Last week, I attended an interesting event to showcase the Community Impact Partnership, a £3m social investment fund run by Clarion, Peabody L&Q and Orbit. The programme provides an alternative option to traditional models of funding by offering a blend of grants and loan of between £25,000 and £150,000 to community businesses, social enterprises and charities.
“It’s very much about extending the range of support available so we can use the right tool in the box, be that a grant, loan or whatever,” said Jules Tompkins, the programme’s investment manager. “We’ll also be offering skills development support as we know organisations often need more than just money to succeed in the longer term.”
This type of funding programme will have a significant impact in a number of ways.
Firstly, it focusses on longer-term interventions, allowing organisations the space to grow, develop and refine their offer. Typically, HA funding for projects is in short bursts, and doesn’t build much sustainability into the model. This model allows the full amount of funding to be drawn down in Year One, with a multi-year repayment plan in place (up to five years).
The first funding awarded from the CIP fund went to a Sussex-based training and employment organisation Hastings Works, who told participants at the event that the five-year repayment terms were key to their longer-term strategic goals. This has allowed the organisation flexibility of its finances to adapt to the changing environment, without the all-too-common stipulations about core funding.
One of the most exciting aspects of this programme is the potential for growth it allows for projects. Traditional grant funding is usually built around a set currency of deliverables, and the core funding built into this is around the management of those deliverables, which doesn’t give much breathing room for innovation, business development or growth. Instead of planning for the future by simply applying for more funding, the organisation will have to take a more commercial look at its offer and figure out how to make the model self-sustaining. As these businesses develop, and build up their trading history, there is a greater chance of them being able to successfully bid on larger public sector contracts which are often incredibly laborious (and all-too-often, thankless) tasks.
Secondly, there is the potential for effective place-based working, something that is becoming more common amongst HAs. Many community investment funds are strongly focussed on narrow parts of the community, restricting funding to work specifically with their own general needs residents within a given estate or borough. In many cases, this leads to an inefficient or ineffective solution to a larger problem, and in some cases can make things worse by increasing the divides in the community.
By investing in an organisation over the long term, there is a greater assurance that impact will be delivered as the organisation can follow the need rather than a series of boundaries and restrictions. The HAs behind the CIP have long been advocates of this place-based approach, and this programme will increase the evidence base of this type of working.
I will be keeping a keen eye on the CIP over the next few years, as I believe success here will demonstrate a replicable model that HAs could build in other areas.
For more information on the CIP, contact Jules Tompkins, Investment Manager.