Monday, 12 March 2012

Bridges to where?

Always good to celebrate anniversaries. This one for Bridges Venture; although only 10 years it has been a pioneer in social venture capital. A brainchild of a particular hero of mine, Sir Ronnie Cohen, it makes loans to businesses who work in particular areas with high unemployment , with an emphasis on creating local jobs.

Ronnie Cohen is not just the father of venture capital but also the pioneer of using social finance to grow the third sector. He was the driving force behind the Big Society Capital idea and using dormant accounts to create a capital market in the third sector. He is still an evangelist for loans- using the event top rightly castigate foundations for not using their endowments in more imaginative ways that blend loans with grants and use their investments top encourage social business and third sector enterprise.

So it was a fun vent. At St Luke's Church in Old St- a redundant church that now houses rehearsal studios for the LSO. And a rather star studded guest list to hear Al Gore and Evan Davis debate the question " how can capitalism help develop society".

           Evan Davies with Ronnie Cohen

                       Al Gore

It turned out to be a useful event because I bumped into Richard Pelly, the CEO of the European Investment Fund. He is charged with delivering a £100 social innovation fund for the EU. The EIF are a capital intermediary; they make loans to bodies who loan SMEs. So this is a new extension of their role into our sector. Potentially hugely exciting, so we agree to have breakfast and meet up at the Cinnamon Club to plot how both ACEVO and the Social Investment business can help grow this market. It probably means a trip to Brussels to meet the relevant EU Commissioners to talk about our established track record and how that might apply across Europe, especially in creating jobs. The EU needs to move from a total reliance on grants to spread the value of the Social Fund. I can't say trekking to Brussels is a joy!

Then it's back home to an all day session with my Directors Group to discuss forward strategy. Taking time out to reflect on future trends is important amd we have a valuable day, facilitated by strategic guru Seb Elsworth who is currently sojourning at the SIB but he was helpfully back to check up on the progress of his 3 strategic circles.

And I spent the weekend investing in my garden; plants bought from Letchworth Garden City and put out into the splendid Yorkshire pots I bought in Barnsley. An investment in joy for the coming spring...

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