts have been endorsed by grants and support from knowledgeable, top tier funders like The Lemelson Foundation, RSF and Calvert Foundation.
"Since the maps debuted, we've seen executive directors of large foundations, researchers, investment fund managers and social entrepreneurs register themselves and their initiatives with links to their relationships. This is exactly what we'd hoped for," Jones noted, "and it's increasing daily." Olsen added, "xigi taps the wisdom of the very people building the marketplace."
xigi is an open source commons with a graphical interface that shows vital social and organizational connections inherent in the community. xigi allows entrepreneurs, intermediaries and investors to literally "place themselves" and their networks on the map.
In return, they get a visual depiction of the ways they are connected to other organizations and people. Opportunities for partnership, gaps in the market and new competitors quickly become clear. Through the combination of a robust database and visual mapping, xigi helps to visualize an emerging market that is discovering itself and getting smarter as the picture takes shape.
"We're excited about the community being built around xigi. It offers a much needed platform for discourse and experimentation for social enterprises globally, and an opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs to connect," said Julia Novy-Hildesley, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation, an early funder of the platform.