£1.3m expansion for transformative investment scheme on a mission to empower Bristol’s social enterprises

April 15, 2024

An investment programme that has already injected £2.5m into more than 100 Bristol social enterprises is to launch a second transformative round of funding and support to help more businesses in the sector.

The additional £1.3m will help the firms become stronger and more sustainable through bespoke investment packages that include affordable repayable finance and small grants along with tailored business development support and training. 

First launched in 2021, the Bristol Local Access Programme (LAP) has played an important role in supporting the growth of social enterprises in the city – with around 130 firms already benefiting.

Now a £1.3m, second phase is being launched this month to follow on from the success of the first round.

The scheme was established with funding from Access: The Foundation for Social Investment to recognise the challenges faced by social enterprise models in securing traditional investment.

As well as aiming to rectify this disparity, it also seeks to foster more equitable access to finance.

The programme is managed by award-winning impact investment experts BBRC (Bristol & Bath Regional Capital) and underpinned by a partnership of five local organisations bringing a combination of expertise and support.

Each of these partners has specific targets for the next year, which include: 

  • Black South West Network will support 12 to 15 Black and minoritised social enterprises to incubate, accelerate and increase the investment-readiness of their social enterprise.
  • The School for Social Entrepreneurs will support 35 Bristol social enterprises, carry out diagnostics and needs assessments with 18 social enterprises, provide 10 places on its nine-month Enterprise Learning Programme, and offer a match-traded grant of up to £5,000.
  • Voscur will provide a broad range of support including one-to-one bespoke support for 40 organisations, quarterly drop-in sessions for early-stage community enterprises, relationship brokering between organisations for mutual support and a programme of learning and skills training.

Ashley Community Housing (ACH) and Street2Boardroom are also taking part in the new phase of the programme. 

BBRC chief executive Ed Rowberry said the programme’s flexible and dynamic approach was tuned to the unique needs and growth trajectories of the individual enterprises.

“Bristol is renowned for being an enterprising city with a vibrant business culture.

“However, it also grapples with significant inequality and unequal wealth distribution, exacerbating social issues in some communities, such as poverty, health disparity, inadequate transport connectivity and lack of housing,” he added.

“The programme was conceived to recalibrate Bristol’s economic landscape, making it more equitable and inclusive, rather than just bigger, by investing in enterprises doing good particularly in areas grappling with the greatest inequality.”

He said by nurturing the city’s social economy, the partners aimed to address these challenges head-on.

“We’ve seen great success with the first three years of the programme, and we’re delighted to embark on the next stage,” he added.

“We’re keen to hear from social enterprises in the city with ambitions to grow and a commitment to addressing Bristol’s inequalities.”

Organisations supported in the first phase include:

  • Bristol Digital Radio CIC: A Bristol-born start-up social enterprise. It has been awarded spectrum by Ofcom to operate digital audio broadcasting (DAB) radio multiplexes covering the greater Bristol area to protect access for community radio. Supported through the LAP with funding of £70,000 to buy and install digital audio broadcasting radio transmission infrastructure.
  • Ambition Community Energy CIC: A fully owned subsidiary and project of Ambition Lawrence Weston. It was created to develop and build a large-scale community-owned onshore wind turbine, thereby helping the generation of renewable energy with additional community benefit. It was supported with early stage funding of £750k into the project, of which £150k has been fully repaid.
  • All on Board Bristol CIC and Eco First Bristol: Both the brainchild of a local social entrepreneur supported by the Local Access Partnership, specifically through the Social Enterprise Incubator programme run by Black South West Network. The programme has provided them with a nine-month customised programme of support and one-to-one mentoring, networking and desk space at the incubator hub.
  • True Talk Africa CIC: It seeks to develop holistic narratives about Sub-Saharan Africa in England and Wales, particularly to children and young people. It has also been supported through Black South West Network’s Social Enterprise programme, providing business development and planning support, as well as connecting it with other likeminded CICs.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Bristol Local Access Programme should visit https://bab-rc.uk/local-access-programme/  or email LAP@voscur.org

Pictured: Top: Entrepreneurs Katy and Angela celebrate a grant award at a School for Social Entrepreneurs event. Image courtesy of SSE. Above: A training session with entrepreneurs and the ACH team. Image courtesy of ACH

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