As always, it was fantastic to be at Social Enterprise UK’s Social Enterprise Awards in November to celebrate the achievements of so many organisations.
Our particular interest is in the Social Investment Deal of the Year award – we’re delighted that these awards offer an opportunity to showcase how some great organisations are using social investment to deliver more social impact for people they support.
It was great to have the chance to participate as a judge this year – this category seems to get stronger each year, and this year was no exception. It’s encouraging to see the strength and diversity of the 2017 shortlist - hopefully, a good indicator of how social investment continues to develop to support social enterprises and their work.
The 6 shortlisted partnerships included a wide range of investments (from £100,000 to over £1m) into social enterprises based everywhere from South West England to Scotland. All the investments were unsecured and therefore at risk, which is good to see when historically, social investment was mainly about loans secured on property. The different ways of income generating models were also interesting, including public sector contracts, services paid for by clients, local trading, and corporate sponsorships.
As always, the impact being delivered by these enterprises is what inspires. The shortlisted social investment deals included addressing big pressing social issues – transforming social care by Cornerstone in Scotland and helping to relieve poverty for low-income families through affordable credit by Fair for You. They also include impact on local people (Bearpit Bristol inspiring their local community by transforming the local area through food, markets and events) as well as nationally (Hubbub running public campaigns on environmental issues).
It was difficult to choose a winner given how different the deals were, but we all felt that the tremendous efforts of the Friends of Stretford Public Hall deserved particular recognition, and their deal was highly commended. This is a charity run by the local community which came together in 2013 to save a historical asset for the benefit of local people. They funded the refurbishment of part of the building through a community share issue, boosted by contributions from Power to Change and other funders. What stood out here was the effort and ingenuity that went into opening up the opportunity to all to participate in the community share issue – by setting a minimum £100 investment through an instalment payment process of £25 per month. The result was that £255,000 was raised, with 800 individual investors, 87% being from Stretford and the areas nearby.
And finally, the winner was Gofal Enterprises with Social Investment Cymru. There were lots about this deal that was noteworthy, that could help to develop social investment in Wales and some interesting insights for the sector more widely as well. Gofal is a charity supporting people affected by mental illness in Wales, and in a challenging environment, the charity is taking a different approach to funding its charitable aims. Its trading subsidiary, Gofal Enterprises, earns revenue through a commercial facilities management business and has a growth strategy to increase its ability to fund Gofal’s mental health work. There was a bold approach shown in their use of investment – they saw an opportunity to acquire APP UK, a commercial cleaning and maintenance company which could increase their revenues, and used investment to finance the acquisition.
Time and again we hear about the tensions of a power imbalance between social enterprises and investors – here, the social enterprise seemed to be clearly in the driving seat in this deal, which should encourage others to be confident and challenge investors to get what they are looking for. Gofal Enterprises got two different investors, who specialise in investing in social sector and small and medium businesses (Social Investment Cymru and Finance Wales) to collaborate for the first time on this deal to get the finance that they needed overall – hopefully the first of many to come in Wales.
Huge congratulations to all the organisations that were shortlisted this year – and we look forward to hearing more in future about what these social enterprises go on to achieve, with social investment being part of that journey.
By Geetha Rabindrakumar, Head of Engagement, Big Society Capital
For more information about how social enterprises can use social investment, and the sources of finance available, visit goodfinance.org.uk.