Working from the ground up... | Big Society Capital

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Working from the ground up...

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Thanks to all the folk from investors, intermediaries, charities and social enterprises, foundations and government, who joined us in our annual event last night.

The warmth and sense of common purpose in the room was outstanding. Yes there are problems and glitches in making social investment work, differences of view too, but there was a deep sense that everyone is working to make it better. Thank you all.

We know that social investment is growing and having a bigger impact. It’s now worth over £1.5 billion and being used by over 3,000 charities and social enterprises. That’s probably between 5 – 10% of all charities and social enterprises that employ people. So, it’s getting to the point that if you are a social leader, you know someone who has used social investment, someone you can talk to for advice.

That’s a tipping point. 

And the figures back that up. Our new Annual Review shows that we’ve nearly doubled the amount of money going out the door to £68 million in 2015. If you include the amount from co-investors, that’s gone from £104 million in 2014 to £195 million in 2015.  Already in the first quarter of 2016 the amount out the door has reached over £84 million.

But just as important as the money going out and the projects delivered,
there is the social impact it has created. Social investment is helping hundreds of charities and social enterprises to tackle some of the toughest social issues such as unemployment amongst the young, homelessness, social care, fostering, asylum, education, ageing, mental health, and so many more. And an early finding from our stakeholder survey reveals that nearly 70% of people believe we are having a positive impact.

But we know there is much more to do.

We know that it’s tough out there for charities and social enterprises right now and that’s probably not going to change anytime soon. We can’t solve every problem and social investment will never replace grants and contracts. But we can get alongside those organisations where social investment could play a part.

And when I look at the likes of Praxis working with Commonweal Housing to provide housing for people in absolute destitution because their asylum case is in limbo, or Spacious Place creating an enterprise to employ and support 65 ex-offenders to give them a new start: then I know that together, working with our intermediaries and investees, we can solve some of those tough problems.

That’s the challenge for us. That’s our job.

So, we’re going to be building on our market championing role. We’ve already seen the launch of Access, The Foundation for Social Investment, which will offer support alongside smaller loans of up to £150K to charities and social enterprises. The Business Impact Challenge is now into its second year. Social Investment Tax Relief, which we’ve championed through our GET IT campaign, is gathering momentum – there are now 70 applications that have been given assured approval by HMRC. And our drive for greater transparency will continue, with more data on our investments and our stakeholder survey results, and working with colleagues to develop the goodfinance.org.uk platform.

It’s time to change our tone. To move from charities and social enterprises having simply an awareness of social investment to understanding how it might work for them. We want social investment to become a useful, accessible tool in their toolbox.

So, how do we do this?

  • We need to work from the ground up to look at the social issues and challenges, with the social organisations trying to tackle them, and to see where and how social investment can play a part.
  • We need to get the public more engaged in social investment to support the issues they care about – for example through crowdfunding, community shares, or social pensions and savings.
  • And we need to support charities and social enterprises to understand when social investment might work for them, so that they can do more of their great work.

Big Society Capital is open for business. It’s still early days, but perhaps beyond pioneer territory now, with enough experience and evidence to get some stronger hunches on what can work for the future. We will certainly be looking at that evidence across the rest of this year, and will share our thinking with colleagues in the sector. I’m certainly looking forward to the year ahead, and much appreciate the insight, inspiration and yes, the perspiration of partners working in the common cause of helping charities and social enterprises to achieve more for a better society.

Last updated | 
18 May 2016

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