Tuesday, 27 November 2012

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Not so, says SIB

Phil Knibb overseas a church convertion to a skills training
 centre for Alt Valley Community Trust

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” Shakespeare tells us, but the Social Investment Business (SIB) say otherwise. At this week’s 10-year celebration of lending to social enterprises and other civil society organisations, SIB was toasting its brave and brilliant borrowers, many gathered in the room to testify to the largess of lending.

Proceedings were opened by my ebullient friend Sir Stephen Bubb, who lamented the absence of Pol Roger, but nonetheless asked us to raise our glasses of austerity wine to SIB and all it had achieved.

Stephen talked about the history of lending in the Third Sector and its growing importance and how risk-taking had not only saved some great community-based organisations, but importantly helped them to grow and compete. He introduced Phil Knibb, Director of Alt Valley Community Trust in Liverpool, where his inspiring community organisation had, through borrowing a staggering 13 times from SIB, grown to provide an astonishing range of services that included skills training and commercial farming.   

Phil gave us a growingly improbable list of community services that Alt Valley had been able to provide by borrowing, buying and building. It was a real success story and we heard about so many others all worth checking out here, in Above and beyond, a SIB publication about those investees that have successfully taken over the delivery of public services and thrived through social investment lending.

Jonathan Jenkins, CEO of SIB, followed Stephen, not an easy thing to do as he pointed out, and made reference to the recent UK Trade Mission to the US on social lending. This was picked up later by the Rt Hon Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, who shared his enthusiasm and pride for the UK’s world-beating lead on social lending and its potential role to do much more. He congratulated SIB on behalf of the government and even “gave credit where credit was due” to “the other lot” for providing the funding that set it up.

I don’t think there is much doubt that investment through lending is quickly becoming the most inspired finance available to community services. For those of us promoting independent public service provision delivered by community-based organisations, at the Transition Institute, the presence in the market place of players like SIB is one of the most important conditions for success, and one I celebrate. I was delighted to bump into Heather Sim, CEO of The National Migraine Centre at the event, which was a recipient of a SIB loan that has been vital to its objective to increase medical services and achieve financial sustainability. These things are a must if we are to help those with acute suffering such as migrainers.

Congratulations to SIB and all who sail in her.


  1. There was little social lending available in 2004 Allison and I wrote to Baroness Thorton, then chair of the SEC about it. SEL were the first to see our business plan and told me they couldn't offer any help.

    We were proposing to build on what we'd achieved in Eastern Europe by sourcing a community microfinance bank. Bu 2004, it had helped create around 10,000 microenterprises and become fully self sustaining.

  2. Apologies for my error in reporting our key note speaker that evening, especially Phil Knibb who was the enthusiastic spokesperson that told us all about Alt Valley Community Trust. In my defence we heard about so many wonderful projects it was easy to get them muddled up.

    Thanks for your comment Jeff, I know you have been a supporter of community lending for many, sometimes frustrating years and I hope you, like me, you are delighted with the impact the Social Investment Business is making.

  3. Hmmm. Not sure I'd have understood anything at your conference. Lx

  4. There was wine and some very jolly people who were doing fab things in communities to help folk, you would have fitted right in Lucy x