Kia ora koutou! 

I’m currently in Europe and getting an insight into what is happening in our sector.  I’ve arranged visits with a number of leading organisations, and I am also attending the European Venture Philanthropy Association conference.  I’ll provide some insights into each organisation as I visit them.  First up; a visit to Bridges Ventures.

Bridges Ventures is specialist fund manager dedicated to sustainable and impact investment. I met with Olivia Prentice, Manager for the Impact+ Team.  This team works across all Bridges’ funds and supports the growth of the impact investing market externally. 

Key areas of discussion

What are they learning?
The importance of client-centred outcomes language.  They see meaningful outcome definition and description has the people receiving services at the centre. Spending time on defining these up front is more important than getting straight into impact measurement. 

Business models and impact areas must align for success in social impact investment.  The most effective models include strong alignment, support for capacity development and evaluation and funding the ‘sweet spot’ in business design.  An example of all elements coming together was the creation of a low cost gym model which became the very successful The Gym.  The Gym provides low-cost health and fitness facilities in purpose-built gyms that are open 24 hours a day. The Gym currently has over almost 70 branches in operation across England and Scotland offering  affordable access in underserved areas.

Bridges share their learnings in a series of reports

What are their emergent practice observations?
Despite a social investment market that has advanced, more private investment and diverse investment will be needed in the future to ensure sustainable social impact investment models. The sector needs to keep adapting and increase its knowledge of impact areas and outcomes for investment.

What’s on the five to ten year horizon?
Trialling new structures for impact investment.  Longer term investment models  - beyond 5-10 years –are seen as needed for social and systems change.

What are the wild cards?
Brexit !  This is a real threat to investment growth.

Insights and learnings
It was interesting to see the differences in investment models as well as similar use of assessment and development tools.  It’s good to see social impact investment also focuses on building capacity and capability of service providers, supporting effective measurement and recognising the importance of client-centred outcomes  - putting people at the centre of more effective models. It was also interesting to see impact investment focusing across the sectors including social businesses and social enterprise models – as well as for-profit social service providers.

Great to see a focus on sharing practice and learning for greater impact as a deliberate strategy within the Bridges model.

Finally the use of multiple funding models and frameworks to suit different levels of the market for social impact.