clore largeA researcher specialising in social change policies has joined Northstar Ventures to undertake a research project into social investment in the North East.

Sara Bryson, North East Specialist Fellow at Clore Social Leadership, will explore the regional challenges surrounding social investment. The research is being conducted as part of a secondment to Northstar Ventures, and aims to identify current attitudes towards social investment in the North East.

The secondment is part of Sara’s Fellowship at Clore Social Leadership, which she started whilst working as Research & Policy Manager at the charity Children North East. The research will be based on interviews with key figures from third sector organisations, social financiers and local authorities.

Sara said: “Joining Northstar Ventures has enabled me to analyse social investment from a practical perspective and gain a real insight into the financial world. One of the key challenges of social investment is the lack of knowledge exchange between the financial and voluntary sectors.

“Through working both with Northstar and Children North East, I hope to gain a better understanding of how these two sectors can effectively work together and encourage social change.”

Northstar Ventures, which manages the £9m North East Social Investment Fund (NESIF), recognises that there are challenges facing smaller charities and social enterprises in the region. Its investment strategy involves tailoring social investment packages to organisations’ individual needs and objectives.

Peter Gilson, Investment Manager for NESIF said: “In our experience as a social investor, we’ve found that larger organisations with some assets are more likely to take on social finance. However, in the North East there are many smaller organisations who are looking to social investment to help them grow and scale. A lack of assets should not preclude them from talking to social investors, as more flexible tailor-made packages can often be offered.

“Furthermore voluntary, charitable and social enterprises in the region are increasingly struggling.

The social sector is facing issues such as funding cuts, difficulties in securing local contracts, legislative changes and rising competition for grants. Ultimately, there is an increasing need for social services but a decline in resources to provide these. Social investment is one of the possible solutions.”

Sara was one of 24 individuals selected in 2016 to participate in the Clore Social Leadership Fellowship Programme. The programme aims to develop leaders in the social sector to transform communities, organisations and the world around them.

Shaks Ghosh, CEO at Clore Social Leadership, said: “At Clore Social Leadership, we believe that individuals can drive social change. Our focus is therefore on enabling social leaders like Sara to gain relevant experience and make impact. We’re excited to see her working with secondment host Northstar Ventures to foster social change in the North East.”