We know that to achieve the changes we want to see, we cannot work alone. This is why we’ve collaborated with a cohort of organisations, comprised of the leading social investors in the UK – Big Lottery Fund, Big Society Capital, Social and Sustainable Capital and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, to name a few – to form a working group to tackle equality and diversity issues head on. We also appreciate the need to include the full range of perspectives in the conversation, so we are determined to break the silos and ensure VCSEs and other stakeholders in the social investment ecosystem are involved at every stage of the process.
So what have we got planned? One project is centred around the need to improve investor diversity, in order to create a more inclusive social investment sector so that it can represent, understand and invest in the communities it sets out to serve, as well as make better investment decisions through the avoidance of group think. There are 5 key strands to this:
1) Leadership and convening
The working group will be expanded to ensure its members are representative and diverse, and hold workshops on understanding intersectionality to feed into the broader direction and strategy of the project.
2) Research into the problem, E&D Audit
We will commission an original piece of research to bolster the findings already discovered in a report we published in 2016. To do this, we will conduct in-depth interviews with social investors to gauge a sense of the current landscape, areas for development and possible solutions.
In addition to this research, we will conduct an Equalities and Diversity audit of three social investment funds. The outcome of this will be a customer journey map, from an investee and employee point of view, with recommendations on how to improve access to underrepresented groups.
3) Skills development and resources sharing
We, along with our working group partners, will implement unconscious bias and HR recruitment training, evaluating our success in changing attitudes of participants through a monitoring and evaluation process. Our findings will result in guidebook for social investors, detailing how they could improve diversity, and a directory of shared resources.
4) Data sharing and networks mapping
We will develop a tool to collate data on diversity in a sustainable and continuous way. We will also map the social networks of social investors through an open-source tool Kumu, to help us identify where the concentration of networks currently is within the social investment ecosystem, and where the gaps are, and to help establish connections with other networks on behalf of the social investors.
Developing a clear narrative on the importance of diversity in social investment is critical if we are to reach beyond our current group of early adopters and mainstream an inclusive approach. To that end, we will review current communications strategies, developing and testing a meta-narrative that covers the key economic, moral and social cases for advancing diversity in our sector.
Our other project is tied to our ongoing partnership with the Women in Social Finance (WISF) network. With the support of the Connect Fund grant, we are delivering a series of initiatives to amplify the impact of WISF to champion gender diversity in social investment in the UK. Through various activities, we are striving to increase the visibility of women in senior leadership positions in our sector, and facilitate sector-wide engagement with the issues that we care about: gender lens investing, women on investment committees and promoting women in public speaking roles, to name a few.
Both these projects and the widespread and diverse collaboration and support we’ve received indicate a changing tide in the way our sector thinks about and acts on issues of diversity and inclusion. We are extremely excited at the prospects to come, and very proud to be part of the new wave of change-makers who are committed to making sure we see the paradigm shifts in social investment diversity practices that are so desperately needed.
Watch this space!