Connect Four - fund announces new programme areas

Connect Four – fund announces new programme areas

/ News

Today the Connect Fund has announced the four programme areas it will focus on until it closes in March 2024.

• Equality, diversity and inclusion
• Post-Covid 19 recovery, research and development
• Market building support through peer networks
• Challenge funds

In early 2020, the Connect Fund had reached the mid-point of its lifespan. Together with Access, we were looking back over our achievements from the first three years and planning what our priorities should be for the next three, to ensure we were still delivering on our promise to build a better social investment market. Then the first lockdown happened.

With circumstances and legislation changing daily, making plans beyond the end of the week was challenging. The main priority for organisations on both sides of the social investment market was staying open, so they could continue to support communities when they needed it most. The best way the Connect Fund could help at that time was to fund projects supporting and learning from those enterprises that were pivoting their businesses and exploring new ways of securing income, as well as continuing our commitment to address inequality across the sector.

Life is slowly returning to normal for the time being. But while there remains some uncertainty about what the coming months have in store for us, we have decided it makes sense to re-focus on the work we still have to do to improve the market.

The social investment sector is only just beginning to address inequitable access to appropriate repayable finance and its own lack of diversity. The Connect Fund will be funding work that moves beyond simply an awareness of these problems to deliver actions to correct them. Social investors and fund managers will be helped to recover from the terrible impact of the lockdowns on their business models. Organisations new to social investment will be able to access guidance, support and mentoring through the development of stronger peer networks. Finally, the Connect Fund will remain responsive to the needs of the sector by exploring emerging gaps and opportunities through the Challenge Funds, which will seek out the best solutions to problems in the market.

The Connect Fund now has less than three years and £2 million pounds left to achieve its purpose, but we are more committed than ever to leaving behind a more accessible market, enabling charities and social enterprises to explore new pathways to generating income and building financial resilience.

Find out more about our new programme areas and how to apply.

The Connect Fund is managed by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, in partnership with Access – the Foundation for Social Investment.