Publishing the Building Blocks… the key components of a strong intermediary | Big Society Capital

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Publishing the Building Blocks… the key components of a strong intermediary

Back in June I wrote about a new piece of work we’d embarked on, identifying the key components needed to make a strong intermediary organisation. 

Over the past number of months, we’ve sought to develop a set of ‘Building Blocks’ based largely on feedback and input from the intermediaries themselves, who each provided us with honest and frank insights about what they feel are the key elements needed in order to effectively deliver on their organisation’s mission as well as achieve financial sustainability in the long term. Having conducted over 35 interviews, we also sought to incorporate lessons learnt internally at Big Society Capital to date and compared it to best practice elsewhere. Today we’re publishing our findings.

What we’re publishing…

We’ve developed a number of different documents that each explain, to different degrees of detail, what the key Building Blocks are.

The first provides a snapshot of the nine key elements that make up a strong intermediary – (vision, culture, governance, people, impact, investment process/business development, business model, communications and fundraising, and operations).

The second document explores each of these areas in more detail – highlighting what the key features and procedures are for each of the Building Blocks.

Finally, the third document gives more detail about what each of the Building Blocks looks like in practice – and provides a range of examples from best in class through to in need of development - to bring it to life.

We hope that each of the documents are useful for intermediaries in identifying what features they should look to have in place over the long-term to be as effective as possible.  

A quick note on the different types of intermediaries

One of the first things we did was identify the different types of organisations that fall under the umbrella definition of ‘social investment intermediaries’. We categorised them into three broad segments – Fund Managers, Advisors/Arrangers and Social Infrastructure Platforms. The tools and documents published today are focused on the first two of these segments (we plan to publish a version for the infrastructure platforms in early 2017). From our numerous interviews with fund managers and advisors/arrangers, it was evident that while most of the components were the same, there was a clear distinction between the focus on making investments versus business development, and so we developed different versions for each group accordingly. 

Why are we doing this?

We undertook this work for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we want to be more strategic and proactive with the support we provide intermediaries in our investment portfolio. In order to do this, being clear about what ‘good’ looks like, and being able to create a tool for intermediaries to self assess their own structure and activities against, seemed like a useful way of knowing where activities and support should be targeted to have the greatest impact on the organisation. As a trial, we will be using the tools to identify areas of strategic support and activity with a small group of intermediaries in our portfolio over the coming year as a way of testing and refining these further before any future roll out.

However, we hope these tools can be useful not just to intermediaries in our portfolio but any social investment intermediaries.

As we undertook the interviews and developed the tools, a number of areas emerged as hotspots for common issues amongst a number of organisations. These included recruiting and retaining quality staff at the right levels from diverse backgrounds and developing and using effective data management systems. We’re particularly interested to see how collaborative solutions might emerge to tackle some of these common issues where there is an incentive amongst intermediaries to work together to mutually benefit. This final piece is closely linked with Access’ Infrastructure Investment Fund, due to launch in early 2017.

What comes next…

While we’ll be piloting the support with a number of organisations over the next year, we are really keen to continue to test and refine the building blocks and subsequent tools based on feedback. Please do let us know how useful you find each of them and/or if you think we’re missing something.

We’re also keen to publish a number of other tools  - including a map of existing support available to intermediaries for each of the Building Blocks. We’d really value help in capturing as much information as possible so we can all understand where help and tools are already available and where new solutions need to be developed.

Please do get in touch about either or both of these areas. 

Last updated | 
1 December 2016