My Week: Nigel Kershaw of Big Issue Invest

The social investment fund's chief exec on seven days of spreading the word...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's Tuesday and I'm off to Roast restaurant in London's Borough Market to meet a financial journalist. He's surprised that people are looking past traditional investments and towards social finance models instead. A large number of social enterprises lack access to external finance - one of the main barriers they face in scaling up. Big Issue Invest provides it.

Later that afternoon I give a speech to Common Purpose, the leadership development organisation. I add in a favourite quote: 'A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right', and have a number of interesting questions back. (The quote is by Thomas Paine, written in 1776 for his pamphlet Common Sense.)

I spend Wednesday morning at a meeting of Bright Ideas Trust (BIT founded to help young people aged 16-30 to set up as entrepreneurs). Led by former Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, it is the first meeting for Margaret Mountford (Sir Alan Sugar's former legal adviser) who has joined BIT's Trust board. Good to hear BIT is in solid shape thanks to various partners, including the Bank of America, who gave £600k to the Trust last year.

I then meet with my old friend Stephen Timms, the MP for East Ham and Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I discuss with him and his team how to bring more risk capital and increased investment into social enterprises.

Then it's rushing to the London College of Communication (London University of the Arts), formerly the London College of Printing - where I cut my teeth as a printing student and eventually became the chair of the Board. Good to see the Enterprise Centre for the Creative Arts (ECCA) is here and guiding London's creative people through business.

Thursday sees me paying a visit to Spark - a development and investment programme I co-devised. Spark aims to inspire organisations to build social enterprises that prevent and tackle homelessness using sustainable business models. I'm there to wind up the events after announcing the 15 finalists. Afterwards a couple of finalists come up to me with tears in their eyes. And no it wasn't through boredom!

It's off to the World Entrepreneur Summit 09 on Friday, where among things I'm on a panel debating ‘Is it the economy stupid!' I also go to see Muhammed Younis, the Nobel Laureate, who I remember first meeting way back in 1996 at The Big Issue when he was pioneering micro-finance and we were pioneering social enterprise. 

It reminds me of earlier in the week when The Big Issue Foundation hosted the first Real Lives, Real Achievements awards, celebrating the remarkable achievements of Big Issue vendors. Seventeen years since the mag was launched by John Bird and Gordon Roddick, six inspirational vendors from across the country were recognised for the brave steps they have taken in their journey away from homelessness. A series of highly moving short films made by event partner CNN gave an insight into the challenges these six individuals have faced and overcome.


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