By Lucy Findlay MBE, Managing Director of Social Enterprise Mark CIC
We welcome the findings of the Adebowale Commission on Social Investment, which states that a new approach is needed to social investment. It is true that social enterprise has been deprioritised, particularly by the big players, due to the perceived challenges of reaching social enterprises, the rigidity of the financial products as well as the bias and lack of understanding of the financiers and experts that make the decisions which has led to inequality and discrimination.
When I remember back to the early days of government involvement with the setting up of Big Society Capital, there was an explicit remit to lend to social enterprises. We had early discussions with them about the need to be clear about that market, to demonstrate true social impact. Part of the reason for the dilution, in my opinion, was the lack of transparency, which allowed a diversion of funds away from the sector. Such transparency can be provided through the use of independent accreditation standards, like the Social Enterprise Mark.
I have blogged on this issue at quite some length as well as leading the charge to try to get mainstream providers to adjust their approach to government emergency loans. It is my firm opinion that we need an overhaul of how the mainstream finance world works to make it fit not only for social enterprises but other types of business that put society and the environment first. This can only be done by engaging much better with stakeholders and gaining their ownership and direct involvement in decision making as well as being clear about the types of business that really offer social value in their DNA.
I welcome the approach of the new Growth Impact Fund, which is due to be launched by Big Issue Invest, UnLtd and Shift. This potentially represents a big shift in thinking that should be applied to all social investment (both mainstream and more ‘niche’) through being flexible, supportive and involving the expertise of those that have ‘lived experience’. I hope that this expertise will be mirrored in the makeup of the investment committee too as demonstrated by the likes of international beacons of expertise, such as SheEO.
Find out more about the findings of the Commission and read the report on the Social Enterprise UK website.