Capacity Building – Our Consultation

This is the home for all of the material gathered through our capacity building consultation.

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In July 2015 we opened up a consultation process to take views on how best to use our £60M endowment – to be spent down over 10 years on capacity building activities for charities and social enterprises seeking to take on social investment. The material gathered here directly informed our strategy, which we have set out in detail here.

Hosting the conversation via our blog, we invited those with an interest in this area to fill in this form. You can view all of the 40 responses as a spreadsheet here, or in this PDF. In addition to this material, we met with over 50 organisations, received formal submissions from New Philanthropy Capital, Charity Finance Group and West London Zone, and published this summary of a roundtable discussion with support providers on the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund.

Our summary of what we heard

At a high level, our consultation established a general consensus on the ‘what‘ and the ‘how‘ for capacity building. Firstly the ‘what’: the capacities and capabilities charities and social enterprises are likely to need to develop in preparing to take on social investment or a contract. These are interdependent and will be most effectively addressed holistically, rather than each in isolation:

  • Leadership: skills, confidence and ‘thinking time’;
  • Governance: Knowledge and risk appetite of trustees, systems and processes;
  • Impact management: an organisation’s ability to quantify, report on, increase and ‘get paid for’ its impact;
  • Finance and business modelling: skills, confidence, tools and time to develop propositions;
  • Marketing: market-testing new ideas and effectively selling them;
  • Systems and use of data: an organisation’s ability to collect, analyse and respond to rich, relevant data in real time, through maintaining user-friendly and cost effective systems.

Secondly, the ‘how’: the design principles, methods and approaches which were consistently suggested to be the most conducive to delivering effective capacity building support:

  • Plain Language: consistently check for clarity and shared understanding at all times;
  • Starting Points: ‘social investment’ as a term in the abstract is not compelling for charities and social enterprises. Our programmes must put this instead in the context of the organisation’s mission;
  • Peer Support: using existing networks wherever possible, deliver key messages and invitations through people and organisations which charities and social enterprises identify with and trust;
  • One to Many: workshops/group discussions are cost-effective, can encourage stronger networks, and provide a route to more bespoke, one-to-one support;
  • Diagnosis and ‘Triage’: through a variety of on- and offline means, quick and inexpensive processes to identify investment potential and support needs is fundamental to effective programme delivery;
  • Openness and Transparency: as a general expectation and attitude across all partners and investees, expressed through regular publication of high quality data, and demonstrated via responding to learning gleaned from such data.


Next phase

Between April and June 2017 we’re opening up a conversation about our capacity building strategy for the next phase of our life, 2018-21.  It’s exciting, this time round, to be able to build on what we ourselves are doing as well as drawing lessons from others. You can read Ed’s fortnightly updates on this process in these blog posts