Our 'UK regional and national spotlight' campaign focuses on ‘Place’, spotlighting the power of social investment from each and every corner of the UK. Today, we’re spotlighting the East Midlands...

The East Midlands is a special part of England with lots of stories to tell. It's where the legend of Robin Hood lived and is home to beautiful scenery like the Peak District and a number of historic towns.

But there's more to the East Midlands than just its past and pretty views. It's full of amazing projects that make life better for people. From helping the environment to starting new businesses, these projects are all about making the East Midlands a great place to live and grow.

In this blog, we cover the various social investment activity happenings in the East Midlands that has been collected via Good Finance over the years, with a focus on how people can harness the power of repayable finance to do great things in their communities.

Case studies

One of the best ways to learn more about social investment and how it can be used is through examples. Good Finance has 115 case studies and counting – here we spotlight just five recent stories from the East Midlands...

Circus Strong 

Circus Strong offers aerial circus and fitness classes, focusing on the LGBTQ+ community and those facing mental health challenges. They've created a welcoming space in Ashbourne and Derby for fitness and socialising, supported by £35,000 in blended finance. Discover more about Circus Strong's journey and their impact on inclusivity in fitness through our case study.

Freedom Foundation

Freedom Foundation in Nottingham uses music and dance to support children’s mental health. With £79,970 in blended finance, they've expanded their reach and impact. Learn more about how Freedom Foundation is helping young people through creative expression via our case-study. 

Alternatives Activity Centre 

Alternatives Activity Centre in Derby provides vital support for adults with learning disabilities. Facing challenges during the pandemic, they secured £100,000 in blended finance to expand and enhance their services. Read our case study to see how they’re making a difference in Derby.

HQ Recording studio 

HQ Recording Studio in Leicester is more than a music studio; it's a community hub for creative expression and support. With £50,000 in blended finance, they’ve doubled their capacity and influence. Discover HQ Recording Studio's unique approach to music and mentorship in our full case study.

Mansfield CVS 

Mansfield CVS has been supporting their community for over 40 years. A £23,000 loan helped them restructure and continue their critical work, especially during the pandemic. Dive into our case study to learn more about Mansfield CVS’s journey and the lives they’ve impacted.

Case studies - East Midlands

Check out our Case Study Mapper and filter by East Midlands to view all of the case studies we have from organisations that have harnessed the power of social investment in the region. 

Have you got a social investment story to tell? We’d love to spotlight more examples of social investment in action in the East Midlands to support organisations that are currently exploring repayable finance. You can submit your experiences online here, alternatively email aconstable@goodfinance.org.uk to arrange content collection.

East Midlands Must-Reads 

We also have various blogs, media and news from the East Midlands that help to provide a place-based perspective on the region. From guest blogs and opinion pieces to interviews with investees, here’s a must-read from HQ Recording...

HQ Recording: Using Social Investment as Catalyst for Change.

Yasin El Ashrafi, Founder and Director of HQ Recording, shares his journey from humble beginnings in Leicester to establishing a successful recording studio. Overcoming personal challenges and societal expectations, Yasin transformed his life and now mentors young artists, many with complex needs. Social investment played a pivotal role in expanding HQ Recording, allowing Yasin to enhance his studio and support more people. Discover more about his inspiring story and how social investment fuelled the growth of HQ Recording in our full blog post.

From professional artist development, to providing a safe and welcoming environment for over 18s in Leicester, this video gives an overview of the social impact they're delivering to improve the people who engage with their work.


East Midlands Listen and watch

Over the years, we've ran various events, both in-person and online and captured some of our amazing 'Hear From a Peer' speakers as they reflect on their experiences with social investment. We also have over 75 Podcasts, all of which are available to listen to via the streaming service of your choice. Here's our pick for the East Midlands...

Celebrating Changemakers: Circus Strong

In the 'Celebrating Changemakers: Circus Strong' podcast, Holly Hutchinson, Founder of Circus Strong, shares how her organisation offers inclusive aerial and fitness classes, especially for the LGBTQ+ community and those facing mental health challenges. Listen to Holly's insights on using social investment to empower their community.

