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Start-ups and leg-ups

25 June, 2020

Social enterprises around the world can be unparalleled catalysts for social change that are able to solve market and government failures by serving excluded and vulnerable populations. Social enterprises contribute £60 billion to the UK economy and employ 5% of the UK workforce. They employ tens of thousands of vulnerable and disadvantaged people such as those with disabilities, homeless people and veterans.

During COVID-19, though, they have suffered from inconsistent access to finance, as they rely on a funding matrix of loans, grants and traded income to grow and thrive. The difficulties in accessing grants has been identified by some to be the main barrier to growth for social enterprises.

In response to this challenge, our friends at NatWest have launched a £1 million S&CC Coronavirus Response Fund. The fund will offer grants between £5,000 – £50,000 to social enterprises (as well as charities and other community businesses) across the UK that employ people from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups and that have suffered a loss during COVID-19.* The NatWest grants will provide an alternative funding stream for social enterprises who have fallen between the bailout cracks and who currently do not qualify for mainstream loans or charity grants.

Several banks around the world have also rallied to the call from social enterprises during COVID-19. At the start of June DBS Bank Singapore created a $500,000 grant, set up through their Foundation, which hopes to attract 60+ social enterprises across Asia.

These creative solutions by banks to adapt and respond to the current challenges facing the sector should ensure that social enterprises can continue to run inclusive organisations that meet vital needs. Through utilising social enterprises’ valuable knowledge, experience and responses, together, we can learn a lot about what a better future model for business could look like.

(*Please note: Applications for NatWest’s S&CC Coronavirus Response Fund may only be open until Monday 29th June)

By Gemma Coate

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