AccessEd #1 – making a start…

This is the first in a series of blogs I will be posting every fortnight, with an update on our work. This week: opening up the consultation for our capacity building programme, and preparing to publish our annual plan.

My first two weeks here at Access Foundation has been an exciting time, getting to understand more about the opportunity we’ve been given, the recent history and potential of social investment in the UK, and what role our Growth Fund and Capacity Building programmes could play in supporting and developing the sector.

There’s a lot to get done so it’s going to be a busy time: particularly with our small but perfectly formed team of five. We’ve no plans to get any bigger, and that’s a healthy constraint – i.e. it means everything we do will have to involve working closely with and through others, as we couldn’t possibly deliver very much ourselves, even if we wanted to.

A recurring theme in the conversations I have had so far has been transparency, and the benefits of being as open as possible in all our activities has been part of early discussions with our Board and our partners in Cabinet Office, Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. To start as we mean to go on, we’re preparing to publish our Annual plan for 2015/16 next week: this will expand on the information already available on our site, setting out in detail where we want to be by the end of March next year, and how we want to get there.

I’m also using this post to kick off the consultation process for our Capacity Building programme, which we’re keen to conduct ‘in the open’. The context: we have been given an endowment of £60M, to spend over the next 10 years on capacity building for Charities and Social Enterprises to help them become more sustainable through developing their ability to access social investment. Our board is also keen for us to connect this work to our Growth Fund, so we’re particularly interested in those organisations who would consider taking on social investment of the level which will be offered through that programme (up to £150K).

Our first commitment is to consult on the design of our capacity building work and identify obvious gaps in provision. We are working towards the first funded projects starting up in Spring 2016, and will be sharing our conclusions from this initial consultation phase in early October.

Time is tight – particularly as this is the beginning of the holiday season – but we’re looking at this as an effort to ‘know enough’ to make a sensible start, rather than reach firm, unshakeable conclusions. We’re also keen to get as soon as possible to the ‘doing bit’, as that will be the point at which we can all really start to learn what’s working, what’s not, and what we should do next.

So the sooner you can get involved the better, but this will not be the only opportunity to contribute your views: we want this to be just the start of a much longer conversation. We have committed to being consultative, collaborative and focused on sharing and learning throughout the lifespan of the programme – i.e. at least 10 years.

For now, there are three ways you can contribute to this process:

1) Fill in this form and click ‘submit’. All responses to the form will be shared openly here.

2) Tweet #accesscapacity – we’ll be collating these and sharing them here.

3) Drop us an email to, and include #accesscapacity in the subject line.

This represents a first step in a process we want to develop with the interested and the willing – to find out not just what you want us to hear, but how you want to tell us. Continuing to be open and responsive to feedback – and supporting all of you to share with/ learn from each other – will be crucial to understanding the impact of funded activities, and will guide us and our delivery partners as we refine existing programmes and develop new ones over the next decade.

I’ve also started to look at existing research, as we need to be grounded in a sound understanding of what is currently known, and where there may be gaps in the evidence-base: I’ll have more on that to share with you in a fortnight. I’ll be publishing my next post on the 7th of August, in which I’ll give our summary of what we’ve heard so far, and in the light of that, our plans for the next fortnight’s activity.

I look forward to hearing from you….