David Floyd: Whitehall and 'mission-led businesses'

What is the real purpose behind the Cabinet Office's social investment team's review, ponders our columnist

The Cabinet Office social investment team has launched a review of profit-distributing "mission-led businesses". Unfortunately, the term is not used outside Whitehall and the review panel includes no representatives of social enterprises or cooperatives, nor anyone from mainstream businesses with a recognised track record of interest in social good.

An unimpressed Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, noted: "It's not uncommon for government reviews to disappoint, but it's rare for a review to disappoint before it has even begun."

Along with many in the social enterprise and charity world, he suspects the review has been set up mainly to help social investors, which are struggling to invest their government-backed cash in civil society organisations and would prefer to invest in innovatively labelled profit-distributing businesses instead.

While the government was doing its bit to move the goalposts for social investors, Access: The Foundation for Social Investment announced plans to spend the first part of its £60m budget.

Its £3.6m Reach Fund will provide investment-readiness grants of £10,000, and a programme funding impact management will include the creation of an entertainingly named "self-service pathway" to help organisations develop their impact strategies.

This is generally positive stuff, but it also serves to highlight the fact that, in many areas of the UK, there is little or no capacity-building support available to social enterprises that are not seeking investment.

David Floyd is managing director of Social Spider CIC, which provides research and training

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