Supporting social entrepreneurs through coronavirus

Mark Norbury

Chief Executive

8th April 2020



We are living through challenging times. Social entrepreneurs are among those being hit hard by the impacts of Covid-19. We have heard from award winners who have had £10,000 – £100,000 of contracts and income wiped out in less than a day, and those who are struggling to maintain staff and deliver the impact our communities so need.  

Without action, the next three months could see many otherwise viable social businesses fold. The knock-on effect on livelihoods, wellbeing, connectedness and community resilience will be dramatic.

UnLtd is committed to stepping up our efforts to support social entrepreneurs during this time. We will be devoting £2m of financial and non-financial support to our social entrepreneurs over the next six months. This should help them to survive the emergency, as well as begin working towards a strong recovery. We will then see how we can accelerate our practical support to our community so that they are at the heart of the UK’s renewal.  

As part of these efforts, we will be making some changes to the way we find, fund and support social entrepreneurs. 

We’re here for social entrepreneurs  

Our priority is to ensure that everyone we are currently supporting and investing in makes it through this crisis.
We understand that social entrepreneurs may both want and need to do things differently as they adapt to a new reality. We’re flexing our support to make this possible, whilst continuing to provide one-to-one coaching, mentorship and training.  
In addition, we are dedicating another £1.1m of cash and £1m of non-financial support to support current and past award winners who are in need, or providing exceptional benefit, during this critical period. 

Award Managers are working closely (online) to identify those whose businesses are put at risk due to Covid-19, and for whom this support will make a real difference. These entrepreneurs are being invited to apply for this additional funding via a new quick turn-around process. 
We have therefore chosen to close our portal for new applications for now, so we can focus our attention on those currently delivering impact. 

For all our investees, we’re pleased to be able to offer a 6-month interest repayment freeze, and a 6-month fund extension.  

Our Investment team has already released grant funding to support some of the most vulnerable ventures in their portfolio, with the generous support of our partners. 

Advocating for social entrepreneurs 

Many social entrepreneurs are slipping through the cracks on the Covid-19 business policies set out by Government, because they are not designed with their specific needs in mind.  
We are collaborating with sector partners on a number of campaigns to bridge these gaps, such as the call for an Emergency Liquidity Fund for social enterprises and charities. We were delighted to see the impact of this collaboration on 9th April with Big Society Capital’s announcement of a £100m programme of loans and investments for social ventures. We will be updating with further information on this. 

We were also encouraged by the recent government announcement of £750m funding for charities – although so much more is needed. We are advocating for this to include all social entrepreneurs and community organisations driven by social impact, not just those with charitable status. 

We are also making sure that the support from government is accessible and disseminated to support social entrepreneurs, their business, customers, and staff. Our briefing document, Guidance for Social Entrepreneurs, details the relevant measures. We’ll be continuing to fight for social entrepreneurs to get the resources they need.  

We’re listening 

Because this is a constantly changing situation, we’re keen to keep hearing from our community, and ensure they receive the right support. We’ve put out a survey regarding the impact of Covid-19 on social ventures, and what changes in our support award winners would like from us, and others.  

We are working with our friends at Social Enterprise UK to ensure that this information is fed back to key decision-makers. These answers are being used to adapt our services where possible and provide evidence to lobby for government action.  

Social entrepreneurs are a critical part of the solution 

Despite the circumstances, social entrepreneurs continue to demonstrate how vital their work is, and the incredible role they play in transforming our world for the better, as they adapt to this new reality.  

For example, CareCalls is offering a service to provide clients with updates on the Covid-19 situation via phone or SMS. Community-owned pub, the Bevy may have had to close the building, but they are providing Meals on Wheels, and organising remote events to keep their community connected. There are many more examples coming through of social entrepreneurs demonstrating their resilience and leadership during this unprecedented situation. 
Whatever happens as a result of Covid-19, it is clear we need an economy, democracy and society that is built on enterprising people and organisations who serve the public good, foster togetherness, healing and fairness.  

UnLtd proud to support passionate and enterprising people, teams and organisations, and we’ll continue to respond to the emerging situation with the necessary support.  
Please stay tuned in on our social media channels and come back to the website for up to date information. 

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