From Tanzania to Tower Hamlets…social investment opportunities get global

Social Finance and Ingenious Media recently co-hosted a fascinating seminar on impacting investment, whilst showcasing two very different offers that highlighted the growing range of products for prospective social investors.

After a welcome from Ingenious Director Sebastian Speight, the Social Impact VCT was introduced by Kate Liebson of Social Finance and presented by Jeff Dober of FSE Group, who are acting as fund managers. The VCT is a £6m fund looking to invest across four pillars of social impact; building futures, community cohesion, socially-motivated brands, and health and education. Social Finance are responsible for deal origination and impact measurement, and are looking for established social enterprises whose revenue streams are expected to be underpinned wholly or partially by delivery contracts. A worked example was of Bromley Healthcare, an NHS “spin-out” providing community health services. For more about Bromley Healthcare watch this interview with the CEO Jonathan Lewis.

We also heard from Phil Conway, founder and CEO of Cool2Care, a company providing carers for children with disabilities. What Phil brought to the session was the real life experience of growing up with a disabled child, and his passion for running a business putting the needs of the user as a priority. It is this personal motivation combined with his previous financial experience that makes a company like Cool2Care an exciting investment proposition.

Then we heard from Ingenious about a very different offering, their African Solar Fund. This is an opportunity for social investment to transform the cost of energy supply in some of the most deprived households in Africa. The social issue at hand here is the high cost of kerosene as an energy supply, meaning that after sunset children are unable to study, small businesses are unable to operate, as well as other issues such as fire risks and the negative health effects associated with kerosene usage.

There is a strong body of evidence for using solar energy as an alternative to kerosene, but the high upfront costs of the units often prove prohibitive. The African Solar Fund will invest in companies providing off-grid solar technology, and revenue will be generated from the sale of scratch cards at local vendors. These cards allow the user to activate the solar panels and provide lighting for a set period of time.

Both projects present great opportunities to become lead investors in this new, growing and exciting market. The amount of people in the room was testament to how much interest there is in the retail investor community for such products. All of us at Social Finance appreciated the opportunity to share a stage with Ingenious Media, and found the session a great example of how mainstream investors are exploring how finance can provide solutions to entrenched social issues, and deliver a blend of financial and social returns.

By Sarah Henderson, Communications Analyst at Social Finance

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