#AccessEd 18 – Getting going

Continuing our conversation about what's next for investment-readiness: how can Access and others effectively support as many charities and social enterprises as possible to make a start?

In my previous post, I set out the questions we’re considering as we look to the next phase of our life. Under the broad heading of investment-readiness, we’re seeking to understand where we can most effectively direct our resources to support social organisations at different stages of development. This online form sets out our specific questions on this front, and we’re keen to hear your views.

Having already had a few conversations about the subject, in this post I wanted to share some initial reflections on the earliest stage of readiness, what we’ve called ‘making a start’. As described in the ‘spectrum of readiness’ from my previous post, the most useful activities at this stage could include:

  • Reviewing current business model and income sources
  • Considering how this model serves an organisations’s fundamental social purpose
  • Developing options for trading activity which align with that purpose

There are a couple of key challenges for making support at this stage work: the first is a question of scale. How can Access and others provide meaningful, effective support to as large a number of organisations as possible? Assuming that, for many or most, they will not make a move towards seeking investment in the short-medium term, the net must be cast wide in order to surface the minority for whom developing a trading proposition is a logical next step. Hence the ‘unit cost’ of support per organisation must necessarily be low.

Secondly, there is the issue of avoiding giving the impression that social investment is a goal in itself. At this early stage, the focus needs to be on what forms of finance will best support an organisation to fulfill its social purpose. Social investment is one tool, and effective support should help an organisation determine for itself whether it is the best of all available options. Case studies, providing evidence of where investable business models have proved successful within different sectors, can be helpful in accelerating this process.

Good Finance has been designed to address both of these issues, providing clear and impartial information, including case studies, at a low unit cost. Having just had its full launch, we’ll be looking closely at how many of those ‘making a start’ find their way to the site, and how well it meets their needs when they do. We’re also conscious that this is only one part of the picture: online ‘broadcast’ alone is not likely to be enough to achieve scale and quality on its own, and there may well be a crucial role for in-person support, perhaps within groups of peers, making use of existing networks and infrastructure organisations. 

This in turn brings us back to the question of unit cost – no support of any quality comes ‘for free’, even where it involves peers volunteering their time and experience. Any network needs resources to sustain itself, and infrastructure organisations, particularly at a local level, have been stretched for some time now. 

So these are the issues we’re thinking through, and we want to hear from you: what have we missed? Please let us know your thoughts, via the online form, or on email