Diane Shawe presents to cabinet office as part of the Nexters Social impact team

posted 3 Aug 2013, 11:25 by Diane Shawe

Cabinet OfficeThe UK is blessed with thousands of innovative and dynamic entrepreneurs using profit for social good. The entrepreneurs belonging to the Nexters programme are typical examples. The Social Investment and Finance Team invited a group of Nexters to come and speak about their businesses and explore how Government can help them to maximise their social impact.

Cabinet Office’s Social Investment and Finance Team recently hosted a group of social entrepreneurs from Nexters. Backed by foundations, philanthropists, businesses and social investors, Nexters is a programme which provides support for entrepreneurs building scalable and high social impact businesses.

The session represented a fantastic opportunity for the team and officials from across Whitehall to engage with entrepreneurs delivering social change on the ground. As policymakers we need to understand the challenges our stakeholders face and think about devising policy interventions that help them overcome these obstacles. It is also important that people working on the front line are given the opportunity to influence policy and see how government works.

Tech for Good

The current Nexters cohort is running technology-based businesses. Technology, in general, is underutilised as a driver of social change, but the tech community is becoming increasingly interested in using its skills to do good. The turnout at the “Tech for Good” conference Cabinet Office ran alongside Nesta was bigger than any other conference Nesta has staged.

upskill the workforce
Two key areas where technology can deliver significant social change is education and health, and four of the Nexters who presented to us are delivering social change in these spheres. Ed Baker’s Educational Games Network is aiming to raise literacy rates, Diane Shawe’s Express Training Course uses an online Learning Management System to provide soft skills vocational training and Stephen Taylor’s WYGU.com is an employability network. In the health sector, Alison Baum’s Best Beginnings is aiming to improve the health and well-being of babies in the UK through products like the mobile phone apps “Bump Buddy” and “Baby Buddy”.

Lee Hazard and Rajeeb Day’s enterprises, Fused Education and Enternships, are focussed on inclusion. Fused Education provides online money management courses to prisoners, while Enternships is reducing youth unemployment by connecting young people to internships and jobs within the start-ups and SME’s. Lastly, we heard from Simon Gordon, whose company, Facewatch, is an online reporting platform for low level crime.

Challenges and Opportunities

Life as an entrepreneur delivering social change is not straightforward. The Nexters spoke of struggling to infiltrate the labyrinth of Government and of the procurement process excluding small businesses like theirs. Many were finding it challenging to attract investment, and the shortage of programming skills in the UK is making it difficult for them to find suitably qualified Chief Technology Officers.

Nevertheless, more and more people are attracted to the idea of using profit for social good. There are over 64,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing around £24bn to the economy. Programmes like Nexters provide social entrepreneurs with holistic support and access to new networks, but Government is committed to supporting them as well. Through the Social Investment and Finance Team’s work, Cabinet Office is increasing the level of capital flowing into the social investment market, creating an enabling environment for investment to occur and growing demand for social investment by helping to create a pipeline of investible opportunities.

The Nexters we met are typical of the thousands of entrepreneurs making the social investment market one of the most exciting and dynamic parts of the UK economy. Enormous thanks to them for providing such an interesting and inspiring session.