Celebrating Changemakers: ThinkForward

In the 'Celebrating Changemakers: ThinkForward' podcast episode, hear from Ashley McCaul, CEO of ThinkForward. This charity is dedicated to preparing young people for the workforce through long-term coaching, skill development, and employability activities. Listen in to learn how ThinkForward is leveraging social investment to positively impact youth and their journey to career success.

Hear From a Peer Podcast: Theo Brown, Rene House CIC

Rene House CIC is a small social enterprise based in Nottingham, they provide supported accommodation for homeless and vulnerable adults and families. In this podcast, we caught up with Director, Theo Brown, to learn more about the social impact they create with support from social investment. 

Spotlight on: Kai-zen CIC

When it comes to knowledge on social investment, infrastructure and support organisations in the local area play a vital role in sharing information, signposting to tools / resources and connecting organisations who might be right for social investment with those that can help them with next steps. 

Kai-zen CIC are a social enterprise based in the heart of the UK. They seek to make a stepped change in how business is done through delivering targeted leadership development, business & investment advice and workplace well-being.

We caught up with Founder and Director, Natasha Jolob, on her reflections on 2023 and hopes for 2024 and beyond...

What has been your highlight for 2023?  

Our vision is to see more capital invested in the local social economy and businesses that create the high social value outcomes. This is no mean feat. Many of the social enterprises we back are high social value propositions and have good business models with evidence of market demand. However these enterprises often face business hurdles and cannot access the necessary capital to flourish. 

It takes resource and time for these businesses to get investment ready and access capital and we often have to invest our own time and take business risks for them – even as we are a small social enterprise ourselves trying to survive in a very challenging external environment. 

For example we supported a small BAME community-based social enterprise to get investment ready. They deliver high value social outcomes reaching into one of the most deprived inner-city neighbourhoods in Birmingham through providing training and employment and offering trips, a gym and health facilities to disadvantaged BAME women that are socially excluded. They secured a Reach Fund grant to develop a business plan and cash-flow but this was not enough to get them over the line and meet social investor standards. 

The challenges were as follows:

1.    Implementing financial systems, governance and board recruitment
2.    Language and cultural barriers and translating business advice into organisational change
3.    Balancing the demands of time, capacity, and resources whilst being under funding pressures
4.    The high standards set for social investment create an overwhelming checklist for small social enterprises to meet

We advocated for patient capital, tailored to meet their specific needs with appropriate checks and balances in place. Unfortunately, this wasn't sufficient to secure the needed investment. 

But this is not a bad thing – this organisation is now developing and maturing into a successful social enterprise. The Reach Fund helped them to go in the right direction and get on the journey of investment, which is a key success factor in business success. They are working hard to implement business change and hope to secure an investment in 2024. 

As a Director of Social Value UK and from the perspective of social value investing in high impact social enterprises that are in need of capacity, resources and skills is imperative. 

Do you have any standout examples or experiences that you think demonstrate the resilience of the charity / social enterprise sector?  

I am a trustee of Double Impact – because their impact is double, actually quadruple or more!  – they are outstanding. I have previously supported them to access Reach Funds, which proved instrumental in developing their Recovery Academy's impact model and business strategy. As a result, they've successfully secured significant tenders and go from strength to strength. However, similar to others mentioned earlier, they are yet to reach the stage of full readiness for social investment. 

Investment readiness for Double Impact involves moving forward towards sustainable and resilient operations. This progression demands time, and in due course, it will seek and secure finance. To us, this stands as a pivotal marker of success.

The uncertainties and complexities inherent in social enterprise pose challenges for planning especially in the current external context. Both organisations mentioned above require bespoke, personalised funding and finance —a mix of flexible, bespoke finance tailored precisely to meet their unique needs.

