Seven schemes selected by Big Society Capital for “Ideas for Impact” development funding

Big Society Capital, the UK’s leading social impact investor, has announced the seven winners of “Ideas for Impact” – a unique new programme to develop ideas for new impact funds which can invest in the next generation of social impact enterprises. 

The competition attracted a lot of interest, with Big Society Capital receiving 106 applications. The proposals aimed to tackle a wide range of social issues – with the three most common being health & wellbeing; employment, training & education; and housing & local facilities. The winners will receive a tailored package of development support while those that were not selected will be signposted to relevant help and funding.

The seven winning ideas are:

  • Social business support organisations Catch22 and Hatch Enterprise have partnered up with socially motivated tech investor Social Tech Trust to develop a programme and fund to support organisations in creating solutions to tackle youth unemployment.
  • Social enterprise Cornerstone Place hopes to create a new fund that will support the development or refurbishment of properties to rent to homelessness charities, with the fund taking development risk on properties and using an innovative revenue sharing model.
  • Charity North East Churches Acting Together is looking to scope opportunities to unlock church-owned land and buildings in the North East for affordable and assisted housing.
  • Think-tank Resolution Foundation is scoping a proposed venture fund to invest in ‘tech for good’ ventures that improve working lives for low-paid and insecure workers; addressing structural challenges in UK labour market around rights, progression and skills.
  • Social investment fund manager Resonance wants to scope the appetite and market for a distressed assets fund that looks to purchase properties and lease them back to social and community enterprises on an initial rent-free basis to support their recovery.
  • Social investment consultancy organisation Social Finance is testing the feasibility of a circular economy outcomes fund, in partnership with ReLondon (previously London Waste and Recycling Board). It aims to grow the circular economy, fund outcomes such as reduction of waste and CO2 emissions, and support purpose-led organisations with a circular mission at their heart.
  • Social enterprise support organisation UnLtd is working together with social investor Big Issue Invest to build and share an online tool where social enterprises are able to understand and improve their diversity, equity and inclusion practices and policies.

Applicants were asked to explain the social issue, business models and potential for investment associated with their idea – which would allow multiple social sector organisations to access investment. They had to demonstrate potential to scale through a fund or similar financial structure which could take on investment from Big Society Capital and/or others in future.

The selection panel included a range of experts and leaders across the social enterprise and social impact investment sector: Andrew Croft, SEUK; Ben Smith, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation; Camilla Dolan, EKA Ventures; June O’Sullivan, London Early Years Foundation; Liz Hayes, Connect Fund; Matthew Bowcock, The Beacon Collaborative; Sarah Colston, Access Foundation; Paul Nicoll, Triodos; Celia Hannon, Nesta.

Amir Rizwan and Jo Heywood, Relationship Directors (job share) at Big Society Capital, said: “We are very excited to support the seven selected ideas, which were chosen either because they are tackling a social issue needing continued innovation (e.g. diversity in social entrepreneurship/investment) or because the fund used a new finance solution (e.g. shared upside between fund manager and charity).

“They have demonstrated great potential to scale up with social impact investment and help improve people’s lives.  Social impact investment can unlock much needed funding for charities and social enterprises and through this initiative, we are able to support the early-stage development of ideas that could sustain and grow vital services in communities across the UK.”

Celia Hannon, Director of Discovery at Nesta and a member of the selection panel, said: “The Ideas for Impact process unearthed some promising proposals, showing just how important it is for funders to adopt open initiatives which aim to surface novel approaches. The common themes Big Society Capital identified across the applications (such as those focused on insecure employment or those addressing diversity, equity and inclusion) also shone a spotlight on an important set of issues for the social impact investment space in years to come. I look forward to seeing how the fund ideas develop through this process.”

Sunil Suri, Head of Ventures and Innovation at Catch22, said: “We’re delighted to be working together with Big Society Capital to test new ways of supporting and investing in organisations with solutions that can help tackle the youth unemployment crisis. As we’ve seen over the past year, partnerships rooted in solidarity and a vision for a positive future are critical if we are to drive much-needed change.”

Rev Joanne Thorns, Regional Officer at North East Churches Acting Together, said: “Churches are often in an ideal place to understand the needs of their community and may have assets that can be used. We are really excited for this opportunity to work alongside Big Society Capital, enabling us to look at some of the ways in which we may be able to use existing church assets creatively and for the benefit of local communities.”

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