When Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) asks its members about the biggest barriers to their sustainability or growth, access to appropriate finance is consistently one of the primary obstacles named.
Some of this is about the appropriateness of that finance: its cost, the way it is structured, the products it is packaged in and so forth. But the other part of that barrier is the access part - our last State of Social Enterprise survey found that of those not applying for social investment, "knowing where to find it" was the most commonly cited reason, followed by wrong timing, lack of confidence and skills, thinking they would be rejected, and the cost of capital.
This is why SEUK are involved in Good Finance: a collaborative project which aims to improve access to information on social investment for charities and social enterprises. The project has been undertaking research with a range of people in social sector organisations to try and ensure it is built with them at its heart, and that it is as useful as possible for them. The research has identified (or reinforced) some of the areas that create 'friction' between the financiers and the enterprises - these include language (jargon), knowledge (on both sides) and mindsets (particularly the fixed ones).
The Good Finance project is about reducing this friction, and building knowledge and confidence - so it is now looking a little deeper into how that can be achieved. What strikes me is that the key word is understanding - not only in the sense of helping people navigate what at times seems a fragmented, incoherent landscape or increasing their knowledge but also understanding in the sense of empathy and awareness of the other's position and perspective. Then the myths, fears, misalignment and jargon will start to fall away.
By Nick Temple, Deputy Chief Executive, Social Enterprise UK