In 2016, CIVA received an endowment from an anonymous philanthropic source to create a social investment fund which would make loans to early-stage social enterprises to assist them with scaling up their work to a point where they were able to attract investment from more traditional social impact investors. Our approach is to invest early, providing affordable loan finance, whilst playing an active role in helping our investees toward success. We put impact first and recycle loan repayments into supporting more ventures.
We believe strongly that investing in the individual with the idea rather than looking at the detailed business planning, and then investing time and ideas to help make it work will provide to be a better approach than the more traditional Due Diligence decision process.
Our first investees are YearHere, a post-university programme for intending social entrepreneurs, School Space which manages and lets out school facilities for community and educational use, and hiSbe, a supermarket that buys locally and sells affordably whilst giving producers and growers around 3 times the margin that they would get through a supermarket supply chain. Others include Beam (employment for the homeless), NEMI Teas (employability for refugees and asylum seekers), Redemption Roasters (training before release and jobs for prisoners after release in coffee grinding and coffee shops), Social Spider (community newspapers).
We took the lead in creating a specific fund for food and farming working with the Real Farming Trust to establish a parallel fund. This was lunched in 2018 with support from CIVA, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the A-Team Foundation, plus additional support for a grants fund, a first loss fund and for capacity building of investees.
LEAP (Loans for Enlightened Agriculture) supports food projects at all stages in the chain from seed development, to growing, to distribution, including also projects with a more social emphasis, such as urban growing enterprises and projects working with people with disabilities.
We also worked with the Foundation for Integrated Transport to create a similar fund that invests in public transport, in providing affordable access for people and communities, in bicycle-powered delivery and in addressing urban pollution. This was also launched in 2017-18 with around £1 million to invest in around 20 projects.
All three funds are charitable but can invest in for-profit businesses as well as CICs and cooperatives provided the funds are used for public benefit within the constraints of UK charity law. Our aim is to provide an alternative form of finance between a grant and a more commercial loan at an affordable interest rate and a minimum of due diligence backing the individual(s) and the idea to create social change.
We have produced a handbook which provides details of our approach together with all the legal compliance issues and practicalities. This is available free for others to use. You can get a copy by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.