January 12th, 2016

New research from SBT-supported Timewise reveals how lack of quality part-time work is trapping milllions in unemployment and roles they are overqualified for.

Almost two million British workers, including parents, people with disabilities and older workers, are trapped by part time work they are overqualified for: that’s the disturbing findings of new research published today by flexible working experts Timewise.

Timewise, the first social enterprise to be supported by Social Business Trust (SBT) after its launch five years ago, also highlights how the lack of quality part time or flexible jobs is the major block to higher wages for these people: not a lack of skills. And it reveals that there are 7.4 people out of work seeking every quality flexible job vacancy compared to 1 workless person for every quality full time job.

The research, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, provides an in-depth analysis on how unlocking a higher volume of quality jobs to flexible or part-time hours, could increase job mobility and tackle underemployment.

Timewise Foundation’s Joint CEO, Emma Stewart MBE (pictured) who authored the research said: “Flexible working, from the point of hire, needs to be part of the debate on how to raise living standards for the millions of UK households stuck in low pay, alongside tax credits and the National Living Wage.”

Help Timewise has received from SBT includes the specification and procurement of a new IT infrastructure, marketing and branding reviews and legal support. For a full copy of the report go to



January 6th, 2016

Adele Blakebrough MBE, SBT CEO, says Purpose is an important focus for business in 2016

My youngest daughter gets a lot of stick in our family for being a Justin Bieber fan. With the Christmas holidays behind us I’ll be able to avoid the Canadian boy wonder and his up-tempo melodies at least during the school day and yet as I started to think about 2016 something about Justin Bieber made me think he might have a message for an old rock and roller like myself.

I predict that the term Purposeful or Purpose is going to come into common parlance in a similar way to Mindfulness in 2015. Purpose is at the heart of the social organisations we support to grow. They are a special type of business: trading, not for financial gain but to address a social need, whether educational inequality, poverty, social isolation or elderly care. Profit is extremely important to them but it’s because they need to sustain and extend their social impact not generate a return for shareholders.

Increasingly, though, that sense of purpose isn’t only the domain of social enterprises and charities and we’re seeing commercial organisations giving deep consideration to the purpose of their activities. Late last year I was asked by one of our trustees, Simon Milton, founder of Pulse Brands to speak at a business seminar on Purposeful Branding and was struck by the level of interest in our theme.

Purpose is becoming more important to business, not just because corporate leaders want greater meaning to their work but because employees and consumers are demanding it. They want to engage with companies and brands that imbue purpose beyond profit and, crucially, do so authentically.

At Social Business Trust we focus on the interface between social enterprises and commercial businesses because we believe that doing so generates enormous benefits for both. We take the business expertise of our seven corporate partners and deploy that strategically to help our carefully selected portfolio of high-growth potential social enterprises to scale-up.

Growing any business is tough and the challenges for social enterprises are very similar to those faced by commercial organisations seeking to expand. Our social enterprises gain from having access to world-class business expertise that they could never afford to engage themselves in areas including finance, law, strategy, human resources and business development.

But our corporate partners say they gain as much as they give. The senior leaders who sit on our Investment Committee get deep insights into different social issues by regularly engaging with our social enterprise leaders and fulfilment from using their professional skills to make a positive difference. Their employees consistently tell us that volunteering through SBT enhances their view of their employer and increases their job satisfaction, supporting staff retention. That sense of purpose beyond profit is deeply meaningful.

Recently, several of our volunteers were interviewed by social enterprise magazine Pioneers Post about why they work with us. Maria Manwani, a corporate finance consultant at EY, was seconded to London Early Years Foundation for six weeks on a project to simplify the fee structures for their growing chain of nurseries. She said that EY “knew I could go off, learn different skillsets and bring that experience back to my department.” And the added benefit for her? “It’s been nice to work for a cause I believe in rather than making rich companies richer.”

We head into 2016 excited by the prospect of extending and deepening that sense of purpose for all our volunteers and corporate partners and supporting more outstanding social enterprises to help more people in need. If a purposeful start to the New Year excites you too then do get in touch to find out how you can get involved in our work.

