Blog: Shifting the narrative on social investment - How we’re working with Shift to understand how Comic Relief can use social investment

By Amir Rizwan, Senior Advisor – Social Investment & Social Innovation

It’s been a busy year for Red Shed, Comic Relief’s unique fund that is dedicated to looking at new ways of financing social change. Red Shed’s funding, a designated pot of money that is looking to test repayable finance mechanisms (also referred to as social investment) to support and catalyse social change. With the charity sector facing a number of challenges, one of which is continuing to raise funds from the public, there is a need to look at innovative ways of maximising the sustainable impact of funding.

Over the last few months Red Shed has been working on finalising a number of exciting social investments with a range of partners, we have written a blog about one of them here. This summer we are also doing some exciting work with Shift, a charity consultancy that supports organisations that are looking to better understand their impact, to get to the heart of the matter around what social investment means for Comic Relief.

The work we are doing with Shift is designed to answer a number of critical questions around how Red Shed can support Comic Relief in maintaining and broadening its support to social organsiations creating change across Comic Relief’s four pillars. To support Red Shed’s strategic development in exploring the case for social investment, we are looking at a number of things through this work: 

Demonstrating Red Shed’s potential role and sector positioning within the broader social investment landscape and where it can have the greatest impact

Communicating the value of repayable finance to a historically ‘grant first’ organisation and aligning Red Shed’s activities to Comic Relief’s broader strategy

Grounding Red Shed’s social investments within the evidence base of market need and ‘what works’, supporting an overarching learning and impact framework

Understanding the opportunities for Red Shed to invest across Comic Relief’s four pillars in order to meet Comic Relief’s vision of a ‘just world free from poverty’

As part of this work Shift will be talking to key Comic Relief staff and external partners in the social investment sector to address the above points. Through this process we are aiming to have a number of key tangible results that will help Red Shed understand how social investment can play a role within Comic Relief and through it how we can better influence change – both internally and externally. 

'As funding cuts continue to bite, generating sustainable income is a top priority for organisations in the social sector. Shift is working with partners across this sector and beyond to explore new and innovative funding models with the power to transform the financial sustainability of charities and social enterprises in the long term. As part of this, we’re excited to support Comic Relief and the Red Shed team as they seek to play their most impactful role in the social investment landscape.' Matt Black, Partnership Director at Shift

We will be providing an update on the results of this work with Shift in the autumn and how we will look to take the results to further develop Red Shed’s work. This is an exciting time for Red Shed especially as we are aiming to have a diverse portfolio of investments by the end of the year and we are already seeing some interesting lessons and results coming out of our first batch of investments. The work we are doing with Shift will further help us understand better the role that social investment can play within Comic Relief and the opportunities it could provide to further Comic Relief’s social change strategy. 

In the meantime, if you would like to find out more about what Comic Relief is doing on social investment please contact Amir Rizwan on a.rizwan@comicrelief.com

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