It’s already over a week since the Social Enterprise UK Awards and next year’s event is already firmly in my calendar. Who can fail to be inspired by the fantastic winners, highly commended and the ‘oh so nearly’ there shortlisters. From Madlug, which helps children in care by giving them a bag for their possessions, to  Caledonia Cremation who provide affordable funeral services; the dignity and compassion that comes from doing business with care and compassion is compelling.

Big Society Capital and Good Finance are proud sponsors of the Social Investment Award. Running an awards event of this scale requires energy, organisation and above all: control. The fabulous social enterprise events management company Fuse brief the award presenters immaculately. We were warned not to go off script (and quite rightly so). But we also got to choose our own walk on music, which allowed us to express an eclectic mix of music tastes. It also allowed us to speak subliminally to the audience about why supporting these awards matter to us.

“It’s not about the money, money, money… We just wanna make the world dance”

My choice this time Jessie J’s Price Tag. Just in case you’re wondering what all this has to do with social investment, then that’s exactly my point. Social investment is not about the money it’s about the impact. It’s about the difference the money can make. There has been far too much hype, myth and over egging the role that repayable finance can play in supporting social enterprises and charities. And that’s why it’s so brilliant to be able to recognise those who have actually shown us how it’s done.

It’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part

So for this blog only, I am going to live by the adage ‘it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part’ and the fact that ‘big is not always beautiful’ (although undoubtedly this year’s winner HCT and Clearly So are of course just that). Here, I want to focus momentarily on the inspiring shortlist:

  • Sharp Futures &First Ark  – a great example of getting started. From a social landlord turned first time social investor to first time investee. I met Rose Marley, CEO of Sharp Futures at one of our events where after talking about the support she wanted, she was able to access a free mentor through Get Informed – Social Investment for Boards. Focused, straight-talking and impatient to help more young people, Rose wanted working capital to help her to grow their People on Demand service. Borrowing £105k alongside a £45k grant showing just how important blended capital is to help social enterprises to be brave enough to take on money which needs paying back #firsttimeforeverything.
  • Hull Women’s Network(HWN) & Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) – I often get asked what makes a social investor ‘social’?  HWN has 105 properties and a waiting list of 230 women. Having previously secured a range of funding from Future Builders to Safe as Houses, demand continues to outstrip supply and this where capital can be put to work. SASC have managed to shape a product that really meets the needs of both parties structuring the deal to minimise investment risk for the charity and to support their ongoing work. SASC say “We’re confident our investment will help many women and children in challenging situations to access good quality housing and the support services they need to rebuild their lives successfully.” In summary #moneytalks but sometimes social investment really does ‘listen’ because #impactmatters
  • Ashley Community Housing(ACH) Resonance – power to the people. Too often the balance of power between investor and investee seems tipped in the financier’s favour. This yield sharing model, removes the fixed interest expectations and instead ties the investor’s returns to performance. Most importantly, Resonance were able to structure the deal so that it is sharia compliant to fit the investee’s requirements. The net income from the rents is then shared between the investors who lend the capital and ACH who support the tenants and maintain the properties.  Proving that social investment can work equitably to share not just the risk but the reward too  #WhoKnew
  • Spark:York Business Enterprise Fund (BEF): BEF have just recently listed on so it was great to meet them recently at one of our Let’s Talk Good Financeevents in Leeds. Spark:York shows just what is possible when community, entrepreneurship and capital come together. To pinch another of SEUK’s lines, this really must be the #futureofbusiness. When social investment can be put to use to cover cashflow, support scale, galvanise growth and do it with the same level of passion and commitment as the social enterprises and charities we seek to invest in, then we definitely have something to celebrate.
  • HCT & Clearly So – Last but by no means least congratulations to Dai and the Team at HCT and to Rod and the team at Clearly So for walking away with the award on the night. The award recognises the £17.8 million funding package that HCT Group secured, with help and support from ClearlySo, earlier this year. The money is being used to accelerate HCT Group’s growth, providing the working capital to continue their rapid expansion and to provide the funds to acquire commercial bus operators and turn them into social enterprises. You see I was being completely sincere when I said that in this case #bigisbeautiful 

To sign off with another famous line from the ultimate presenter himself, Sir Bruce Forsyth ‘of course you are all our favourites’.

Here’s to SEUK’s Awards 2019, hope to see you there

Mel Mills – Social Sector Engagement Director, Big Society Capital