In July, we launched our new strategy and 2016 annual review at events in London and Birmingham.
We gathered in Birmingham at Concept, the social enterprise conference centre, to share examples of social investment in action in the West Midlands and to discuss what our new strategy might mean for social investment in the region. With 30 charities, social enterprises and other stakeholders, we heard from a panel of those who are using social investment to improve people’s lives in the West Midlands.
We also heard from our CEO, Cliff, on our new strategic direction. Our new strategy aims to make it easier for people and organisations to access social investment funds whilst continuing to offer the wide range of social investment funds now operating in the UK. We will put our next efforts into three areas where social investment can make a big difference. 1) Providing homes for people in need, 2) supporting communities to improve lives and 3) early action to prevent problems.
For me, there were three themes that the discussion brought to light:
The West Midlands has a truly vibrant social sector landscape, with a number of examples of how social investment is making a difference in people’s lives. In particular, the panel provided some great examples of this. We heard from Richard Beard of the Jericho Foundation, who have made use of social investment to grow their activities supporting disadvantaged people to become fulfilled, skilled, and employed. We also heard from Richard Dixon at Core Assets, who have been commissioned by Birmingham City Council to deliver a ‘social impact bond’ (SIB) helping young people in residential care to find foster homes.
There is value in convening and hearing from groups that share an interest in social change and have deep connections within a region. As well as providing a fresh perspective on our new strategy, the conversation during the event highlighted shared concerns, touched upon long-standing relationships, and sparked new connections. There are parallels here with the work of “Let’s Talk Good Finance” in connecting regional social investment networks – and undoubtedly more we can do to convene these groups and ensure we listen to their insights.
Maintaining the breadth of social investment is important. Social investment is not one thing, but encompasses a broad range of tools from unsecured loans, to social impact bonds, to retail investment enabled by social investment tax relief (SITR). We heard from people who are using, or are interested in using, social investment in a whole variety of ways – and while it is important that we focus on using social investment where it can make the biggest impact on people’s lives, the discussion highlighted how we must keep supporting the broader social investment landscape too.
If you missed the event, we have uploaded a full transcript of the speeches and the discussion that followed.