Last August, the body that oversees the governance of Big Society Capital and the other three organisations that receive funding under the Dormant Accounts Act, the Oversight Trust, commissioned an independent Review of our organisation’s effectiveness at delivering against our objectives.
We are always open to external and independent review; it’s important to be held accountable and ensure we are learning from what we do. We were delighted that the Review concluded that we had delivered substantial social impact and recognised the considerable progress towards our objectives, not least the part we have played in growing the social impact investment market to its current size – over £6.4 billion according to our latest market sizing data.
The Review also identified however a range of challenges that Big Society Capital, and the wider social impact investment market, faces and areas where we could do more in making the market work for all its participants.
In response to the Review, we set out the issues we would address, an action plan to work towards them and a commitment to keep our stakeholders updated on our progress. We grouped our actions into three themes; mission, culture and investment process and within each theme set out a comprehensive list of actions.
The review noted that in order to ensure the best possible policy environment for the social impact investment market to further thrive, building stronger links with Government would be crucial. We have significantly stepped-up policy engagement across Government to help build greater awareness of social impact investment and its role in ‘levelling up’, with some very encouraging results so far. A two-year extension to Social Investment Tax Relief and a successor scheme for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) that retained key features for social lenders mean social enterprises and charities will continue to be able to access much-needed affordable finance.
The Review noted the need to actively consult with and listen to a diverse range of voices, particularly from across the social sector. This has been a key priority for us over the past year. In addition, we are continuing to encourage diversity in our own organisation.
We have a number of ongoing projects for embedding diversity throughout our organisation, ensuring a wide range of perspectives help to influence our business decisions. I was delighted to welcome Lisa Hilder to our Investment Committee earlier this year and am constantly impressed with the value and perspective our 2027 Programme secondees add to our organisation. I’m also excited by the potential of initiatives such as our collaboration on ‘ICs of the Future’ – a programme which aims to identify and support a diverse range of people develop the skills they need to join investment committees.
We are committed to embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) throughout our organisation and recently published our EDI action plan to set out our approach. We have increased our internal resource dedicated to making progress on EDI issues, working with colleagues in Big Society Capital and the wider social investment sector to ensure we stay on track with our ambitions.
The Review recognised that our investment processes follow best industry practice but also suggested there is more we can do to better understand and meet the needs of intermediary investees. We are continuing to review and improve our investment process in light of our new strategy which we launched in September. We have built in extensive and regular feedback processes for all support and training offered and are working to identify and carefully review performance, considering further capitalisation where needed.
We’ll continue to gather data from and work with our intermediaries to identify whether and how we can help make social investment reach more diverse communities. I look forward to sharing more updates on this as our work progresses.
It has certainly been a busy year and I am grateful to all our partners and Big Society Capital staff who have worked so hard to make progress against these priorities. I recognise there is still much to do and can assure you we are committed to continue to work hard in achieving our objectives over the coming months and years.
If you have any questions on any of the points I have set out above, we would love to hear from you.