This is the fourth in a series of posts setting out the questions we at Access are considering as we determine our strategy for investment-readiness support. As we did back in 2015, we’ve asked for your comments via an online form: this will remain open until this Friday, June 16th, so if you have something you’d like us to hear, get your response in as soon as you can.
For now, we’re pleased to be able to share an initial read-out from the responses we’ve received thus far: many thanks to all of you who have taken the time to send us your thoughts. You can see them all in full here: below I pick out three initial themes which have presented themselves. We hope they prompt those of you yet to respond to add your voice to the conversation.
1 – The role of providers needs careful thought:
“Who’s done best out of Big Potential? The providers. The best of those leave the organisations they work with in a stronger state, the worst perpetuate dependence“;
“For one-off needs, external expertise is efficient and can be impactful, but where the skills are likely to be needed on an ongoing basis then the organisation should be supported either to develop internal skills, or to bring in those skills on a more ongoing basis, e.g. through board members.”
Through Access’ short life, the issue of how to get best value out of an external advisor has been widely debated. Specifically, there is a balance to strike between building durable skills within a ‘client’ organisation and doing work for the client, ‘outsourced’ in that it doesn’t make sense for the organisation to bring the skills required in house. If you’re a provider which has worked on Big Potential, or a charity or social enterprise which has received a grant from the programme, we’d be really interested in your views.
2 – The importance of openness and opportunities to build ‘collective intelligence’, particularly around viable business models:
“benchmarking and previous examples of plans and propositions is a useful and ‘quick’ way for ventures to best consider what they might be able to offer”;
“You want investees to be able to have open, frank conversations about the future (including challenges, doubts etc) without worrying about the impact on their existing investment. Support is vital, but there should be some element of independence, if you want honest, open conversations.”
Through the responses to the form, and in various discussions we have been having, the potential of greater, more systematic sharing of the collected experience of all of those involved in investment readiness projects has been a recurring theme. Specifically, many organisations have developed business plans and there will now be patterns between those which are working well in different industries, and those which are less viable. We would welcome any suggestions you have for how we and others could develop a rich, accessible set of information to support charities and social enterprises most efficiently navigate their options for trading and diversifying their income.
3 – Peer support continues to be highly valued by the sector:
“Match-making (‘buddying’) between organisations who have received support and those who are at the early stages of considering such support. It would be ideal if these buddies could be organisations of a similar scale and / or which are geographically close together for informal advice, sharing their journey, and peer support… informal, unbiased advice from others who’ve been through the process would be great.”;
“connections with a coach or mentor to support the entirety of the process would be excellent.”
This could be seen, in part, as both a delivery mechanism for, and generator of, the ‘collective intelligence’ mentioned above. We have consistently heard that charities and social enterprises get a lot out of sharing their experiences with each other: so how do we most effectively integrate peer support into our programmes?
“Charities and social enterprises will thrive if they become the masters of their own destiny.”
A final point which has been expressed from a number of different perspectives is the importance of agency – charities and social enterprises having greater understanding of and control over their journey through developing new income sources. We’ll be working through the implications of this and the other themes above, and sharing our thoughts as we develop our plans in more detail. In the meantime, if there’s anything we’ve missed, let us know by the end of the week…