Finance: Finance provider will help social enterprises boost their impact

A London-based social enterprise has teamed up with a private equity firm to run an initiative aimed at helping social businesses grow and increase their impact.

Community Action Network, a support organisation for social entrepreneurs, and Permira, a European equity adviser, will work together on a two-year programme providing growth capital and strategic advice to social enterprises that need help achieving their long-term objectives.

Permira has committed an initial £683,800 of funding to the project, which is called Breakthrough, and will also donate mentoring services to social enterprises that demonstrate the necessary potential for change.

So far, Green-Works, an office furniture recycling company, Law For All, an organisation providing legal advice, and volunteering organisation TimeBank have been accepted for the scheme.

Speaking at the launch of Breakthrough, Adele Blakebrough, chief executive of Community Action Network, said social enterprises needed to be more business-minded to succeed and challenged the idea that social businesses should shy away from private-sector methods. "The other sectors are not to be feared," she said. "They are to be engaged with and learned about."

Blakebrough also said social enterprises should not continue to be patronised by the 'small is beautiful' mantra. Referring to the successes of large social enterprises, such as Jamie Oliver's restaurant, Fifteen, the Eden Project and Cafedirect, she asked: "Why are there not more of these well-known social enterprise brands?"

Meanwhile, Sir Mervyn Pedelty, former head of Co-operative Financial Services and senior adviser at Permira, urged social enterprises to be ambitious.

"It is important for social enterprises to make the transition from the hand-out to the hand-up," he said. "Until then, it is hard for them to become successful, competitive businesses."

Ed Miliband, minister for the third sector, said that social enterprise was part of "a profound social movement" and that government would have to learn to be "a better partner" to social initiatives.

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