New investment into Bristol to help grow the social economy 

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Change Sign Rainbow Credit Magalita B via Flickr
3 February, 2020


Bristol will receive a share of a new £33 million investment programme that is aimed at tackling inequality through boosting the social economy. The money will support charities and social enterprises in the city and help grow the local social economy and tackle local issues.

Local Access, a partnership between Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, and Big Society Capital, will provide money for six places nationally: Bradford; Bristol; Gainsborough; Greater Manchester (Bolton, Oldham, Stockport and Wigan); Hartlepool, Redcar & Cleveland; and Southwark in London.

This is the second major investment into Bristol’s social economy in the last six months, following on from City Funds’ success in raising £10 million in October 2019. The two investments will work together to support Bristol-based organisations on their journey to social enterprise. City Funds can currently invest between £50,000 and £1 million in repayable finance—grants from Local Access will amplify City Funds investments by providing earlier stage enterprise support and blended finance. 

Sandra Meadows, Chief Executive of Voscur, said: “This investment is a major vote of confidence in Bristol’s growing social economy. We’re proud to be one of the partners driving it forward, building and extending on the enterprise and financial support we currently deliver through our work with City Funds and as Bristol’s VCSE support and development agency. We believe that a thriving social enterprise sector is crucial to tackling social, environmental and economic inequalities in Bristol. We want to maximise the value of local assets and use these investments to help communities, residents, leaders and businesses work together to achieve a more equitable city.”

Bristol formed a partnership to bid for the investment; this was initiated by Bristol and Bath Regional Capital and developed by Voscur, including Black South West Network, Quartet Community Foundation, and the School for Social Entrepreneurs (Dartington). This Local Access Partnership (LAP) will now begin a co-design process with Access and Big Society Capital to refine their plans with the aim to launch in the second half of this year.

The investment will be used to:

  • Direct more social investment to enterprises working with disadvantaged communities
  • Increase the scale and reach of these social enterprises in trading with consumers, businesses and institutions
  • Increase the quality and collective impact of these enterprises
  • Increase the social economy’s market share
  • Encourage Bristol’s wider business sector to nurture social as well as financial returns.

Financial capital is currently out of reach for many local enterprises in Bristol. Development support does exist, however it is fragmented, short-term and lacks coordination.

The local access partnership will address the need for blended finance, which will make City Funds accessible to enterprises led by disadvantaged communities, as well as the provision of sustainable local development support to help enterprises to scale their impact.

The LAP will support the development of staff from local organisations to form a network of enterprise associates that will provide professional development and peer mentoring to other organisations, with the aim of shifting the culture of the social economy one leader at a time.

The LAP aims to make investment and enterprise support accessible to 394 social enterprises in Bristol.

It will help to strengthen Bristol’s social economy and make the city a more fair, healthy and sustainable place to live by enabling social enterprises to sustain and scale their social, economic and environmental impact.

Update 2021: The Local Access programme has started to deliver social enterprise development support and social investment, led by a range of local frontline groups and infrastructure bodies. If your organisation is interested in utilising support from the programme, or keeping up to date with developments, contact David at Voscur.

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