The Barrow Cadbury Trust is very pleased to be partnering with the Access Foundation for the delivery of the new Infrastructure Investment Fund. With a fund of £1.8m over three years, the investments and grants we make will strengthen existing infrastructure, bring new entrants into the sector and extend support to organisations that have not previously been able to access social finance.
The new fund is entirely focused on supporting infrastructure (by infrastructure we mean social investment intermediaries and support organisations, plus the shared processes, tools, networks and partnerships that enable best practice). Our vision is, over the period of the fund, to facilitate the development of a strong, sustainable, collaborative community of support providers. We will be doing this in three ways:
- Making investments in existing infrastructure support agencies, for example to enable them to increase capacity, skill and effectiveness, grow their business or reach new markets, all in ways that increases their strength, resilience and sustainability.
- Extending the reach of the sector, by supporting new entrants (for example CVSs and other local support agencies) and exploring how support can be extended to geographic and sectoral “cold spots”. This element of the work is likely to take the form, initially, of small feasibility studies to explore provision of social investment support, or perhaps delivering a social investment funding programme.
- Thirdly, we will be looking to strengthen the sector by funding research, development and innovation. We expect to grant-fund or invest in a diverse portfolio which could include the development of new tools, standardised systems of data collection, awareness raising and communications, sharing best practice as well as projects to fill other gaps that become clear over the course of the programme.
Of course the availability of advice and support may not be the only factor preventing access to social finance, so there is scope to explore barriers and develop new solutions: blended finance, developing fresh thinking, developing shared tools and collective learning will go a long way towards accelerating change.
Access chose us to deliver this fund because of our expertise in sector infrastructure, our experience in social investment and our approach, which is to work in partnership with those we fund towards a common goal. Our model of working is to focus on a small number of policy areas, where we have deep knowledge, and try to influence decision-makers and practitioners by building an evidence base, advocating for change and ensuring that people affected by social injustices are heard by those in positions of power. Those guiding principles will be used in developing and delivering the programme.
We expect to launch the new programme in the summer with a call for expressions of interest for a first round of investments. The next few years will be an exciting time for all of us.