Big Lottery Fund chief says sector should not be 'scared off' by social investment

It might look highly technical but in fact provides real opportunities for voluntary and community organisations, Dawn Austwick tells Acevo annual conference

Dawn Austwick
Dawn Austwick

Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, has said that voluntary sector organisations should not be "scared off" social investment because it looks too complicated.

She was speaking at the chief executives body Acevo’s annual conference in London on Thursday.

Austwick, who joined the BLF seven weeks ago from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, repeated her commitment to social investment and to making better use of the vast amounts of data held by the BLF, which she said could help the wider sector.

She told delegates: "There is a risk in social investment that voluntary and community organisations are scared off it because it looks highly technical, financially driven and too difficult.

"I think there is a real opportunity for voluntary and community organisations in social investment that is driven by the mission."

Austwick said the additionality principle – that lottery funding should be used to fund only activities that are separate and distinct from those provided by the state – was one of the "constant principles" that would remain with the BLF in the future, along with the notion of it being a responsive grant-maker. But she said she did not think the concept could be an absolute.

"I don’t think I’ve ever believed that additionally can be an absolute because governments over the years have always changed," she said. "There are certain things that will sit within and certain things that will sit without. 

"But there has always been a grey area. What is important is where that grey area now is and how we can traverse it, particularly at times of great need."

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