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Announcing our third round of social investments in the arts

Today we’re pleased to announce the newest additions to the Arts Impact Fund's portfolio: Birmingham Royal Ballet, Fuse Arts Space, Make it Sustainable, MeWe360, Studio Wayne McGregor, V22, Village Underground and Walk the Plank. These eight enterprising arts and culture organisations will share nearly £2.4m of social impact investment, using it to develop new business ventures and assets.

Social impact investment is a way of providing capital to organisations that deliver a social and financial return. Typically, this takes the form of either debt or equity investment. Through the £7m Arts Impact Fund, which is funded by Arts Council England, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, the Esmee Fairbairn and Calouste Gulbenkian foundations, as well as Nesta, we’re experimenting with applying the concept of social impact investment to the arts and cultural sector in England using unsecured loans as our investment tool. The fund is a way of testing a few different ideas, the most important of which are:  

  1. There is demand for repayable finance in the arts and cultural sector.

  2. Arts and cultural organisations can have self-sustaining business models that are capable of repaying the finance taken on.

  3. Public, philanthropic and private funders can work together to bring investment to the sector at the fund level.

At the same time, we’re building up a clearer picture of the great social and artistic impact our investees have on their communities and audiences.

More information on each of the new investees can be found here and on the Arts Impact Fund’s case studies page, where we’ve provided a detailed write-up of each deal. We’re sharing this information in order to demonstrate the uses of social investment and also to highlight the many innovative ideas and business models in the arts and cultural sector; feedback often tells us that examples are often the most powerful way of conveying the opportunity that this kind of investment presents to the sector.

This £2.4m of investment across eight organisations is our biggest announcement to date and immediately doubles our portfolio size to 16 organisations, with a total of £5.4m committed. While the end-to-end investment process on any individual deal can take anything between two and six months, we’ve been collectively working on the deals announced today since November last year. In any case, we hope that the growth of our portfolio is an indication that demand is out there and that the sector is turning its enterprising creative potential into reality.

We’ve learnt quite a few things along the way: from the kinds of financing tools arts organisations need, to the business support required in order for them to access it. To that end, it’s worth stating that the Arts Impact Fund recently became a Reach Fund Access Point, meaning that we can help arts organisations in need of social investment to develop a specific workplan to put them in a good position to apply for it. More broadly, we’ll be sharing a series of our insights as social investors in the arts over the coming weeks on the Arts Impact Fund blog – so stay tuned.

Our next (and probably last) investment announcement is likely to take place in the first quarter of 2018. At the moment we’re taking enquiries from organisations interested in getting social investment at our last decision making meeting at the end of September. If you’re interested in applying or know someone who is, do get in touch – by either submitting an enquiry, emailing us at [email protected] or giving us a call on 020 7438 2694. Our work for that committee must be completed by the first week of September so we need to make contact with you over the next couple of weeks. It’s worth taking a look at our eligibility criteria and application guide in advance.

Looking ahead, we are hoping to raise a larger fund in the new year, in order to keep this form of finance available to the sector, further boosting its collective balance sheet, vibrancy and resilience. We are also looking, together with partners, at how we can expand the offer to develop more flexible forms of investment.

Finally, we’d like to thank all the people that made this investment round possible – from the team here at Nesta, to our investment committee members and their colleagues, and last but certainly not least, the incredible, passionate individuals who run our portfolio companies, produce great art and enrich the communities around them.

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Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Seva Phillips

Fund Manager

Seva looks after the Arts Impact Fund, a social investment fund supporting the arts and cultural sector in England. He undertakes due diligence on prospective fund applicants, manage...

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Fran Sanderson

Fran Sanderson

Fran Sanderson

Director of Arts Programmes and Investments

Alongside heading up the Arts, Culture and Creativity team, Fran also has primary responsibility for the Arts Impact Fund.

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