Hugh Rolo - Chair of the Board

It’s no understatement to say Hugh Rolo is a driving force of the social investment movement.
Originally an investment banker, he left the City in the late 1980s with his wife, whose career as a GP took her to Bradford. Hugh eventually reinvented himself as an active social investor.

He played an instrumental role in debating the best use of European money invested into South Yorkshire, particularly for the community and voluntary sectors. When the idea came up of setting up an intermediary to help local groups access European funds, the Key Fund was born.

Hugh joined the Development Trusts Association in 1997 (now Locality) which has grown into the leading network of Community Enterprises in England. After undertaking various roles within Locality, latterly Hugh has focused as their lead on social investment through Key Fund, Social Investment Business and the Community Shares Unit.

Hugh has had a sustained commitment to Key Fund as a founding partner and Chair of the organisation. Initially, Key Fund was a grant giver, Hugh and other founding partners were keen to explore ways to achieve sustainable impact, taking an investment approach. For Hugh, who spent the 1990s despairing at the impoverished neighbourhoods in the north, his vision was for Key Fund to invest in these communities and take risk – where mainstream investors wouldn’t – to help people improve their own lives and communities.

Hugh is passionate that there is too high a human cost (and financial cost to the State) for people who are marginalised and abandoned by the conventional marketplace. He sits on all Key Fund committees, helping raise funds, and positioning Key Fund strategically to be who we are, and where we are, today.

What’s more, he has done all this while doing his day job at the DTA/Locality, where he began work in 1997 with a team of six. Today its 50-strong staff team support a national network of over 1200 members, which helps more than 300,000 people every week. It offers specialist advice, peer learning and campaigns with members for a fairer society. A strategic Civil Society partner of government, Locality delivers a number of national programmes. Latterly Hugh has focused as Locality’s Social Investment Specialist.

Hugh sits on various boards including Social Investment Business Foundation, the Cellar Trust, and as advisor for the Goodwin Development Trust.

Hugh has help shape the social investment landscape to what it has become in this country, not just pioneering and developing the market for community shares and other methods of raising social finance – but through other advisory positions.

His driving force remains his belief in delivering the ‘right money at the right time for under invested communities’.

Hugh was honoured in the 2021 New Year’s Honours with an OBE as “Chair and Founding Member, Key Fund. For services to Social Investment and Enterprise in the Midlands and North of England.”

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