Enterprise Development

Key Fund is a social enterprise, founded by other social enterprises. We know that it is difficult to grow whilst balancing economic and social ambitions, that is why good, consistently available support is invaluable.

This week, we will be spending time with partners in the three Local Access areas of Bradford, Gainsborough and Hartlepool, Redcar and Cleveland. Each community is leading on a ten year programme of enterprise development and investment, funded by Better Society Capital and Access: The Foundation for Social Investment.

However, that support can be very difficult to find in other areas. We are a firm believer in the value of sector infrastructure and the need for specialist advice that recognises and accommodates both the social and economic missions of our client base.

As such Key Fund has been a member of and partner with regional and local social enterprise agencies such as Sheffield Social Enterprise Network Social Enterprise Yorkshire and The Humber and value our collaboration with national partners such as SSE, Unltd and SEUK. The reality is that resources to support such infrastructure are limited and we have lost a lot of important local and regional agencies since we began funding enterprises in 1999.

Perhaps one of the less obvious parts of our work has been active participation in the establishment and growth of social enterprises, cooperatives and impact led businesses. Key Fund has always worked closely with social enterprise infrastructure, one of our founder members was a Sheffield social enterprise agency and membership organisation. However, over the last 10 years, we have also directly managed and delivered a number of enterprise development programmes.



The first step on the journey was the ambitious Social Incubator North, in 2013. Working with the Northern regional networks SEEM, SEYH and NESEP, we ran a 100 organisation incubator programme across The North, informed by local conditions and delivered with local partners. Eleven years on, a number of participants are still clients today.

Building on that experience, we worked with GLT Partners and CERT to run more local programmes in Newcastle and Grimsby respectively, recognising both the potential in both areas and the importance of working with knowledgeable partners on the ground. It is great to see how the participants in those incubator programmes have progressed.

Slightly more leftfield for us was our role as a funding partner in the Dotforge Tech for Good Incubators in Sheffield and Manchester, which gave us the opportunity to work with international entrepreneurs addressing challenges around energy security, parity for the unbanked and accessible holidays.

As ever, collaboration has been at the heart of what we do and we have been proud to partner with Plunkett Foundation and Coop and Community Finance in The More Than a Pub programme and Creative United in delivering the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund Enterprise Development programme.

As previously stated, the resources that fund such activity are often difficult to secure. It is important then that we are able to work with like-minded funders such as Ardevora, The Mercers’ Company and SIB, via the Access Reach Fund, to provide grants that enable enterprise development, fuelling the work of social entrepreneurs and cooperators across the North.

The need for support is constant and there is real opportunity to do more. Please talk to us if you would like to discuss this further.


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