SIB appointed as our Strategic Grants Partner

Today we have announced the launch of the second stage of the Enterprise Development Programme (EDP), with charities and social enterprises working in four sectors (homelessness, youth, mental health and equality) now benefiting from support to build and grow their enterprise models. We have also announced that Social Investment Business (SIB) have become a strategic partner for Access in the management of grant programmes. We are very pleased to have this opportunity to build on our existing relationship with SIB and I thought it might be helpful to explain what we hope this new partnership will mean.

In funder jargon Access is a wholesaler. This means that we don’t make grants to or support charities and social enterprises directly, but rather we design and develop programmes and then identify organisations to be able to deliver them for us.

SIB have been supporting various aspects of Access’s work for a number of years, including most significantly having delivered our main investment readiness programme, the Reach Fund, since 2016. SIB also managed grants for the Impact Management Programme and the pilot year of the EDP.

While we have always experienced SIB as a proactive and creative partner, with this next stage of the development of our programmes we wanted to build a new type of relationship which went well beyond that of a contractor and supplier. We wanted a partner who would be on a long term journey with us, one able to apply their expertise and knowledge to help co-create the programmes and evolve them over time, and crucially for Access as a fixed life organisation, a partner with real strategic alignment who is well placed to continue this journey once Access is gone.

Following an open tender process during the summer of 2019 we feel we have found that strategic partner in SIB. Their role will predominantly focus on the EDP but the procurement process was designed with significant flexibility to allow the chosen bidder to support other programmes over time.

The role won’t be an easy one. Within the EDP partnership SIB will play a key role alongside the lead organisations in each of the four sectors. To be relevant to charities and social enterprises in each sector, the programme needs to be tailored to their specific needs. Grants are only one of a number of different support products which will be made available to the participants. But to ensure an efficiently run programme which delivers value for money and produces high quality and consistent data from which we can all learn, there needs to be a clear central coordinating role. SIB have a good track record of building these sorts of partnerships and are already showing how they can support each of the sector partners to deliver their own aims while providing robust infrastructure and broad expertise.

In addition to providing this glue across the programme SIB will use their many years of experience to ensure that there is excellent customer service, strong data gathering and efficient systems underpinning the EDP. When it comes to making and managing grants, SIB will build on their knowledge of ensuring that applications and monitoring is proportionate and crucially that incentives are well aligned to encourage the organisation to focus on enterprise development.

We are confident that SIB’s role as our new strategic partner will allow the EDP to not only provide targeted and timely support for hundreds of charities and social enterprises to help build their enterprise models but also help gather vital learning about the business models which work in different sectors and how they help build resilience for those organisations delivering impact across England.