Third Sector Review + a Breakthrough in social investment

Spent yesterday at the Treasury / Cabinet Office Third Sector consultation (focusing on social enterprise) as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. All off-record, but thought I would just mention that Ed Miliband (who attended the London SSE Fellowship ceremony last Thursday) quoted Becky Barrett, one of the new Fellows, as an example of those individuals driving change, repeating her immortal words, "I realised frozen potato waffles weren’t going to change the world". Nuff said, methinks. [more on the ceremony soon]

The consultation was interesting, if (inevitably) too brief, slightly restrictive and too short (again!) of practitioners. And, yes, I know I was only making that worse, but hopefully I was representing our myriad of Fellows as well as SSE itself. As ever with such things, fine and welcome words were heard: the proof will be in the eating….

Another event tonight, the launch of CAN‘s new Breakthrough investment fund, in association with leading international private equity firm Permira. The Telegraph has a write-up, which is worth a read, and the event features that man Ed Miliband again, the chief execs of Permira and CAN + the journalist David Aaronovitch….should be interesting. Amongst the first three organisations to benefit from the new investment/venture philanthropy initiative are Green Works and, intriguingly, TimeBank, the volunteering charity that government helped establish.

I say intriguingly because the latter choice shows that Permira and CAN are using a broad definition of social enterprise, which is to be welcomed. Time Bank is a charity primarily funded by government, trusts and foundations and corporate sponsors/partners, so will not be some people’s idea of social enterprise; but it may also be taking risks, acting entrepreneurially, grasping opportunities, developing new initiatives and so on, meaning it has a place in the wider world of social entrepreneurship.

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2 thoughts on “Third Sector Review + a Breakthrough in social investment

  1. SSE…
    First, glad I found your blog. Spreading the word…
    Secondly, I met with some folks from CAN shortly after the Permira deal was announced and I was excited that they were going to make big bets on social enterprises to scale. BUT, I am dismayed by the fact that the money is actually going into a government funded charity and Greenworks (which seems to have already scaled, right?). Let me go out on a limb: if we cannot take risks within our sector with our own VC programmes…how can we expect private sector to invest in us to start a general social enterprise?
    Working to build social enterprises with punch in the North.
    Kind regards,
    Todd Hannula
    Director
    The Camberwell Project
    http://www.camberwellproject.co.uk
    http://www.socialcatalyst.co.uk

  2. Hi Todd. Thanks for commenting.
    I think you have some decent points here. I think the choice of TimeBank has raised a few eyebrows, given its sources of funding etc, although (as I said in the post), SSE tends to go with a broader definition of social entrepreneurship.
    I’m not sure GreenWorks has scaled, at least not by CAN’s definition of “breakthrough”….it doesn’t have Big Issue / Fifteen / CafeDirect kind of scale by any means, and I think there’s a lot of potential remaining untapped.
    I think your point on a risk is an interesting one, in that these look safe-ish choices; but I guess they were looking for more ‘proven’ organisations this time around, and any new forms of investment in the sector (and CAN have done great things to bring Permira on board) should be welcomed. I think the UK generally has a problem with risk, and this is probably doubled in our sector…here at the SSE we try and acknowledge as openly as possible that some of the students’ projects won’t succeed, or will be time-limited, or not be suited to scale….and that that is fine, and the personal development / time-limited / local outcomes they have are equally worthwhile and have a significant impact. Not always an easy sell, though ;0)