Enterprises to pitch ideas to panel of social funders

A group of social enterprises will compete for investment when they pitch their ideas to a panel of social financiers next month.

The Equal Invest scheme is funded by the European Social Fund and forms part of its UK Equal programme, which pioneers entrepreneurship, sustainable development and equal opportunities.

The 15 enterprises taking part have received mentoring from expert business volunteers to help improve their business infrastructures. Up to 10 will attend an event in London on 6 December, where representatives of social investor Big Issue Invest and third sector banking specialists Triodos Bank will consider their proposals.

The programme is run by professional support firm Tribal on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. In total, the project is worth £820,000 gross, made up of £410,000 from the European Social Fund, £300,000 from Tribal and £110,000 in-kind match funding from enterprise consultancy Eastside Consulting. A third partner, training assessment firm ABDI, will provide impact analysis for the scheme.

"The social enterprise development programme is about developing enterprises to become more sustainable," said Mariam Wahab, project manager of Equal Invest at Tribal. "We want to help enterprises to get a return on their investments and get them investment-ready."

Chris Webb, European projects director at Tribal, explained the firm's interest in the scheme. "Social enterprise is an important new sector, as shown by the fact that the Government has announced an enterprise action plan and significant new funding," he said. "This will be an important area of delivery in the future."

Alexia Everett-Kerrigan, Equal Invest project coordinator at the Social Enterprise Coalition, which provided consultancy for the initiative, said: "One of the things that's unique about this is the mentoring side - this is one-to-one support with a wide focus."

The social enterprises involved are the Brighter Future Workshop, Inclusive Solutions, Muddy Icon, the African Families Foundation, West Anglia Crossroads, Whitehouse Enterprises, Bikeworks CIC and CDA For Herts. Commedia Sheffield, Compass Peterborough and Elemental Worldwide also took part.

Key points

- The scheme is funded by £410k from the European Social Fund, £300k from Tribal and £110k from Eastside Consulting

- The 15 social enterprises taking part in the initiative have received mentoring from business volunteers

- Up to 10 of those will attend an event to submit their proposals to investors.

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