Loud and proud: how we're championing social enterprise - the Future of Business

Following the SEUK Awards, which celebrates the best social enterprises of the year, Big Society Capital's Melanie Mills shares why we're loud and proud about social enterprise. She also writes about the role that social impact investment can play in supporting social enterprise and, looking forward, what we can do to make it better meet its needs.


Written by

Melanie Mills, Head of Social Sector Engagement

SEUK Social Investment Deal of the Year Award winner

Social Investment Deal of the Year Award winners Smile Together CIC and Resonance with their award and Reverend Richard Coles.

What a way to start December - celebrating the successes of so many inspirational social enterprises at the SEUK Awards! To further emphasise the amazing products, services and impact of social enterprises, the event is also completely #BuySocial - from the social enterprise caterers to the social enterprise goodie bags.

The SEUK Awards is always one of my favourite nights of the year. A chance to reconnect with so many old friends as well as the rising stars of the future and to be re-energised by the passion of all those who choose to work in this space. On a more personal note, it offers an opportunity to challenge myself on what I and my colleagues at Big Society Capital might do to support and nurture the movement of which we are a small but necessary part.

The big question is where and how to show our support...

Championing social enterprise & the role of social investment to support its impact

Sponsoring the Social Investment Deal of the Year at the awards is both an honour and a privilege. As the market builder for social investment, it celebrates where social investment has supported both the investor and the social enterprise to create even more impact. After all, this is the reason social investment even exists.

I am constantly working to translate all the financial terminology and boil it down to this one thing. To quote Jessie J ‘It’s not about the money, money, money, we just wanna make the world dance’!

All social investors want their money to make a difference. And we use our sponsorship to support the movement in three ways:

1. Loud and proud

To support SEUK to deliver a fantastic event to showcase its members and the fantastic things that our brand of business can achieve underlining that profit and purpose are not mutually exclusive. From ‘One to Watch’ award winner Hey Girls to ‘Social Enterprise of the YearFRC Group, we believe these organisations are a critical part of the world we want to see and the #FutureOfBusiness.

2. Shared values

We bring some of our Big Society Capital colleagues so they can share in the energy and see the difference that social enterprises and social investment can make. As a wholesaler we are much further up the supply chain and so it’s a constant source of feedback for us that our own team want to be closer to those organisations who are delivering the impact. A desire to improve lives is the fundamental value we all share and why we work in social investment rather than in mainstream finance. And the capital we are custodians of is our tool to help improve lives.

"Attending the SEUK awards is always a great reminder of why we do what we do, being able to support inspiring entrepreneurs. While social investment isn't for everyone, it was good to see an increasing number of the awards shortlist using the different types of investment available to help scale their impact."

Jeremy Rogers, Chief Investment Officer, Big Society Capital

3. Seeing is believing

We invite key guests to attend with the key objective of providing insight, motivation or information that will provide support for the movement. Previous guests have included a trust who was fairly sceptical about social investment, potential investors, trustees of foundations considering carving out part of their endowment to move into this world, influencers from a policy perspective and peers from other parts of the world of investment.

"The SEUK awards are always an inspiration and reminder of how deep this movement runs through our society, how unspoken it often is, and how putting people and planet before profit drives positive change in our communities."

Bruce Molyneux, Investor

Celebrating social enterprise at the SEUK Awards

Celebrating social enterprise at the SEUK Awards

With the memories of a fantastic evening safely stored, my reflection is how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

Are more social enterprises embracing social investment?

This year I counted over 23 of the shortlist and winners had taken on social investment at some point. And over three quarters of those 23 had used investment or support supplied by the capital Big Society Capital has deployed. For me, it’s not about where the money comes from. Instead, it’s about social enterprises being able to embrace the need for investment, find sustainable business models and accessing capital that works for them. Hopefully, this is indicative of the of the numbers of users we now find searching for information about social investment through www.goodfinance.org.uk (over 108,000 and counting).

More to learn to make social investment better meet social enterprise needs

During the ceremony, Lord Victor Adebowale announced a SEUK Inquiry into Social Investment in 2020. This will focus on how the products are working for the customers and more importantly, looking at the gaps that still exist. This drive for continuous improvement is one we share. We are looking forward to supporting the inquiry and to working together with many partners across the social investment space to explore what comes next.

My goal for 2020

For 2020, my own personal goal is to find more ways to bring in the voices of our users: the social enterprises and charities who utilise ours and others money to grow their impact. We need new ideas, to work together to bring about the next generation of social investment products to the market and we need to try and address the power imbalance that so many organisations feel. Bringing demand together with potential supply is a challenge but I am up for it. I have already started testing some initial ideas with some of the distinctive voices and critical friends from across the sector.

There is lots to highlight and reflect on but a whole lot more for us to do to really see the impact that unites us unfold.

If you are keen to talk to me about any of the issues raised here please do get in touch.

And continuing to be loud and proud about social enterprise...

We rounded off the year being loud and proud about social enterprise with another great night out the following evening with a #BuySocial Big Society Capital staff Christmas Party at Rich Mix with delicious food from Fat Macy’s.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a socially prosperous New Year!

Find out more about our work with social enterprises and charities and how to get involved.