Creating a more inclusive financing eco-system: a behind the numbers look at our Flexible Finance programme

Learn how Flexible Finance is creating a more inclusive financing ecosystem by intentionally targeting parts of the market that are underserved, with 36% of its beneficiaries being Black and minoritised-led organisations

Flexible Finance is Access’s £22m programme, funded by the Dormant Asset Scheme, dedicated to bridging the gap in patient and flexible social investment products for charities and social enterprises. Launched in 2021, the programme creates a more inclusive financing ecosystem by intentionally targeting parts of the market that are underserved such as those from marginalised or Black and minoritised communities. Working closely with our social investment partners, the programme targets investments with business models that require more time and patience to generate the returns investors need, while also trying to attract capital providers with varying risk appetites to blend with our grant subsidy.

This blog explores how Flexible Finance targets Black and minoritised-led organisations through its bespoke approach, in line with one of its key objectives: delivering patient and flexible financial resources, facilitating efficient capital flow, and reaching underserved market segments, particularly diverse-led organisations. We will provide a detailed comparison of our outcomes against other Access programmes, delve into the unique strategies employed by Flexible Finance, and highlight specific programmes that have contributed significantly to this success. By doing so, we hope to shed light on the ‘how’ behind the achievements.

Reaching Black and minoritised-led organisations

Flexible Finance stands out among Access’s blended finance programmes due to its reach and impact on Black and minoritised-led organisations. While EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) encompasses a broad range of considerations beyond racial equity, this blog deliberately focuses on the programme’s achievements in supporting Black and minoritised-led organisations.

A recent literature review conducted by Middlesex University, in partnership with Access, Social Investment Business and Power to Change, found that minoritised ethnic social and community enterprises face lower success rates in social investment programs. Generalist programs support fewer of these organisations compared to their representation in the UK population. Additionally, minoritised ethnic-led organisations receive smaller investments than their non-minoritised counterparts. The report recommended that to address these disparities, the sector must enhance engagement, improve data collection, simplify applications, and update language to better reflect diversity and inclusion goals.

Unfortunately, there is no sector-wide data available to compare with but comparing with Access’ other programmes (of which 2 others are collecting EDI data) demonstrates the strong reach of the Flexible Finance programme. 15% of the Cost-of-Living programmes (CoL) organisations are Black and minoritised-led, in comparison to only 4% of Enterprise Growth for Communities (EGC) organisations. Yet 36% of Flexible Finance’s organisations are Black and minoritised-led.

This translates to nearly 3.5 times more investment in these communities compared to other Access programmes. It’s important to note that this is emerging data: Flexible Finance, while the longest-running programme, is still only 62% deployed. The Enterprise Growth for Communities (EGC) and Cost-of-Living programmes, in contrast, are at 28% and 45% deployment, respectively, and therefore these proportions will likely change with the delivery of more investments.


Proportion of Organisations that are Black and minoritised-led  

Proportion of funding delivered to Black and minoritised-led organisations 

Enterprise Growth for Communities 



Flexible Finance 



Cost of Living 



All Programmes 



These statistics demonstrate how the design of the Flexible Finance programme is more effectively channelling resources into the hands of underrepresented and marginalised communities, promoting equality and inclusivity within the social investment sector.

The Flexible Finance Approach

Flexible Finance’s approach is multifaceted, designed to cater specifically to the needs of marginalised communities. In 2021, the programme engaged in a co-design process, collaborating with fund managers to agree on priorities for the programme. The programme embeds equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) outcomes into its core operations, guided by the Equality Impact Investing Project (EII). This commitment is reflected in various ways:

1. Product Design: Flexible Finance’s products are tailored to support organisations facing exclusion, and with diverse leadership. The programme integrates better EDI outcomes by requiring all applicants to indicate how they would contribute to these aims guided by the Equality Impact Investing Project (pages 32-40). This commitment is reflected in various ways:

  • EII 1: Supports underrepresented entrepreneurs (7/9 funds committed to prioritising this).
  • EII 2: Invests in diverse leadership (7/9 funds committed to prioritising this).
  • EII 3: Focuses on systemic change (5/9 funds committed to prioritising this).

2. Geographic Focus: Targets high deprivation areas (The most deprived 40% of the country by the Indices of Multiple Deprivation).

3. Strategies for Marginalised Communities: Fund managers were encouraged to develop their own delivery strategies to help overcome lack of access. Some of the initiatives they have developed include:

  • Partnerships with local groups.
  • Mobile banking units.
  • Community workshops.

Specific Funds within the Programme which are Contributing to Success

Flexible Finance has so far delivered £4.7m to Black and minoritised-led organisations out of a total of £14.28m, with 82% of that being delivered by the following three organisations, instrumentally driving the success of the Flexible Finance programme so far.

Create Equity, Social Investment Business (SIB) and The Ubele InitiativeRecovery Loan Fund (11 investments made into Black and minoritised-led organisations) 

The Recovery Loan Fund is a flagship initiative under Flexible Finance, designed to support charities and social enterprises, particularly those led by Black and minoritised groups. Key features include:

  • Targeting black and minoritised-led organisations and providing grants to enable them to meet the loan eligibility criteria for the fund where they would otherwise not. Offering tailored loans and support.
  • Adapting assessment for challenges specific to Black and Minoritised communities.

Charity BankLEAP (6 investments made into Black and minoritised-led organisations) 

Charity Bank’s LEAP programme focuses on supporting socially purposeful organisations with flexible, unsecured lending. Key aspects are:

  • One-third of lending to Black and Minoritised and excluded groups.
  • Provides ongoing support and expertise.
  • Measures social impact alongside financial metrics.

UnLtd and Big Issue InvestGrowth Impact Fund (4 investments made into Black and minoritised-led organisations)
The Growth Impact Fund prioritises investments in diverse-led organisations, focusing on those historically excluded from accessing social and commercial capital. Highlights include:

  • At least 50% of investments in diverse-led organisations.
  • Supports equality principles and overcomes investment barriers.


These encouraging trends demonstrate that through Flexible Finance, our partners are making a strong contribution towards creating a more inclusive financing ecosystem, significantly supporting Black and minoritised-led organisations, and promoting equality within the social investment sector. However, the programme still has a way to go, and we look forward to continuing to share insights as they emerge.