By Sharon Nanan-Sen

SEW was set up to bring the world of social enterprise, investment and social finance closer to Wolverhampton organisations; to share information, to build networks and to provide other funding streams and options.

What have we learned in the first 4 months of SEW as we start 2019?

  • overall, groups and organisations have shown a keen interest in finding out more
  • organisations one expected to show more of an interest have shown less interest
  • organisations one expected to show less of an interest have shown more interest
  • there is work to be done with both
  • organisations are working flat out and we need to tailor SEW to fit their needs

The SEW project has to meet quantified targets, however, we must also be mindful of quality and impact. What has always been clear from the day to day work within Voluntary Sector Councils up and down the country is that community development work with groups and organisations is time consuming and intensive work. Many of the relationships we have with groups and organisations, have been built up over years; this background is invaluable and has allowed us to engage quickly with groups.

Initially, some of the larger charities have been slightly sceptical of social investment and/or currently need to know more before opting for this route. As part of the project, it is up to us to engage those organisations and share examples of where social investment has worked well in different settings across the country and introduce social investment as a viable option to traditional funding routes. Face to face meetings and connections will help.

It is clear too that there are a number of early stage groups and organisations who are interested in social investment but may need help with, for example, market research and development, business planning, investment proposition etc.

We are working with these groups to access grant funding which will help to get them to a position where we can approach social investors. They are good organisations who need time to grow and develop; they may not be ready now but may be ready in the next couple of years.

Long term sustainability is a key issue. Most groups and organisations want to provide people-focused, good quality services based on a solid foundation. However, a great deal of their time is taken up with cyclical funding applications.

Through SEW, we can start to address this issue through providing information and tools for becoming more entrepreneurial with long term sustainability as a key outcome. It is a change of mind set and practice for some organisations but the potential opportunities and rewards of this option are well worth consideration.

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