Most charities would prefer to “moan and whinge about how hard life is” rather than innovate to drive social change, the chief executive of Scope told an audience of social investment specialists yesterday.
Speaking at an event on social finance at the Labour Party conference, Richard Hawkes said that most charities were too reluctant to try new things and find out new information, and were too willing to sit and wait for other people and the government to solve problems for them.
“After the crash there were fewer people giving to charity and less statutory funding available,” he said. “Charities were faced with two options. They could either moan and whinge about how hard life is, which is what most of the sector did, or innovate and be creative and adapt and change.”
He told the event, jointly organised by chief executives body Acevo and social lenders Big Society Capital and the Social Investment Business, that social investment was a prime example of how charities had been too cautious and risk-averse.
“If you want to influence the wider world we have to adapt ourselves to be relevant,” he said. “Social investment is one way to take that opportunity. But the sector has been too nervous and is not as ready as it should have been.”
He said there were problems with the “mentality of the sector” and that charities were too slow to find out about new opportunities.
He said he heard complaints that the sector did not understand social finance, but that it was not the responsibility of others to explain it to charities.
“It’s up to the sector to take this forward,” he said. “If the sector doesn’t understand social finance it should find out.
“Some of the sector will just sit and wait until someone comes along and helps them.
“It’s about the mentality of the sector. If the sector just stays the same for 60 years it’s never going to raise new ways of working. The sector has to get its own mentality right.
“If the sector doesn’t embrace new ideas like this, it doesn’t matter how much the government does. The sector won’t move forward.”
Scope was the first operational charity to use bond funding, and Hawkes said the money raised had been very useful.
He said the sector needed to move away from “paternalistic, patronising, benevolent, old-fashioned charity”, where the rich handed down money to solve problems for the poor. “Instead we have to be about making things better,” he said.
“For Scope to continue to deliver social change we have to keep adapting and we have to look for new opportunities and innovate. Social investment is one of the key areas we can innovate, and I have been really proud of the work we’ve done in that area.
“The development of our bond has allowed us to develop new ways to raise more unrestricted funds.”