As Social Investment Business reviews the success of its investment readiness support programmes, chief executive Nick Temple talks about a switch in focus.
Social Investment Business has managed a number of support programmes on behalf of public funders over the past six years such as the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund and Big Potential.
These programmes all aimed to help charities and social enterprises raise investment, win contracts or figure out how social investment could work for them.
As some of these projects were drawing to a close we thought it was the perfect time to take stock and work out what went well, what could be improved and what lessons we could learn to help inform future programmes.
Strength in Numbers is the most comprehensive attempt to understand the effectiveness of these programmes and the lessons we can learn.
To begin with, the numbers tell a compelling story. These programmes have distributed £40.5m of grants to 677 charities and social enterprises. A third of them – 245 – have already gone on to raise investments or win contracts worth a total of over £1 billion.
But the numbers only tell half the story. We wanted to delve deeper to understand more about what the larger impact of the funds and their legacy.
Our key takeaway from the report is that we need to put the needs of charities and social enterprises at the centre of the future programmes.
Shifting from investment readiness
This means focusing on improving resilience, not just getting them ready for investment. Shifting the focus away from ‘investment readiness’ and towards strengthening flexibility, resilience and sustainability will help position investment as just one potential outcome – not as the sole purpose of the support.
We must also find better ways to embed knowledge within charities and social enterprises and reduce their dependency on grants and external providers. Prioritising peer-to-peer support and opening up data to help charities and social enterprises make decisions are just two ways of doing that.
Similarly, the design of new programmes needs to be based on what we already know works. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Previous programmes have shown us that support can be most effective by adopting a holistic approach that takes on multiple challenges over a long term basis.
And finally, we must get better at taking account of the wider system in which charities and social enterprises operate. This means more focus on markets, commissioning and the lived experience of the people we exist to support. Too often, their views and opinions don’t reach those making decisions.
Ultimately, we think it is time to put to bed the phrase ‘investment readiness’. The programmes we’ve managed have had a huge impact and helped hundreds of organisations raise investment or win contracts in order to improve people’s lives.
But framing support around one potential outcome – getting ready for investment – rather than the traits such as resilience and flexibility that are vital in order to thrive in the current climate could have a much bigger impact and lead to better programmes that help more organisations improve the lives of the people they work with.
Nick Temple is chief executive of Social Investment Business