Key Fund, the North’s pioneering social investor, has announced Sam Keighley as its new Chair. She replaces Hugh Rolo OBE, who co-founded Key Fund and has been a central figure in its development.
Key Fund was created in Sheffield in response to the collapse of the coal and steel industries in South Yorkshire. As a financial intermediary, it helped local communities access EU funding for regeneration projects.
Today, Key Fund provides flexible loans and grants to community and social enterprises traditionally excluded by mainstream finance. 2021 marks 21 years’ investing. The organisation now operates across the North and the Midlands.
Matt Smith CBE, CEO of Key Fund, said
“Hugh played an instrumental role in developing the social investment model and is a true pioneer, as well as a personal mentor and friend. He leaves Key Fund in a very strong position, with a robust board and management team, despite the challenges of COVID-19. As such, it’s a good point to welcome Sam to the role.”
Key Fund actively targets the main causes and impacts of poverty, with 80% of its investments in organisations that are in the top 30% most deprived on the indices of multiple deprivation.
For six years, Sam was Chief Executive of the Carlisle Business Centre in Manningham. Under her leadership, with Key Fund investment, she led a change management programme to increase its turnover to £750k, and secured £1m from Power to Change to support community businesses and regenerate the area.
“As someone who has been a client of Key Fund, I bring my experience on the ground to the role of Chair, working with diverse and disadvantaged communities. Hugh is incredibly well-respected and regarded in our sector, so I have very big boots to fill. But I’m really looking forward to working with the Key Fund at a time when its work has never been so vital or needed. COVID-19 has widened inequalities in our society. My ambition is to help Key Fund broaden and deepen its reach across the North and the East and West Midlands, to ensure no communities are excluded.”
Sam is currently a Strategic Director at Yorkshire Sport Foundation, part of Sport England’s Extended Workforce Team. She began her career in the sports sector, before moving to Bradford in 2000 to manage a community regeneration through sports programme. It led to a 20-year career in community regeneration, business start-ups, and growth in Bradford, where she has worked across the voluntary and community enterprise sector, and held numerous voluntary Trustee and Chair roles, including at Bradford District Credit Union.
To date, Key Fund has supported over 2,500 social and community enterprises, enabling 1,315 new jobs, safeguarding 2,094 jobs and creating 519 new businesses, all working to tackle deep-rooted challenges, from homelessness and NEETs to mental ill-health and the environmental crisis.
In response to the pandemic, Key Fund worked with partners to secure an £18.7m Social Enterprise Support Fund, made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund. In just three months, it delivered £9m of emergency grants to social enterprises hit hard by lockdowns.
The UK’s 100,000 social enterprises have been at the heart of community survival and recovery during the crisis, from making PPE for health workers, to providing food and connection in their neighbourhoods.
“As I step down, I feel confident in passing on the responsibility and the joy of being Chair of Key Fund to Sam Keighley. I’m immensely proud Key Fund has remained a values-driven organisation. During one of recent history’s biggest crises, the organisation continues to play a leadership role, while sticking to its guns. So, now is the ideal time to leave.”
Hugh was honoured in the 2021 New Year’s Honours with an OBE as Chair and Founding Member of Key Fund, for services to Social Investment and Enterprise in the Midlands and North of England.