The launch of Access: The Foundation for Social Investment | Big Society Capital

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The launch of Access: The Foundation for Social Investment

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Access: The Foundation for Social Investment (“Access”) was formally launched today at an event at South Oxfordshire Food and Education Academy (SOFEA) in Didcot. Its mission is to fill gaps in the emerging social investment market, which have prevented some voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises from accessing finance to help them become more sustainable.

The UK’s social investment market is considered the most advanced in the world. At the same time, accessing social investment can be difficult for certain social enterprises and charities. This gap may arise because these organisations have not had enough support to take on investment for the first time or because they have not been offered the types of finance which meet their needs. 

To address this gap, grant funding – often alongside repayable finance – can enable a wider range of organisations to access the investment they need. Sometimes organisations seeking funding also have gaps in the skills needed to attract and take on investment. Targeted business support can address these gaps and connect organisations with investors. 

Access will initially develop two programmes, delivered through intermediaries, which will address these organisations’ needs. Access will:

  • Manage the ‘Growth Fund’, which combines grants with loans for social lenders to offer investments of up to £150,000 to charities and social enterprises (either in the form of a loan or a mix of loan and grant funding)
  • Design and manage capacity-building support for these organisations to help them build their organisational strength, to take on social investment and become financially robust organisations over time.

The types of organisations expected to benefit from Access’ programmes include early stage, smaller charities and social enterprises, as well as more established charities which are developing a new income stream, and social enterprises who are at ‘post-incubator’ stage and have been identified as having high potential to make social impact.

Access will act as an independent champion for organisations newer to social investment. In partnership with other charitable foundations and trusts, it will work collaboratively with organisations engaged in social investment to determine the best use of grants so as to make the most effective use of resources going forward. 

Access is part of a package of support developed by Big Lottery Fund, Big Society Capital and Cabinet Office to stimulate the financing opportunities open to charities and social enterprises. It complements the creation of the Social Investment Tax Relief, the extension of investment readiness programmes such as Big Potential and the support offered by the Social Incubator Fund for the development of early stage social enterprises. 

John Kingston, Chair of Access, said: “We are not seeking to build an empire with the establishment of Access. We will have a fixed life during which we want to make a real difference to more charities and social enterprises being able to access social investment. We will be a champion for the financing needs of this part of the sector, ensuring that the right mix of capital and support is in place long into the future.”

Seb Elsworth, incoming Chief Executive of Access said: "We've got a big and exciting task ahead of us to make social investment more accessible for charities and social enterprises. I'm thrilled to be leading Access in this challenge. I hope that we will be seen as a real partner to the sector as we develop our work and share what we are learning about how mixing loans and grants can have the most impact."

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of Big Lottery Fund said: “Our £22.5m grant funding will enable the Access Foundation to plug a gap in the social investment market.  The Big Lottery Fund is backing the Growth Fund because it will target a blend of grant and investment up to £150,000, opening up social investment to entrepreneurial charities and social enterprises who may have struggled to access it in the past. This is another important step forward for social investment and we look forward to playing our part, alongside Big Society Capital, as the

Growth Fund supports those transforming lives for the better.”

Nick O’Donohoe, Chief Executive of Big Society Capital said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Access so that charities and social enterprises can access smaller amounts of social investment than currently available. We hope that this will provide critical options for organisations looking to make the first steps towards sustainable social business models, and for those at earlier stages of their growth. Better access to finance for smaller and medium-sized charities and social enterprises is a key part of Big Society Capital’s strategy, and Access will have a unique ability to blend different types of capital in order to achieve this. As such we are really proud to have supported its creation in partnership with the Big Society Trust, the

Government and the Big Lottery Fund.”   

The Rt Hon Francis Maude MP, Minister for the Cabinet Office said:

“Since the 2010 Election, Britain has emerged as a world-leader in social investment. We now have more Social Impact Bonds than the rest of the world put together and social investment is helping charities and social enterprises do more by unlocking the finance they need. The launch of Access, as part of our long-term economic plan, will help smaller charities and social enterprises access the funds that they need.”

Last updated | 
18 March 2015