Identifying, measuring and communicating social impact is critical for social sector organisations who want to deliver positive changes to the people and communities where they operate. Many organisations grapple with decisions about how to deliver the right kind of social impact, to the right people, in the right place, at the right time, with limited resources - and then find out if it worked or not. These challenges were central to the discussions at the Impact Leadership Conference which I attended earlier this month that was hosted by New Philanthropy Capital and the Charity Finance Group.
The current UK banking system is highly concentrated (four banks control 85% of SME lending), highly centralised (with one exception all of those banks are in London) and increasingly driven by industralising the loan process. Indeed, as Martin Wolf commented in the FT the “UK banking is a highly interconnected machine whose principal activity is leveraging up property assets.” This provides a real opportunity for Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) (which are regionally based, relationship driven and focused on combining social value and appropriate returns) to satisfy the enormous demand for funding that exists in our communities.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the Unlocking Assets project group hosted by London Funders, and chaired by Caroline Forster of The Social Investment Business. This is a regular gathering for funders that own and use property for the Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) or invest in VCS property acquisition and development.
Before Christmas, we went out to visit some of the organisations who have received investment from funds that Big Society Capital has invested in. During our conversations one of the recurring points that the charities, social enterprises and community organisations we met regularly raised was: with the limited resources they had, it was very hard to find the time to identify all of the relevant sources of social finance available to them.
Last week, three of us headed out to Wales and Bristol to visit two front-line organisations who have received social investment from the Pure Leapfrog Community Energy Fund, to see what they’ve been up to.
LGT Venture Philanthropy and Berenberg have today announced the first close of their social impact fund, Impact Ventures UK. Following on from the initial cornerstone in principle commitment of £10m from Big Society Capital, the fund has now attracted a diverse range of mainstream investors interested in considering social outcomes alongside financial return.
In recent months we have had an increasing number of conversations with big businesses who are keen to demonstrate their social as well as financial return.The concept of ‘shared value’ pioneered by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer seems to have captured the mood. However, turning the theory of shared value into practice is harder.
There are currently 1700 housing associations in the UK today, many with a long history and vast experience. Whilst housing associations have been traditionally focused on housing, there are now new opportunities for housing associations to both boost the growth of the social enterprise sector, while at the same time supporting their tenants and communities in new ways.
Back in May, at the launch of our first annual report, our CEO Nick O’Donohoe announced strategic priorities for the year. One of the identified initiatives was the need for suitable products for individuals looking to make social investments - products that will enable investors to place their money in funds with a positive social screen, not simply a negative ethical screen.
Following on from our guest blog from Co-operative UK, in this blog we explore the development of the community share market in the UK with examples of how it is becoming a growing source of social investments for local community groups.
Last week we were pleased to join community groups from across the country at Locality’s annual convention. While there we met up with Co-operatives UK. Here, Ged Devlin tells us more about their work on community shares – a growing source of social investments for local community groups
Since our launch Big Society Capital has commissioned a broad range of research to help us build our understanding of the social investment market, covering topics from the potential of tax incentives, to the opportunities in the field of education. During this time we have often co-commissioned research, as well as collating other’s research on our website, as well as in our Social Investment Compendium, and have sought to ensure that our research supports that of others.
Last week I was invited to join a panel at the GIIN conference, to respond to the question: What is needed to bringing the impact investment market to scale? At Big Society Capital, growing the UK social investment market sits at the core of our mission – but how will we know when the market is at scale?
A key part of our role in helping to grow the social investment market is to promote best practice and share information. To help make this easier to digest, we've pulled together some of the key information from recent research into a Social Investment Compendium.
Big Society Capital and Impetus- PEF recently launched a report by the Young Foundation on the role of social investment in raising attainment of pupils from poorer backgrounds. To take the discussion forward, we brought together intermediaries, institutional investors, foundations and policy makers at a roundtable.
As a new and growing organisation, it is exciting to have a steady flow of new people joining the team, bringing with them diverse experience and new enthusiasm. This week I am very pleased to welcome two new individuals to our senior team: Jeremy Rogers as our new Chief Investment Officer and Geetha Rabindrakumar in the new role of Social Sector Leader.
Since our launch we have been grappling with the question of what being a ‘social’ business means and how it can be evidenced to various stakeholders that have different definitions, motivations and priorities. We have attempted to define the ‘unregulated’ social sector in our governance agreement, but along with other social investors, grant makers and commissioners, we know that we need to do more in developing our understanding of this area so that we can build a diverse market that provides appropriate financing to a range of social organisations, and ensure that social impact is not restrained by legal form.