Birmingham Council leader: ‘investment angels’ scheme will “recapture the spirit of business-for-social-good”


Further to this post, the launch event yesterday of the new investment angel group for social enterprises based in the Greater Birmingham area was a great success.

This new form of investment — which combines investment angels who understand the values and ethos of the social enterprise sector with access to business mentoring and other forms of support — is a joint initiative with ClearlySo.

Sir Albert Bore, welcoming this new scheme, gave a speech which wove together the city’s heritage of reforming entrepreneurs, the new legislation on ‘social value’, and the council’s own Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility.

The scheme marks an attempt, he said, “to recapture the spirit of business-for-social-good”.

You can read the whole of Sir Albert’s speech below.

More information on the investment angels network from Sarah Crawley at iSE. Send Sarah mail.

Speech — Sir Albert Bore

Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council leader, welcoming the new social angels initiative: "Victorian entrepreneurs such as the Cadburys would recognise this effort to combine business and social good"

Sir Albert Bore, Birmingham City Council leader: “Victorian entrepreneurs such as the Cadburys would recognise this effort to combine business and social good”

I’m delighted to be here today at the launch of Birmingham’s investment angels network.

The aim of this project – a partnership between ClearlySo, iSE and the BIG Lottery – is to unlock new investment for the social enterprise sector and help build a local network of ‘investment angels’ who have the interests of the social enterprise sector at heart and understand its values and ethos.

The money of those who are able to invest is important, obviously, but in some cases their time, support and expertise may be of even greater value, because we also need to build the confidence of social enterprises so that they are ready and able to grow using finance from social investors.

I welcome this initiative, because if we want to see the sector grow and prosper – and we all do – then new types and sources of investment have to be found.

“Investment” has got itself something of a bad name in recent years, hasn’t it? In the period since the financial crisis and the banking bail-out, investment has become synonymous with greed and some of the worst business practices we are ever likely to witness.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

…In the 1800s and early-1900s some of Birmingham’s biggest employers were philanthropist-entrepreneurs who wanted to use their businesses to change not just Birmingham but the world. The Cadburys are perhaps the most widely known example – and the family’s grant-making and charitable trusts still continue their work today and have especially strong ties with Birmingham.

These were business people who were also social reformers. They wanted a financial return, but they also wanted their business activity to be a force for social good.

To put this in today’s language, they were interested in ‘social value’.

Well, what goes around comes around, as they say…

…The passage into law of the Public Services (Social Value) Act in 2012 put social value right back at the top of the public policy agenda – and once again, Birmingham is at the forefront.

The council has changed its entire service commissioning approach so that social value is a reality and not just lip service.

The contracts we are now letting don’t just meet the requirements of this new legislation – they exceed it…

…And the help we have had in this from those in the sector, such as BSSEC, must be recognised here because it is a great example of the kind of partnership work that all local authorities must now engage in if they are to achieve real, lasting change in how they do things.

As a local authority we have got to make the local pound work harder and deliver more for our citizens. We have launched the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility to do just this – it is how we intend to promote social value right through our supply-chain and beyond.

The Victorian Cadburys would have recognised these efforts to bring business and social good together.

I believe we need to recapture this spirit of business-for-social-good.

The social enterprise sector has always believed it to be possible. We now need to get the message out to a much wider cross-section of individuals, businesses and organisations.

And one way we can do this is by enabling them to invest in and support the sector – give them the means of having a stake in the social enterprise sector.

That’s what this new initiative aims to do.

I welcome what iSE and ClearlySo are trying to achieve for the social enterprise sector in Birmingham.

Birmingham City Council is firmly behind this, as it is the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter, and I can also see opportunities to use the Birmingham Business Charter to further support what you are doing.

Just as the Charter can be used to create supply-chain opportunities for social enterprises, I believe it can also be used to promote the idea of social investment and the role of investment angels.

I think that together we are creating a new environment for business and philanthropy in Birmingham – we are reclaiming our heritage.

So let me once again thank you for inviting me here today. I wish this scheme every success and I look forward to continuing to work together to support and grow Birmingham’s social enterprise sector.

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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