The chairman of Big Society Network and Society Network Foundation has sought to defend the two organisations against suggestions that they have been unfairly awarded public money or failed to spend that money appropriately.
In a statement issued to Civil Society News on behalf of the trustees of the charity Society Network Foundation (SNF), chair Martyn Rose points out that the funding that has been provided over the last three years by the government and the Big Lottery Fund – more than £3m in total that is known about publicly – is paying for the Big Society Awards, the Nexters and Spring Giving projects, and the Olympic legacy project Britain’s Personal Best.
He states that all public money has been competed for “honestly and fairly” and received on condition of delivering “very specific targeted outcomes”, all of which have been met.
Full statement from Martyn Rose
Rose’s full statement reads: “The Society Network Foundation was established two years ago to inspire and support, people, communities and businesses, to become more engaged in society.
"Through funding and support from government, social foundations, businesses, and the time and energy of inspirational volunteers, we have developed and continue to deliver a number of initiatives that have enabled us bring this vision to reality.
"Through these programmes, we have supported thousands of people on their journey towards being more actively involved, worked with hundreds of entrepreneurial people, charities and businesses to develop and succeed in their vision.
“During the last three months Civil Society magazine online has published a number of blog posts (sic) relating to the funding and finances of the Society Network Foundation (SNF)/Big Society Network (BSN).
“In the course of these articles no evidence has been cited to suggest that either public funding has been awarded inappropriately or been used for anything other than that which was formally agreed under contract and/or grant agreement with the funder.
“The funding organisations cited, the Cabinet Office, Nesta, Big Lottery Fund and the Social Investment Business, have each independently refuted any impropriety with regard to the awards of funding to SNF/BSN.
“On other occasions we have applied for public funding from the Cabinet Office, the Big Lottery Fund and Nesta and been unsuccessful.
“The funding we have received has enabled the organisation to deliver the Big Society Awards, establish the Nexters and Spring Giving projects and most recently develop the 'inspired by' legacy project Britain's Personal Best.
“All the public funding we received has been conditional upon delivering very specific targeted outcomes and we have met those requirements. We have received no communication from any funding body to suggest otherwise.
“We have quickly established a reputation for innovation in how we work with and champion social enterprises, charities and community groups and the excellence of our ongoing work has been recognised by last month's announcement of an award of funding from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver a new 'Spirit of 2012 Trust' project, and the grant to deliver the Big Society Awards this year.
“We are not a political organisation, undertake no activity that could be construed as having a political motive and compete honestly and fairly to secure funding to support our mission.
“We are constantly inspired by the people we meet and support - the passion and dedication to their cause and their ability to inspire others. Our mission is to champion these people. This not only reminds us daily of the powerful role we can all play in society but how we are only at the beginning of our journey.”
Criticisms from Gareth Thomas MP
Rose also answered criticisms from shadow minister for civil society, Gareth Thomas MP, regarding Big Society Network's "failure" to deliver on two funded projects, Get In and Your Square Mile.
He said that while BSN was the applicant and original grantholder for Your Square Mile, it immediately agreed with BIG to transfer the project to Your Square Mile Ltd, an organisation that was set up specifically to deliver the project. BSN has "no formal relationship" with Your Square Mile and no responsibility for delivering it, Rose said.
Regarding Get In, the project that was put on hold by the Cabinet Office last December despite having given SNF nearly £200,000 to deliver it, Rose said SNF still believed in the project and would be seeking alternative sources of funding to progress it.
He also responded to concerns raised by Thomas about whether SNF's latest project, the £1m challenge event called Britain's Personal Best, can be delivered on time. He said: "Since the award was made we have agreed a 100-day plan with the Big Lottery Fund which we keep under constant review."
Society Network Foundation trustee board
From 2007 until the 2010 election, Rose was co-chair of the National Citizen Service Programme with now-Education Secretary Michael Gove and also co-chaired, with now-Home Secretary Theresa May, the Get Britain Working group.
As well as Martyn Rose, the SNF board comprises Giles Gibbons, who co-founded Good Business with David Cameron’s former strategy chief Steve Hilton; Jonathan Brinsden, a partner at law firm Bircham Dyson Bell, and philanthropy adviser Randi Jo Weaver.