In the meantime, back to the teen idol….I’m not a Belieber but when Yoko pressed her Christmas list into my hand I was amused and cheered to see that the title of his latest album is Purpose. There’s on message for you.




December 11th, 2015

Adele Blakebrough calls for business leaders to be strategic in using their professional expertise for good.

Businesses can play a key part in solving society’s problems by using their expertise to help great social enterprises grow. That was the message from Adele Blakebrough, Social Business Trust’s CEO, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. Interviewed in the high-profile Friday Boss slot, she told how SBT brings together a “dream team” of corporates using their professional expertise to help high-growth potential social enterprises scale-up: “Not painting fences or digging trenches but actually using their business skills.”

Adele highlighted the value of collaboration between SBT’s corporate partners and the benefits of employee volunteering being strategic and planned: “SBT is able to find out what social enterprises most need & then look at our corporate supporters and ask for very specific interventions in a timely way.”

Get it right, she said, and the businesses not only give but also gain in terms of talent retention, staff development and employee satisfaction: “It’s a win-win situation.”

She added: The problems we have with educational disadvantage, elderly care, this cannot just rely on the public purse. Corporates are stepping up and realising they have to do something.”

Click below to hear the interview.

Adele on BBC R4 Today



November 24th, 2015

SBT’s ground-breaking work with The Challenge is brought to life

Support from Social Business Trust (SBT) has enabled The Challenge, one of the fastest growing social enterprises in the UK, to become the largest provider of the government’s National Citizen Service (NCS).

As a result, The Challenge, the UK’s leading charity for an integrated society, will have worked with over 30,000 young people in 2015 alone, having begun by working with just 100 young people when it launched six years ago. Further large-scale growth is expected, building on the 83,000 young people who have already taken part in the NCS programme for 16 and 17 year olds through The Challenge since 2009.

The story of SBT’s work with The Challenge is now told in a short video, released today and available here. In the five minute film, SBT’s CEO, Adele Blakebrough MBE tells how it brought together its ‘dream team’ of corporate partners, to provide hands-on business expertise and targeted cash grants to help great social enterprises grow.

For The Challenge that help, worth over £1.7 million, has included:
• Development of growth and sales strategies by Bain & Company
• Extensive legal support from Clifford Chance
• Project management assistance from EY
• Sustained business development advice from Permira

Oliver Lee OBE, CEO of The Challenge said: “SBT has played a vital part in transformation of The Challenge from a small local charity into one with national scale and influence. As a result many thousands more people have been helped through our work. Their impact is phenomenal.”

Adele Blakebrough said: “This video brings alive the fantastic difference that business professionals can make to help great social enterprises grow and ultimately benefit thousands more people in need. Our goal is for all social enterprises with potential to grow sustainably to national scale or significance to get free expert help to achieve that through SBT.”

In five years since it launched, SBT, a charity, has supported 13 outstanding social enterprises, selected from reviews of over 900. They all have in common the potential to achieve significant growth and make a positive difference to the lives of people facing disadvantage in areas including education, employment and poverty.

Last year, SBT committed £4m of cash and in-kind support and provided 3,000 hours of business expertise from its partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters. All provide expert volunteers and secondees, many at senior level, to work with SBT.



November 18th, 2015

Innovative social enterprise addressing social isolation gets cash and business support to grow

The Reader, an innovative social enterprise addressing social isolation and mental health across the UK through literature and shared reading, has been awarded a package of funding and business support worth £1.5 million by Social Business Trust .

It will enable The Reader to grow the number of people it helps from 11,000 to 27,000 a year by 2018.

The Reader’s shared reading groups take place in a variety of settings including prisons, mental health centres, care homes and local communities. Its simple model of reading aloud in facilitated groups is proven to support positive mental health and wellbeing, combating isolation, calming aggression and helping people with dementia.

