It’s been five years since we established the South West Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) Fund as the first of its kind in the UK. Since 2016 we have met, connected and built relationships with many brilliant social enterprises across Bristol and the South West. From this 16 social enterprises have received investment helping them to scale up their organisations, enabling them to reach and support more of the most marginalised and disadvantaged people and communities in the region.
We are delighted to share the publication of the South West SITR Fund’s fifth Social Impact Report – a challenging but successful year, with 58% of enterprises increasing their turnover and 72% increasing the number of people they have supported, compared to last year.
As we mark this special report - five years and full deployment - we also wanted to reflect on the Fund’s journey to this point.
Over the last five years the enterprises the Fund works with have had an incredibly positive impact on the disadvantaged communities within which they work. Between them, enterprises have reached and supported thousands of people across the region.
Many parts of the South West experience high levels of deprivation, for example, 26% of children are living in the region are in poverty. The Fund is playing its part in dismantling the many, and often complex, causes of poverty. By providing a wide range of support and accessible, inclusive opportunities, portfolio enterprises are helping to lift individuals, families and communities out of poverty, enabling them to raise their ambitions and fulfil their potential. At the same time, they are helping to level-up the region, contributing toward a fairer and more equal society.
We asked our two Senior Investment Managers, Donna Thomas and Katalin Juhasz, who have managed the Fund and worked closely with social enterprises over the last five years, to each share a social enterprise highlight, a hardship or challenge faced and a hero - someone or an enterprise that has really stood out for them - from during this time.
Donna oversees the portfolio management, deal origination and technical assistance for enterprises within the South West SITR Fund. She continues to work closely with each enterprise to ensure the Fund reaches its social and financial targets. Donna said:
Highlight: “Seeing our investment into SoFab Sports enable them to move into an accessible spacious building to support their vulnerable co-workers and allow them to keep operating through the challenges of COVID”
Hardship: “Working closely with our enterprises as COVID-19 crisis and lockdowns brought their businesses to a halt. For example, Bristol 247 who’s advertising revenue disappeared over night and were forced to let many of their community reporters go, but still managed to give the city a voice with a skeleton crew.”
Hero: “Joni Lloyd, operations manager at Street Impact Bristol and Sarah Louise Hopkins, CEO at Leading Lights Education and Wellbeing who stepped up to the massive challenge their clients faced during COVID whilst managing to grow their impact and bottom line to service their clients’ needs and there investment commitments.”
Katalin specialises in deal origination and developing the Fund’s pipeline and relationships. She manages taking enterprises through the all-important due diligence and investment process for the fund. Katalin said:
Highlight: “Being able to support the journeys of and provide follow on investments to Belong Learning, Raised in Bristol and Sofab Sports despite the pandemic. These teams worked extra hard and continued to deliver incredible impact while maintaining commercial focus - and were able to raise investment for their growth - essential to their long-term sustainability, and ultimately to grow their impact.”
Hardship: “It was devastating to see the loss of two very impactful social enterprises, Bristol Bearpit CIC and Chandos House in 2019, despite our efforts to support recovery plans.”
Hero: “Anne Malindine and Sasha Lines, who were just at the beginning of their journey to set up Raised In Bristol when I first met them about 5 years ago. They persevered to get started and now are going from strength to strength and continue their journey to find and support local communities and are now able to unlock social investment confidently to support their ambitious plans. A women-led social enterprise on an incredible journey.”
We are pleased that despite the many challenges the pandemic has thrown at enterprises, they have proved their resilience and agility in adapting to the huge changes they have faced. You will see from this year’s social impact report that they have all found new and innovative solutions – with many moving their services online - helping them to continue their levels of support for the people who are hardest to reach and have been most negatively impacted by COVID-19.
Whilst there’s no doubt that the pandemic has been tough for enterprises - and obviously there remain significant uncertainties and challenges ahead - we are beginning to see them return to their growth plans after adapting to its initial impact and continue to work closely with them as they recover from COVID-19.
It is incredibly rewarding to see the level of impact being delivered by our enterprises in the Fund and we look forward to seeing what more they will achieve in tackling poverty and disadvantage and helping to build back better, across the region.
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