What is the Alternative Commission on Social Investment

What is the Alternative Commission on Social Investment

04 December 2014

Ahead of our joint roundtable event with the Alternative Commission on Social Investment on 12th December we find out more about their work.

Launched in October 2014, the Alternative Commission on Social Investment is relatively new to the scene, but it is driven forward by some of the leading experts on social finance in the UK.

It is an initiative set-up to investigate what’s wrong with the UK social investment market and to make practical suggestions for how the market can be made more accessible and relevant to a wider range of charities, social enterprises and citizens working to bring about positive social change

The Commission is set to look at how we can move beyond replicating expensive mainstream approaches to finance for the social sector and develop approaches that are more social, putting people before structures and institutions and prioritising social change.

Together, the Alternative Commission will explore five key questions and seek to produce a report in February 2015 with answers to the following:

  1. What do social sector organisations want?
  2. Can social investment, as currently conceived, meet that need?
  3. What’s social about social investment?
  4. Who are social investors and what do they want?
  5. What can we do to make social investment better? 

The Team

Social Spider CIC has been awarded a grant by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation to carry out the project. As Commission Team Leader and Managing Director of Social Spider CIC, a small social enterprise based in Walthamstow, East London, David Lloyd has carried out research on social investment for Third Sector Research Centre and the Ministry of Justice. He recently worked with Social Enterprise UK to write Social Investment Explained, a guide to social investment for charities and social enterprises commissioned by Big Lottery Fund.

David is a non-executive director of Significant Seams CIC and Inpress, and a member of the governing council of Social Enterprise UK. He has written about social enterprise for The Guardian, The Young Foundation and Pioneers Post, and writes the social enterprise blog, Beanbags and Bullsh!t.

He will be supported with independent advice from Dan Gregor, who has delivered government backed funds investing in the social sector, and Nikki Wilson, who has extensive experience of managing a portfolio of social investments.

The work of The Alternative Commission on Social Investment will be guided by 15 Commissioners, all of whom will have some interest and knowledge of social investment but many of whom offer experiences and perspectives beyond those of the current major stakeholders in the social investment market.

Current Situation

Their assessment of the current situation has led them to several conclusions.

While many charities and social enterprises (a) want repayable finance at all and (b) can’t get it already from mainstream providers, want relatively small unsecured loans or equity-like products, the majority of the social investment market is still made up of large investments secured against buildings.

Most social investment intermediaries have been designed to invest in relatively large, high-growth social organisations. While many funds have been set up, intermediaries are struggling to find social sector organisations to invest in.

Many social investment intermediaries are perceived to be attempting to replicate expensive, complicated mainstream approaches to finance within the social economy rather than using simple mainstream constructs or developing approaches that are new (including models making use of digital technology)  or distinctively social – for example, based on involving wider pools of socially motivated investors.

To have your say on social investment in the UK, take part in their online survey before Friday 19th December.

To attend the event click here.

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