The UK Social Enterprise Awards 2021


Written by

Olivia McLoughlin, Communications & Engagement Manager at Good Finance

Since joining the Social Sector Engagement team at Big Society Capital less than two months ago, I’ve been fully immersed in the world of social impact investment. Acronyms and concepts which only weeks ago were alien to me, have now taken on new meaning (thanks in no small part to the Good Finance jargon buster). I’ve learned and been inspired by a team of incredibly passionate, enthusiastic and dedicated people.

Without a doubt my highlights over the past number of weeks have been hearing real-life stories from the people behind the organisations; the social entrepreneurs and teams who are delivering remarkable impact to the communities they serve.

Social enterprises really do represent the best of business. They are the organisations that stand in the face of adversity, challenge structural inequalities and pioneer positive change. From those that remain at the heart of the pandemic response, pivoting their business models to adapt and scale services to meet increasing needs, to those that champion some of the most marginalised groups in society; resilience, grit and determination are the backbone of the sector.

The UK Social Enterprise Awards shine a light on the wide-ranging and crucial work of social enterprises. Taking place for the first time since 2019, it was a privilege to attend this year’s event and to be able to invite along some of our Addressing Imbalance partners.

It was incredible to see so many social enterprises involved in the delivery of the awards; delicious food from The Clink Events, table centre pieces from The Skill Mill, The Flower Bank and JUST ONE Tree and goody bag gifts from The Sewing Rooms, Stand4Socks and Liberation Foods, to name just a few.

The Shortlist

It was no surprise that the calibre of finalists was second to none. From Beam, the world’s first crowdfunding platform for homeless people, to auticon Ltd the first enterprise to employ autistic adults as IT professionals - the shortlist was full of pioneering organisations creating impact for marginalised groups. It was encouraging to see the role that social investment has played in so many of these ventures:

  • 48% of shortlisted organisations have received social investment, and more are currently exploring this as a viable source of capital.
  • Dormant bank account money via Big Society Capital funds from Fair by Design to the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund and Access Growth Funds has supported almost 60% of those who have taken on investment.
  • Of those who went on to win an award over 50% have accessed social investment as a tool to establish and grow their impact.

Big Society Capital and Good Finance were delighted to sponsor the Social Enterprise Deal of the Year category; one of many categories in which any of those shortlisted would have made deserving winners. Melanie Mills, Senior Director of Social Sector Engagement at Big Society Capital commented, “We are proud to support the UK Social Enterprise Awards as sponsor of the ‘Social Investment Deal of the Year Award’. In particular amongst all the challenges that the pandemic has presented it is so important to recognise the entrepreneurs and organisations striving to make a real positive impact on society and the role that capital can play in supporting this goal.”

Cornerstone Place and Keyfund were nominated for their partnership which saw the purchase and redevelopment of a supported accommodation unit in Tameside. This means that over the 15 year lease, up to 71,000 beds will be provided to those facing homelessness; as well as a generation of £227,000 in cashflow and over £450,000 in balance sheet growth for the charity partner delivering services.

The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation finalised a £250,000 impact-linked investment into Hubbub to run a climate emergency campaign in Manchester. The partnership developed from a common impact goal of changing public environmental behaviour and spreading best practice.

The support of pioneering investors has enabled Kirklees Better Outcomes Partnership and Bridges Outcomes Partnership to work in an asset-based way to improve the lives of people previously at risk from homelessness and challenge the structural systems which may have hindered them in reaching their potential.

Charity Bank have joined forces with six other social investors to provide Micro Rainbow CIC with a loan which has enabled them to expand their safe houses from 10 to 35. As a result, homeless and vulnerable LGBTQI migrants will benefit from 50,000 bed nights a year, in addition to employability and social inclusion services.

Launching a social investment bond during a pandemic is no mean feat. The Skill Mill partnered with multiple social investors including Northstar Ventures, Big Issue Invest, CAF Venturesome and Resonance. This allowed them to scale their services to eight locations through an innovative commissioning model, including multiple social investors as well as central and local government.

There could only be one winner, and the partnership that took home the (beautifully crafted, Designs in Mind) trophy was the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund, run by Social Investment Business and supported by Big Society Capital and Access - The Foundation for Social Investment. The fund was a pioneering deal to provide guarantee-backed loans to charities and social enterprises across the UK. The partnership of social investors from across the UK invested £28 million into 77 organisations, preserving over 9,000 jobs, worked responsively and openly to meet the needs of the sector and ensuring the ongoing delivery of crucial services.

A huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners – plus a special shout out to Good Finance’s Ishita Ranjan, founder of Spark & Co who was nominated in two categories!

“There is no going back to business as usual”

In his note, chair of Social Enterprise UK Lord Victor Adebowale CBE paid tribute to the ‘resilience, fortitude and commitment of social enterprises’ citing them as a ‘blueprint for a future economy’. He noted “there is no going back to business as usual, the vast challenges that lie ahead will require a fundamental economic reset” serving as a reminder that there is still work to be done when it comes to dismantling structural inequality and engaging with marginalised groups. Breaking down barriers to social investment is just one step in creating a more even playing field and ensuring capital reaches the communities who need it the most.

At Big Society Capital and Good Finance we will continue to engage in the wider conversation about how we address inequalities and our role in building a more inclusive and fairer society.

Find out more about the UK Social Enterprise Awards and see the full list of winners here.

Social Investment Deal of the Year - SIB and Big Society Capital (002).jpg