This is Social Business Trust’s second investment in The Reader, following a package of funding and support worth £280,000 awarded in 2013. Delivery of that business expertise has been led by British Gas, with support from EY and SBT’s other corporate partners and has included help with sales strategy, proposition development and impact measurement.

British Gas will also lead on delivery of the new SBT support package, which will include development of change management capability in The Reader’s leadership team and support with intellectual property and licensing. Cash grants will help to fund its growth in areas including finance, IT, communications and programme management.

In five years since it launched, SBT has supported 13 outstanding social enterprises, selected from reviews of over 900. They all have in common the potential to achieve significant growth and make a positive difference to the lives of people facing disadvantage in areas including education, employment and poverty.

Last year, SBT committed £4m of cash and in-kind support and provided 3,000 hours of business expertise from its partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters. All provide expert volunteers and secondees, many at senior level, to work with SBT.

Adele Blakebrough MBE, CEO of Social Business Trust said: “It is incredibly moving and compelling to see the difference The Reader makes to thousands of vulnerable people through its simple model of shared reading groups. We know there is scope to expand The Reader’s important work more extensively across the country and are delighted to support the organisation to achieve that growth.”

Dr Jane Davis, MBE, Director of The Reader said: “We are thrilled to be gaining this vital further support from SBT. We’ve already gained so much from being part of their portfolio, the learning and guidance of SBT has been invaluable in our growth across the country and beyond. This new round of support will not just strengthen our core ensuring our successful work continues but importantly will accelerate our growth and ability to reach more people who need us.”



November 11th, 2015

New Impact Report shows the difference SBT and its partners can make

A record £4 million worth of cash and in-kind support was committed to social enterprises by Social Business Trust (SBT) last year according to the charity’s new impact report released today. With SBT’s help, the 13 social enterprises it currently works with have accelerated their growth, helping 426,000 people in 2014/15. Successes highlighted in the report include: • London Early Years Foundation, the UK’s biggest social enterprise nursery group, which had 23 nurseries when it started working with SBT in 2011 and now has 34. It is on-track to have 50 nurseries by 2017 • Social integration charity The Challenge, which just six years ago was working with 150 young people and, with support from SBT has grown to help 36,000 in 2014/15. Now the largest provider of the government’s National Citizen Service programme, The Challenge expects to work with 80,000 young people a year by 2018 The help SBT provides consists of cash grants and high-calibre business support from its seven world-class corporate partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters. Together they gave 3,000 hours of expertise in 2014/15 in areas including business planning, governance, human resources, legal advice, sales and strategy. Social enterprises supported by SBT span a range of social issues from unemployment and educational disadvantage to elderly care and poverty. What they all share is a desire to scale-up rapidly and sustainably to massively increase their social impact. Over 900 social enterprises have been reviewed by SBT since its launch in 2010, as it seeks out those with the greatest potential to grow to national scale or significance. Adele Blakebrough MBE, CEO of SBT said: “We’re thrilled to have committed more help than ever before and to see the big difference that expert business support and collaboration has made to the growth of our social enterprises in the last year. With ambitious plans to grow the number of social enterprises we work with and increase further the hours of business expertise given by our fantastic corporate partners we’re also looking forward to delivering exciting results in 2015/16.” Read the report here to find out more.



October 20th, 2015

Celebrations took place last week to mark five years of Social Business Trust (SBT) helping great social enterprises to grow.

Over 200 social entrepreneurs, business people and other guests attended a party in London hosted by EY, one of SBT’s seven corporate partners.

They heard from SBT Chair, Damon Buffini and CEO, Adele Blakebrough MBE who announced that social enterprises have received £9 million worth of cash grants and in-kind support from SBT since it began.

In its first five years, SBT has worked with 13 social enterprises, selected from over 800 reviewed, including The Challenge, Fashion Enter, London Early Years Foundation and The Reader.

The issues they tackle range from unemployment and mental health to educational disadvantage and poverty. They all share a desire to solve social problems and an ambition to grow to national scale or significance.

Guests heard that volunteers from SBT’s seven world-class corporate partners have provided 19,000 hours of business expertise over the period.

