An unusual journey

Reflections from John Kingston, our Chair, as we come to the 'end of the beginning' of our journey.

Chairing a new board of a new foundation is unusual. The challenge is not one of adapting an old strategy to a new context, but rather starting with a blank sheet of paper and working out how to have the greatest impact. For a start, at Access, trustees and staff have agreed to work to a ten year life, to concentrate the mind!

Our goal is clear, to bridge the gap between smaller charities and social enterprises and social investors. We have two main tools at our disposal:

1) The Growth Fund which will help increase the availability of small scale lending for charities and social enterprises; and 2) our capacity building programme, which will help more charities and social enterprises be able to use social investment opportunities to meet their goals.

The Growth Fund is in the early stages of delivery now and we are consulting on the design of the capacity building programme which will go live in the spring of 2016.

Getting the right money to the right organisations is only part of our challenge. A ten year life stimulates us to work out what we want the world to look like once we have packed up and gone home. A big part of that is to work closely with our partners, share and disseminate data and learning, and show how things can be done differently, so that others can take forward that legacy. The board met during the summer of 2015 to start to map out this theory of change.

On the Growth Fund, we want our partners to play a key part in changing the experience for charities and social enterprises in accessing loans. We see trusted relationships between lenders and borrowers at the heart of the market, great customer service for those taking on investment, and support from the lender, even when going through assessment, which really adds value to the organisation. We see no reason why applying for a loan shouldn’t be easier and quicker than applying for a grant – and, if we get the advice and guidance right, with a greater chance of success.

For our capacity building programmes which are currently in design, we know already that the support we provide must set investment opportunities in the broader context of how the models for charities and social enterprises are changing. Building resilient organisations that can achieve change and demonstrate impact is one way of describing our ambition. Another is helping organisations move from fundraising for their inputs to getting resources to back their outputs and impact.

Over our ten years we hope to be able to support hundreds of charities and social enterprises to move along that journey. As we do we will be sharing the learning and data from all our programmes, and celebrating what we have learned from our mistakes as well as our successes. We have made a start through our blogs, reflecting on how our work is evolving.

We look forward to sharing the journey with you.