Big Issue Invest Scotland, a new joint venture between Big Issue Invest (the social investment arm of The Big Issue) and our community development finance institution, DSL Business Finance has been established to provide social investment and loan finance to social enterprises, social ventures and Third Sector organisations in Scotland, offering loans from £3,000 to £1.5m and social investment from £50,000 to £1.5m. Like The Big Issue, we aim to help people to help themselves by investing in social enterprises that have business-like responses to social problems, with self-help and prevention at their core.
Big Issue Invest Scotland has a mission to back sustainable social ventures that help tackle poverty and inequality. This venture is led by social entrepreneurs and in due course we will discover if our knowledge of what social enterprises need, how they present their finances and how they blend social value with business management, gives a range of insight or perspectives that our customers appreciate. In developing a joint venture, cultural issues are always more significant than systems or structures. Process integration can be time-consuming and complex but when two partners have long-standing, largely implicit shared values and beliefs that influence team behaviour and attitudes, this becomes a positive experience of working with new people, learning from different methods and improving the experience for customers.
We are also hugely supportive of the Senscot led initiative to develop Scottish Community Reinvestment Trust; a financial institution aiming to use a share of the interest generated by Scottish third sector organisation funds on deposit, in order to support worthwhile but high risk social ventures.
While the challenges of establishing a financial institution are considerable, we take inspiration from the story of Vancity, a values-based financial co-operative serving the needs of 501,000 member-owners and their communities in British Columbia. Back in 1946, 14 Vancouverites, frustrated with the lack of financial services available to “regular folks” established Vancouver City Savings Credit Union. 68 years later, Vancity is the largest credit union in Canada, with $17.5 billion in assets, and these resources are used to develop healthy, sustainable communities and support social enterprise through the Enterprising Non Profits (enp) capacity building programme and the BC Social Enterprise Fund.
While we are fortunate and appreciative to have a supportive social enterprise policy environment in Scotland, we believe that it is worth pursuing the prospect of social entrepreneurs having independent resources to tackle inequality. It might not happen overnight but, in the words of Nelson Mandela, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.”
For more on Vancity, visit www.vancity.com