Those partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters were all represented at the party by senior executives and staff volunteers, who were thanked for their contribution.

The room was packed and buzzing with conversation as guests mingled and visited stalls from each of the social enterprises in the SBT portfolio to find out more about their social mission and impact.

Shakespeare Schools Festival, which has been supported by SBT since 2013, provided entertainment from school children performing excerpts from Richard III and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with great energy and originality.

Adele Blakebrough said: “It was wonderful to celebrate our fifth birthday with such an amazing group of people. It’s the coming together of great social enterprises and fantastic corporate partners that makes SBT so special and our model so effective. “

“We’re now looking forward to five more years of driving even greater social impact. We can’t wait!”



October 11th, 2015

SBT has provided £9 million of cash and in-kind support to help social enterprises grow

Social enterprises have received £9 million of cash and in-kind support from Social Business Trust since SBT began.The total will be announced at a celebration tonight, marking five years of SBT’s work supporting great social enterprises to scale-up their impact by providing high-calibre business expertise and cash grants. As a result of this support, in the first two years of working with SBT, social enterprises have, on average, doubled the number of people they help. Since 2010, SBT has worked with 13 social enterprises, selected from over 800 reviewed, including The Challenge, Fashion Enter, London Early Years Foundation and The Reader. The issues they tackle range from unemployment and mental health to educational disadvantage and poverty. They all share a desire to solve social problems and an ambition to grow, potentially to national scale or significance. Around 200 people are expected at SBT’s fifth birthday party, including representatives from all the social enterprises in SBT’s portfolio and the charity’s seven world-class corporate partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters. Volunteers from those partner companies have provided 19,000 hours of business expertise over the period. Adele Blakebrough, CEO said the charity had reached an important milestone in its development: “We’re excited to celebrate all that’s been achieved by SBT in our first five years and look ahead to extending our impact even further in the years to come.”



September 8th, 2015

A new all-ability cycling initiative was officially launched today at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, thanks to Bikeworks, the cycling access, employment and training social enterprise.


Bikeworks, which has been supported by SBT since 2012, is running the programme at the All-Ability Cycling Hub, to encourage everyone to get on wheels. It’s already proving to be hugely popular, with sessions attracting up to 60 participants.

The Hub aims to make cycling fully-accessible by providing more than 40 bicycles including a bike car, wheelchair platform bikes and a number of other specially adapted bikes. Tailored endurance sessions on the road circuit at Lee Valley VeloPark cater for the more ambitious cyclist and there are plans to host inclusive cycling competitions in the next six months.

SBT’s support for Bikeworks has included a retail marketing and branding strategy, cash flow modelling support, mentoring and funding to hire marketing and business development managers. All our corporate partners have supported the work, with particular involvement from British Gas, Clifford Chance, EY and Thomson Reuters.

Jim Blakemore, Co-founder and Director at Bikeworks said: “As a London-based social enterprise we are excited to be delivering our all-ability programme in such an iconic setting. The immediate success of our first few sessions only goes to show the need and demand for inclusive cycling in London.”

Adele Blakebrough MBE, CEO of SBT said: “It’s wonderful to see Bikeworks increasing its impact with this important new initiative and great to know that SBT and our corporate partners have played an important role in making it possible.”



August 20th, 2015

A new CEO is joining SBT-supported Young Advisors as the organisation plans for further growth.

Linda Steggles has worked as a senior manager in the private, health and third sectors, with a specific focus on children, young people and families.  Most recently she was head of operations for a large national charity.

Governance and safeguarding are areas of particular importance to Linda, having been a member of local safeguarding children boards and related groups.  She also enjoys working collaboratively with under-represented young people, to achieve influence and opportunities within local communities.

Linda said: “I am absolutely delighted to be joining Young Advisors and very much looking forward to working with the young people and continuing the work of the founder and predecessor, Gary Buxton.”

