The funding landscape for our members is changing and they will need to explore a range of alternative funding methods. Social investment is one of those options. We need to make sure our members are informed about how it works and whether it is right for them.
Women’s Aid is the first national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children, founded in the early 1970s by a grassroots movement of women providing refuge and support for survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Today we are a federation of over 220 organisations who provide more than 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across England, and we continue to campaign, educate and provide direct support.
A critical role of Women’s Aid is to empower our members to thrive in an increasingly difficult environment. This means helping them to engage with commissioning and tendering as it develops – and also being at the forefront of funding mechanisms which could be a lifeline for services which so evidently avoid huge costs to the public sector. We believe social investment has this potential.
That’s why we have worked to develop our understanding of social investment as a tool to help preserve the unique, national network of specialist support to survivors of domestic abuse. In parallel, we have worked with local services and with beneficiaries themselves to create an affordable outcomes measurement system called On Track, which captures outcomes data and evidence of return on investment, within a system which also facilitates everyday case management, directly improving services.
How are we working social investment into our strategy?
Currently, we are finalising our next three year strategy to 2020 in which we will continue to develop our approach to social investment. Already we have a social investment element within our national Change that Lasts program, which is a cost-effective and evidence-based blueprint for transforming the multi-agency response to domestic abuse, changing professional behaviours and building on resources and responses that already exist within communities. We are confident that Change that Lasts will achieve measurable social impact, and that there is a wealth of innovation and excellent practice in the federation at local level, which will demonstrate both impact and social return. By planning both service development and funding options in parallel, we will ensure financial opportunity does not divert us from achieving the outcomes we set with our services and beneficiaries. Rather than starting with the question ‘what social investment projects can we do?’, we are examining the viability of social investment as we work up our strategy and Theory of Change.
Through our work so far, we have learned that social investment is time-consuming but well worth the investment to explore.
We have ensured we are investment ready – acknowledging that investors want to see our Theory of Change, business strategy, financial performance and projections, governance structure, financial expertise at Board level, and sufficient business development and financial management skills at executive management level.
We have been fortunate to secure funding from the City of London Corporation's charitable funder, the City Bridge Trust and MOPAC, and support from BWB Impact and Advisory, to create a social investment feasibility study around a service model which is genuinely innovative and will improve outcomes for survivors of domestic abuse.
In other words, we are outcomes-driven, not funder-led. And we will maintain this position, while continuing to explore what is, frankly, the one and only arena in which the funding supply exceeds demand.
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