Meeting the demand for inclusive and equitable finance

Hannah Stranger-Jones

Director of Impact and Influence

5th July 2022

9:00am

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Image description: A young Black female social entrepreneur smiles, guiding a person using a sewing machine in a workshop.

In the last few years society has experienced more turmoil than most have witnessed in a lifetime. For many of us, between a global pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, we’ve been interrogating the fabric of our society and the values we choose to live by. The conversations following the murder of George Floyd and the growing visiblity of society’s inequity drove us to make changes at UnLtd, the latest being the announcement of the Growth Impact Fund.

We need social entrepreneurs more than ever, but they face barriers to growth

We inarguably need social entrepreneurs’ ingenuity, resilience, and insight to build the future we want to live in. Social entrepreneurs are already creating meaningful social change. They create jobs for people discriminated against by the labour market, make a difference in under-served areas of the UK, offer products and services that significantly improve people’s quality of life and respond to their needs, and are more likely than mainstream businesses to be taking climate change seriously. But they are not reaching their full potential to drive transformative change because they are unable to access the finance they need to start-up and grow.

What are these barriers?

  1. There is limited finance available to social entrepreneurs. And the finance that is available, whether it is grants, investment or loans is often not structured in a way that considers and responds to the reality of running a purpose-driven organisation
  2. Founders from marginalised and racialised backgrounds and communities face the compounding barriers of racism and other discrimination, further locking them out of the funding and support they need to flourish

Disrupting the social investment market to create more equitable access to finance

Breaking down barriers is one of our key strategic goals, and creating equitable access to finance is critical to this. With this in mind, we designed and announced the Growth Impact Fund to help organisations access the social investment and support they need and want to grow and create impact in communities across the UK.

The response to the Growth Impact Fund

Since announcing the Growth Impact Fund on 31st May 2022 we have had over 1000 people read through our eligibility criteria, 500 of those start our application process and already over 160 of those submitting their application form for the fund. This fund is full of ‘firsts’ for us, but also for applicants - for many this is the first time they have applied for investment, despite being long-established and impactful organisations. 56% of applicants are from outside London and 5,700 people have visited the Growth Impact Fund site since launch. We are delighted by this overwhelming response, and are working hard to meet the clearly evidenced need from social purpose organisations.

Making it easier for all social entrepreneurs to create positive change in the world

We need policymakers, businesses and society to get behind social entrepreneurs, and their vision of a world where people and planet are put first.​ This means breaking down the barriers to impact, growth, and sustainability they face by creating more equitable access to finance from start-up to scale-up. This isn’t the job of one organisation.

We will continue to work alongside social entrepreneurs and other allies to:

  • Produce evidence to show the transformative impact on social entrepreneurs can have for people and places when these barriers are broken down
  • Challenge discriminatory practice in ourselves, partners and others to tackle inequitable access to finance and support for social entrepreneurs from marginalised groups
  • Influence business and government to level the playing field through policies, practice and resources that enable all social entrepreneurs to flourish

If you would like to find out more about our work, or join us in our campaign to create more equitable access to finance for social entrepreneurs, I am happy to pick up any conversations sent to comms@unltd.org.uk.

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