Young Advisors is a social enterprise that develops and trains young people in how to become agents of social action, providing ‘youth proofing’ advice and consultancy to public sector commissioners and corporate clients. This gives under-represented young people a voice in decision making while also offering them paid work and valuable experience.

Social Business Trust has worked with Young Advisors since late 2013, assisting with creation of a sales and marketing strategy, development of a private sector service proposition and product marketing.



June 1st, 2015

Support package worth £550,000 is awarded to Hertfordshire Independent Living Service to expand

Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS), a pioneering social enterprise that supports elderly and disabled people to live independently in their homes has been awarded a package of funding and high-calibre business support worth £550,000 by Social Business Trust (SBT).

HILS provides a ‘meals on wheels’ delivery service to vulnerable adults, along with welfare checks, companionship and other assistance. Since 2010 it has increased the number of clients provided with daily lunchtime meals annually from 2,500 in 2010 to 4,000, up 60%.

With support from SBT, HILS is set to grow extensively, extending its meal delivery client base and providing additional services all aimed at supporting thousands more elderly and disabled people to live happily in their own homes.

Whilst some similar preventative services reliant on either volunteer support or private providers have been cut, HILS’ charitable model, combining business efficiency with compassion, has enabled it to expand. A 2014 client survey found:
•97% said my life is easier since having meals on wheels
•81% said I feel less lonely
•69% said I visit my GP less as I feel healthier
•52% said I would be in care without HILS’ service

The investment in HILS brings the number of social enterprises supported by Social Business Trust, since it launched four years ago, to thirteen. They all have in common the potential to achieve significant growth and make a positive difference to the lives of people facing disadvantage in areas including education, employment and mental health.

Last year, SBT gave £3m of support to its social enterprises in the form of cash grants and 5,000+ hours of business expertise from its partners: Bain & Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira and Thomson Reuters. All provide expert volunteers and secondees, many at senior level, to work with social enterprises in SBT’s portfolio.

The first SBT volunteer working with HILS is David Alexander, Managing Director of British Gas Home Repairs. He worked with SBT to review HILS’ potential for growth and recommended its inclusion in SBT’s social enterprise portfolio. He will continue to support HILS through SBT, working with its management team.

David Alexander said: “Like millions in the UK, I have parents in their 80’s who wish to remain independent for as long as they can and I feel proud to have the opportunity to support HILS who have an effective business model to support people like my parents to live happy and independent lives.”

” It’s very satisfying to have the opportunity to use my business experience in such a positive social context and it’s fantastic to work with the energetic, committed team at HILS whilst seeing what learnings I can take back into British Gas.”

Adele Blakebrough MBE, CEO of SBT said: “As a nation we face the extraordinary challenge of having an ageing population alongside large government cutbacks in preventative services. Whilst many other ‘meals on wheels’ services are declining, HILS with its broader portfolio of preventative services is bucking the trend, with enormous potential to benefit many more elderly people while reducing the cost of care. It’s a win-win situation.”

“By drawing on business expertise from across our partners we look forward to supporting HILS in improving life for thousands more elderly people in Hertfordshire and beyond.”

Sarah Wren, CEO of HILS said: “Getting support from SBT is an incredibly welcome endorsement of our work and the power of social enterprises like HILS to change lives for the better. No other organisation provides the tailored, sustained business input that SBT can offer. We look forward to benefitting from that and extending our service to thousands more elderly, vulnerable people as a result.”



April 17th, 2015

By Adele Blakebrough MBE

It’s great to see employee volunteering being taken seriously with the Tory manifesto pledge of paid volunteering days for more than 15 million employees.Every day at the Social Business Trust (SBT) we see the benefits of employee volunteering – for social enterprises, the employees involved and their employers.

But it’s critical that the focus is on adding value and doing so sustainably. It’s a shame to so often see professional people with expertise in IT, finance or marketing putting those to one side when they volunteer and spending their time painting walls or making cups of tea when charities and social enterprises are crying out for skilled business support.

That’s why we work with in partnership with a group of leading companies, including British Gas, EY and Thomson Reuters to make strategic investments in outstanding social enterprises to spur their growth.

