MBE for Seb Elsworth, Chief Executive of Access

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Seb Elsworth, chief executive of Access – the Foundation for Social Investment, has received an MBE for services to social investment in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.  

The honour recognises Seb’s various voluntary sector roles, where he has spent his whole career, including as the first chief executive of Access, from 2015 onwards.     

Designed to ‘disrupt’ the existing social investment market, Access works to make social investment more accessible for charities and social enterprises and widen its reach into places and communities that were previously excluded.  

Under Seb’s leadership, Access launched the pioneering Growth Fund, a £50m partnership between The National Lottery Community Fund and Big Society Capital, delivered by Access through a range of social investors. Offering the type of finance that smaller charities and social enterprises need – typically smaller pots of money to organisations without an established history of taking on finance – the Growth Fund has significantly increased the supply of smaller scale unsecured loans. Around half of the Growth Fund is invested in the most deprived 30% of neighbourhoods and the latest data available suggests that the programme contributed around a fifth of the loans made by social investors over the last few years.  

In 2018, Access moved away from the language of supply and demand within the social investment market, focusing instead on the role enterprising activity plays in increasing the resilience of charities and social enterprises. 

In 2020, Access secured £60m of additional funding from dormant assets – helping smaller charities and social enterprises to access suitable and affordable finance through blending grants and loans in the places and communities most in need. This investment enabled emergency lending to charities and social enterprises in the early stages of the pandemic and continues to provide patient and flexible social investment for organisations post-Covid.  

Nick Hurd, Chair of Access – the Foundation for Social Investment, said: ‘This is an important recognition of both Seb and Access’s work to date and how we have sought to work alongside others to change the way the sector is financed and supported over the long term.  

‘This type of systemic change is neither quick nor easy and Seb has consistently navigated this with his characteristic thoughtfulness and collaborative style. Under his leadership, the Access team has gone from strength to strength – never losing focus on making finance work for charities and social enterprise, particularly smaller organisations based in disadvantaged places.’