Short n Sweet: 9 January 2020 - Next stop, Abu Dhabi? PLUS Queen honours UK social entrepreneurs

Bite-sized stories this week – featuring a Middle East opportunity for wellbeing-focused enterprises, scale-up support for those helping people with complex needs, royal accolades for social enterprise leaders, and more. 

Next stop, UAE? Abu Dhabi lures foreign startups with accelerator programme 

An Abu Dhabi-based programme is open for the first time to international applicants – as part of efforts to grow the number of community-based organisations and social enterprises in the city.

The Ma’an Social Incubator and Accelerator Programme is offering funding totalling more than AED 2m (£400,000) and business development support to help scale up social businesses that focus on mental wellbeing. Those selected will get access to non-equity funding, a monthly stipend, events and office space.

Established in February 2019 by the government’s Department of Community Development in Abu Dhabi, Ma’an aims to bring together the government, private sector and civil society to “support a holistic culture of social contribution and participation”.

The United Arab Emirates was ranked 12th in the latest Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on perceptions of the world’s best places to be a social entrepreneur – one place higher than the UK.


Five UK charities set to scale with Spring Impact support

Spring Impact has selected five UK charities to join its new Scale Accelerator, which aims to boost the impact of projects that help marginalised people facing multiple, complex needs. 

The selected organisations are Commonweal Housing, Expert Link, KeyRing, My Sisters Place and Streetwise Opera.

Spring Impact’s Scale Accelerator has been backed by The National Lottery Community Fund since 2015, supporting 24 organisations. In 2019 the Lottery fund confirmed new funding (£1.5m) to finance scaling accelerators over three and a half years. While previous programmes have been open to all kinds of business, this latest edition is the first to focus on a specific theme.

Joe Kallarackal, director at Spring Impact, said: “With marginalised people rarely facing just one issue, there is a growing need for a more systematic, person-led approach. We know that effective approaches, practices and projects that help adults facing multiple disadvantage have great potential but face unique challenges in scaling their impact. We want to focus on how these challenges can be overcome to unlock greater impact for the sector.” 


Queen bestows New Year Honours on social enterprise leaders

Social enterprise was a little more noticeable than in previous years in the UK's annual New Year Honours, announced at the end of December.

Awarded by the Queen, the honours system recognises those who have made achievements in public life, are committed to helping the country, and in most cases have ‘made life better for other people’, according to the UK government website

This year, those recognised for services to, or as leaders of, social enterprise include:




Damehoods were given to Julia Unwin, the former chair of the Civil Society Futures project and former CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and to Gillian Guy, CEO of Citizens Advice.

A number of other names in the wider charity and voluntary sector were among the 1,100 or so names on the list; nearly three-quarters of the list have undertaken “outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity”, according to the Cabinet Office.

Charity behind Human Lending Library seeks corporate volunteers

UK charity Expert Impact, which allows social entrepreneurs to ‘borrow’ successful business people for an hour via its ‘Human Lending Library’, has created a new corporate mentoring programme. 

Employers can now offer their employees as mentors, and will receive detailed feedback on the impact their staff have made.

Expert Impact first set up its human library in London in 2014, and expanded its service to Manchester and New York last year. Mentors who have volunteered their time as individuals include experts from The White Company, Carphone Warehouse and Mumsnet.

The launch of the employee service follows a successful trial with the water company and social enterprise Belu, which offered all its staff for a day.

The corporate initiative aims to help Expert Impact, which is funded by the family foundation of its founder John Hunt, to generate its own revenue – a move inspired by the social enterprises it has worked with.


New faces and departures: Nesta, Bamboo Capital Partners, Impact Investing Institute, BRAC

Ravi Gurumurthy has joined UK-based innovation foundation Nesta as CEO. He previously worked for the International Rescue Committee in New York, where he was the chief innovation officer and founder of the Airbel Center. Gurumurthy replaces Geoff Mulgan, who left Nesta at the end of 2019.

Kim-Andrée Potvin has joined Bamboo Capital Partners, a Luxembourg-headquartered impact investing platform, as a partner and head of operations.

Laurie Spengler, a board director of CDC Group; and Steven Serneels, CEO and board member of EVPA, this month join the board of the UK’s Impact Investing Institute. Spengler is also reportedly stepping down as CEO of Enclude (acquired in 2018 by Palladium).

And Sir Fazle Abed, who founded BRAC – the world's biggest NGO – died aged 83, in December. Among his numerous accolades, the Bangladesh-born entrepreneur was recognised by Ashoka as one of the ‘global greats’ and is a founding member of its prestigious Global Academy for Social Entrepreneurship. BRAC now works in 11 countries and reaches 110m people. Read more about Fazle Abed’s work.


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