Over the last four years we have worked with our co-investors to make 50 investments into around 300 frontline social organisations. Now it’s time for us to take stock and ask you how we are doing.
There were four key objectives for the survey:
- To understand how we might improve our work
- To identify where we should improve understanding of what we do
- To inform our future strategic direction
- And to establish a baseline of perceptions so that we can see whether we improve over time
The results tell us some positives, and also set some challenges. It’s good to hear that 96% were aware of our existence, and nearly 80% felt they had a good understanding of social investment. Around 70% say our impact has been positive or very positive. Respondents praised the achievements, both investment and market development. This is significantly more positive than we expected, given the early stage of our development, the challenges of the wholesale role, and the difficult balance between drawing in co-investment to build the market and deploying funds on terms acceptable to cash-strapped charities and social enterprises.
But we have a lot of work to do.
Opinion is split on our progress and pace. We are too often seen as institutional, risk averse, too expensive, and too influenced by commercial investment backgrounds.
Most worrying, it is the charities and social enterprises which are least positive. In particular,
they are dissatisfied with our progress in bringing more capital investment to them – at the core of our mission. Meanwhile our intermediaries, the retail social investors, feel we could do more to help them become robust.
So, what we will do now? After listening to your responses and considering the alternatives, we will:
- Focus on our core job, the top priority shown in the survey – getting capital funds to charities and social enterprises, whether from us or from our wider market development work, to help you to achieve your social impact.
- Recognise that affordability is an issue for many organisations and review what we can do. We will examine the pricing issue, and also help charities and social enterprises understand price ranges and how to get the best deal.
- Review both our investment and legal process to try to make social investment deals simpler, and make proposals on this to our Board.
- Improve our communication in areas where stakeholders find it difficult to access information. For example, we will publish on our website a map of frontline organisations using social investment so that people can see more clearly where the money is going.
- Do more to share different perspectives through staff swaps, secondments with intermediaries, and more engagement with frontline organisations.
The survey also provided valuable insights and raised longer term questions which are better addressed as part of the strategy review we will conduct for early 2017. We have to recognise that some of these may prove to be immovable boundaries because of legal or other constraints. These areas include our governance structure and the rules set out for us, as well as how can we better support intermediaries. Fundamentally, what strategic choices will give the best chance of getting the right investment to charities and social enterprises in future years?
We are deeply grateful for the time and thoughtful responses from over 200 people who contributed to the survey. We are honoured to hear that people see our overall performance as 25% better than two years’ ago. The constructive praise and challenge are invaluable for us to help more charities and social enterprises achieve their social impact.