What we do
We are a group of social entrepreneurs, business consultants and finance professionals and impact technicians who work strategically together to encourage more and better social investment transactions in the North and Midlands of England.
We work primarily with social entrepreneurs – but also with investors, funders, intermediaries and policy makers to make a success of social investment because we believe in the principles of building sustainable social enterprises with appropriate social investment.
Research and Analysis
NSIG produces detailed, honest and thorough organisational reviews which provide our platform for viable planning.
There are many aspects to constructing a social investment proposition – and by extension, to constructing an “investment ready” organisation. We can categorise these – like in Strategic Planning – as Internal and External factors. Internal factors will include things like Governance, Financial Control and Planning, relevant Expertise, Capability of senior management, etc. External factors will be multiple, and will include things like Market, Need, Service Precedents, Customers, Impact Measurement methods, Pricing, etc. Being able to adequately research, and then analyse the research material generated to allow good quality decision making about social investment objectives is a whole industry in itself. For organisations with emphasis upon their social value, research and development to underpin investment strategy might feel like activity which can be marginalised.
R&D is – culturally – and under-invested area in the social enterprise sector. Usually the responsibilty of senior officers with full roles and responsibilities, these are highly specialised areas of business development which require specific skills and dedicated resources. In particular, when developing new social investment propositions, it is imperative that social enterprises have a really robust, well evidenced case which shows what assumptions they have made. One of the areas of “culture clash” between social enterprise and the finance industry is lack of data. Too often, it is said, social enterprises will produce narratives and case studies, but little data and evidence on their impacts and how they are achieved. Financiers feel they need data on which to make informed investment decisions. NSIG wants to work with clients to fill this gap, either directly or by brokering working relationships with academics and companies which might share a working interest.
Good quality data, properly evidenced, systematically gathered, with comparisons, is crucial to building social investment propositions.
Understanding your intentional impact is crucial to building a successful social business.
businesses account, and social businesses should socially account.
But mainstream businesses are premised upon their financial performance, and can grow in value, in a way that social businesses don’t, and can’t. Accounting and value are linked in “normal” businesses in a way that social accounting and value are not so straightforwardly linked in social businesses. So the development of conventions in impact measurement is necessary, is complex, and will come about eventually because of the amount of resource being put into its development.
One of the ways a social business could grow in value would be if the quality, sustainability and quantity of its impacts could be linked to its financial success. In other words, if a social businesses impacts were a part of its balance sheet.
This is the sort of work that NSIG can contribute to, in analysing the impacts that a social business has, and examining how these can become part of the business balance sheet, and how they can be part of a social investment proposition. Understanding and integrating impact measurement into a businesses activities – as opposed to treating impact measurement as part of the nuisance “monitoring and evaluation” of a grant report – is crucial to the success of a social enterprise.
NSIG has a a number of accountants and financial technicians who can model out your business to explore different scenarios and profiles.
To be able to succesfully model a business, and present options to a board which can assess proposals in terms of risk and mission alignment, comprehensive analysis and research has to have been undertaken. Coupled with strategic assessment, some financial scenarios can be generated which can reflect various levels of risk appetite, likely future incomes or costs of delivering and improving services – along with the costs of moving the organisation more towards financial sustainability, and further away from hand to mouth survivalism. Factor in the management of execution risk – how the business will translate the aspirations of planning into realities of implementation – and we have a business plan and investment proposition we can take to investors.
Forecasting income and expenditure, balance sheets and capital requirements,and being able to generate scenarios where perhaps less money is earned, or costs of service increase, is a really important part of proposition construction.
Values, Aims and Interventions
Getting explicit about your purpose and intentions is key to planning a successful social business.
NSIG will work with you to understand in considerable detail what your organisations aims are, and what impact you create. We will also collaborate with clients to best understand how a business strategy can be constructed which will allow greate achievement of these aims, and what sort of social investment might be most suitable for each organisation, with a view to achieving greater business viability and sustainability. The balance can be struck – with the right resources and commitment.
For instance, some organisations will be best served by buying or refurbishing a building, or equipment and vehicles which can help to expand their service. Others will be seeking contracts to deliver services. Some will want to put a value against their impact as part of the process of creating success or outcomes related payment systems. Still more will have fundraising strategies they need resources to implement. There are specialist investors for all these. In turn, seeking out these types of investment will make demands upon the social enterprise, demands which can strengthen the organisation and by increasing organisation robustness, increase the chances for social investors of making successful investments. This virtuous cycle can continue, as reduced risk for investors can lead to reduced expectation of returns.
And we are particularly interested in how social enterprises can ensure that the investment propositions they pursue will always favour them and support them to remain in control – rather than having to involve multiple intermediaries.
We’ll pull it all together in a strategic plan which can guide your organisation in the coming years.
TOWS allows us to start the process of informed planning of actions which can lead to both successful organisational development and successful social investment. Honest appraisal of the internal capability of the organisation, from governance through management to quality of services, analysis of financial track record and current financial position, current clients and customer base, contracts, impact valuation, coupled with assessment of the relevant external factors associated with the organisations aims (as well as examination of the most acute threats on the organisation) can inform financial modelling, risk management and organisational action planning.
Taking propositions to investors is our goal. We can pull together all that changes you need to implement to become an investable proposition.
We concentrate on a number of areas –
Financial Modelling and Forecasting
Markets, Needs and Service Suitability
Organisational Capacity and Resources
Want to know more?
This work can range from mainstream business support through the development of investment readiness strategies and action plans, to work on the construction of investment propositions.
NSIG aims to take a much longer view of working relationships with client social enterprises, to allow deeper understanding of the social aims of the business, to allow assessment of requirements for the business to become investable, and to allow construction of social investment offers which can help the business achieve long term sustainability.
In developing these much more robust, detailed relationships we believe that we increase the likelihood of putting together sucessful deals for both investors and investees. It is our intention to always have “skin in the game”. We look to share risk with clients in constructing investment propositions.
Northern Social Investment Group