There is good news and bad news when you are an only child. The good news is, you get all of the attention. The bad news is, you get all of the attention. When you are an only child, you are expected to be good at everything. Of course, nobody, and no organisation, is made that way.
That’s why I’m delighted that Big Society Capital has a sister. Access: the Foundation for Social Investment, will be able to do some of the things that are critically important in this market, which we are not able, nor were set up, to do.
I became aware of the need for an organisation such as Access shortly after I joined Big Society Capital and had the pleasure of attending an Investment Committee meeting of the Key Fund in Sheffield. What became clear over the course of a couple of hours, as they approved new investments, was the huge impact so many organisations were having in their communities. These were exactly the kinds of organisations that we wanted social investment to help. But what I also learned was that for many organisations, given their size and what they were aiming to achieve, they needed more than loans. They needed grant support alongside those loans, and this was something that Big Society Capital was not able to provide.
I also learned that the financial intermediaries play a critical role. Extending small loans to social enterprises requires a local presence and personal relationships. These are expensive and factoring them in to the terms of the loan can make funding unaffordable for many. We need a broad range of regionally-based social lenders. They also need grant support.
In Access, we now have an organisation that is capable of providing repayable finance and a grant layer to charities and social enterprises and the intermediaries who lend to them. By putting together blended capital, we will begin to see a much broader range of organisations doing more diverse things and benefitting many more people in our communities.
Big Society Capital warmly welcomes its sister into the world to help charities and social enterprises access smaller amounts of social investment than are currently available. We are very proud to have partnered with the Big Society Trust, the Government and the Big Lottery Fund to bring about her creation and very much look forward to working with her for many years to come.