Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City's 'Helping Hand' Fund That Makes a Little Go a Long Way

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

City's 'Helping Hand' Fund That Makes a Little Go a Long Way

Article excerpt


ASKED to make a prediction for next year at a recent dinner, one FTSE 100 company chairman put his bet on social unrest. Unemployment was rising, the debt squeeze would be painful and a whole generation had grown up that had no direct experience of the pain caused by economic slowdowns, he said. The recession of the 1980s was scarred by inner-city riots.

He could see it happening again.

Let's hope he is wrong. But the warning, though apocalyptic, does very much underline the continuing need for economic regeneration in the deprived areas of this country if the recession is not to have potentially dire consequences.

Purely by coincidence, the warning coincides with the launch today of a new social entrepreneurs' fund from Bridges Community Ventures, a fund management group chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, the private-equity pioneer.

The purpose of Bridges, unlike mainstream private equity, is to make returns while using its commercial skills to deliver on social and environmental aims harnessing City financial skills and funding to the fostering of economically viable social enterprises.

It focuses on those small-scale businesses, frequently in deprived areas, where there is often a dearth of funding from conventional sources.

Most such ventures are small, but as the Eden Project, Cafedirect and Fifteen Restaurant have all demonstrated, they have the potential to make a big impact, What also makes this fund different from previous ones in the series is that it will be an "evergreen", meaning the founding investors who include Al Gore through his Generation Foundation, Harvey McGrath, formerly of Man Group, Sir Ronald himself, Deutsche, 3i and a charitable foundation which is the one bit of Lehman still standing will not take out profits at the end of the day.

Instead, the monies will be ploughed back into the fund to finance further ventures so that, assuming it is successful, it will also become progressively bigger over time, and more influential. …

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