The success of Double Impact is due to:

1.    Scenario Planning and Standard Operating Procedures: Good planning and established protocols provide a robust framework for navigating uncertainties.
2.    Service User-Centric Approach: A commitment to being service user-led ensures their initiatives align with the needs and aspirations of those they serve.
3.    Diverse Funding Base: A varied funding base offers stability and buffers against dependence on singular funding sources.
4.    Committed and Stable Senior Management Team: The organisation benefits from a dedicated and consistent leadership team, providing continuity and vision.
5.    Long-Standing Experience and Track Record: Drawing from their wealth of experience, Double Impact boasts a proven track record in their field, building trust and credibility.
6.    Adaptive Capability: The organisation excels in monitoring the external environment and swiftly responding to changes through well-honed internal systems.
7.    Strong Local Partnerships: Collaborative endeavors and robust partnerships within the local community strengthen their impact and reach.

What’s the social investment space like in your region? 

Both social investment (and social value) are seen as add ons as opposed to integrated and embedded into systems – at policy and organisational levels. Investment is still not reaching where it is needed the most.

Through accessing Connect Funds we have bolstered local Community and Voluntary Services (CVSs) in the East Midlands and Wolverhampton, and increased their capabilities and capacity in social enterprise and investment, making it a key part of their service offerings for capacity building. However, the road ahead remains challenging. CVS's themselves face funding reductions and a myriad of competing demands. Moreover, local markets have significant challenges in terms of capacity, skills, and the time required to activate and capitalise local economies. 

More investment is needed to support local infrastructure capacity (including us!) – resources for social enterprise and investment. We know the local markets better than anyone. We were sad to hear that local intermediary Sortified is closing – this is a huge loss for the East Midlands. 

Presently, larger organisations tend to secure the lion's share of finance and funding, leaving smaller social enterprises with immense social value struggling to compete in local markets while grappling with limited capacity. It's crucial to provide immediate support to these small businesses, particularly in this challenging landscape.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge(s) for 2024 and beyond? 

Brokering social investment so that it creates more social value – so that it reaches organisations that are far from being investment ready but that have high social value and good market potential. The challenge is how to resource this support and activate these propositions. 

What is one hope that you have for the future for your local area? 

I hope for more social enterprise development grants – to support social enterprises that have potential and high social value outcomes but not quite ready to get investment ready and on the track of business success and maturity. Local support and capacity is needed to grow our local social economies. 

My hope is also that social investment AND social value are considered a key part of business planning processes and financial decision making and not an add on. I hope that investment reaches into the heart of communities to create the highest possible social value. And that there is greater transparency and accountability for investment decisions in our local social economies. 

What would be your #1 tip for a charity or social enterprise for 2024 and beyond?  

I do have a few tips! 

Be like a bamboo!! Bend but don’t break! Sway with the wind. Keep the foundations strong, stay focused on vision and mission be flexible and adapt to new changing external environments. Bamboos have strong foundations and grow strong and fast when the environment is right. 

Take a long term view but change is stepped.. step by step change for the better, continuously improve the Kaizen way!!!

And, meditate (with me!)  – meditation helps you to stay centered, grounded and focused on vision, it improves productivity and business performance 

What is your favourite Festive tradition? 

I celebrate the winter solstice (Dec 21st the longest day of the year) in the true spirit of British Celtic traditions.  I tune into the winter wonderland and collect bits of nature and decorate a log to make a proper yule log! I then honour nature and the sun, prepare a fire and burn it, giving gratitude for all that I have and I make wishes for myself, my family, community and humanity. 

That’s a wrap for today! We are delighted to celebrate the social investment space in the East Midlands, and we know this is a very small taster in terms of all the fantastic activity that is happening in this region.

If we’ve missed anything or you’d like to chat to us about featuring more content based in the East Midlands on Good Finance, please email aconstable@goodfinance.org.uk and we’d love to chat further! 

Have a browse off various regional and national spotlight's across the UK!

Have a browse off various regional and national spotlight's across the UK!

- Spotlight series: South East

- Spotlight series: London

- Spotlight series: South West

- Spotlight series: Scotland

- Spotlight series: North West

- Spotlight series: Yorkshire and Humber

- Spotlight series: East England 

- Spotlight series: North East

- Spotlight series: Northern Ireland 

- Spotlight series: Wales

- Spotlight series: West Midlands