Part of that investment is cash, but every £1 we put in is matched by £2 worth of professional volunteering to develop business plans, shape strategy, strengthen IT systems and the like.

It may not sound glamorous but it’s putting in place the vital underpinnings that every enterprise needs to grow.

In fact, whilst politicians and others argue about who would pay for the Tory initiative, our experience at SBT is that businesses are enthusiastic about well thought out employee engagement which works for both parties.

Achieving that takes time and requires brokerage but when it is planned, managed and properly resourced, the results are fantastic for all concerned.

Certainly the social enterprises we work with find the help invaluable. Jenny Holloway, CEO of the innovative garment industry training social enterprise, Fashion Enter, told us: “I can honestly say working with SBT has changed my business and my life.”

But it’s not only about what they get from the experience: the employees volunteering their time repeatedly tell us that they benefit enormously too.

A consultant from Bain, another SBT partner business, who recently worked with Shakespeare Schools Festival said: “It further confirmed my belief in applying business skills in social sector work. If you asked me to do this again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”

And our corporate partners love the result in terms of staff development. For example, EY are so delighted with the benefits of employee engagement through SBT, that they’ve offered unlimited professional support to us and our portfolio of social enterprises.

It’s a win-win and a model that we’d love to see others embrace by getting involved in our work.

So whether or not employee volunteering leave is eventually enshrined in law I hope we’ll see an upsurge in professional people using their business expertise to help social enterprises to thrive and grow.

Because as generous as it is for bankers to give up time to paint walls it’s by using their professional expertise that they can truly make a significant, sustainable contribution to social good



March 31st, 2015

By Adele Blakebrough MBE, CEO, Social Business Trust

Visiting Gdansk is a profoundly moving experience: walking through the Lenin Shipyard, stark and windswept, where 80 workers were murdered in their fight for workers’ rights; remembering the birth of Solidarity, thirty five years ago and the bravery of Lech Welesa, leading the groundswell for change that precipitated the fall of Communism in Poland.

It may not seem the most obvious place to launch a Europe-wide search for innovation in social enterprise. Yet in many ways Gdansk was a fitting venue to mark the start of the EU Social Innovation Competition 2015 that I spoke at last week. After all there are lessons for all social entrepreneurs from the tenacity of Solidarity, the bravery, commitment and resilience of the shipyard workers, the power of ordinary people to effect extraordinary change.

We gathered at the brand new European Solidarity Centre to the side of the shipyard. Opened just last summer, it’s a wonderful building, preserving the memory of Solidarity’s triumph and the collapse of the Soviet-bloc. And we came from all over Europe, the UK, France, Germany and particularly Poland, to hear about social enterprise across the EU, learn from each other, be inspired and discuss new ways for social enterprises to grow.


What was most striking for me, though, was the lack of focus on the role business can play in helping social enterprises to grow. After all, that’s at the heart of what we do at Social Business Trust (SBT) – working with our seven corporate partners, including British Gas and EY, to transform social enterprises by investing funding and, crucially, business expertise. Four years in, we’ve examined over 800 UK social enterprises, invested in 12 outstanding organisations and made a difference to over 700,000 lives.

Ideologically the social sector used to be reluctant to have anything to do with big business – and even if they wanted to, they usually didn’t know what to ask for, other than money. But at SBT we’re showing the power of bringing business and social enterprise together and how that can be a fantastic catalyst for growth.

The benefits for ambitious social enterprises are manifest: sustained, high quality, support for them to build their businesses, from writing business plans and setting up IT systems, to scaling up operations and establishing an HR function.

But there are also considerable benefits for our corporate partners: outstanding development opportunities for staff; the potential to reach new, diverse talent pools for recruitment, marketing benefits from demonstrating deep engagement with local communities.

We’re ambitious to grow our impact in the UK and for our model to be adopted more widely across Europe and certainly there was plenty of interest in Gdansk in what we’re achieving at SBT. For me personally it was also wonderful just to know that others, in so many different contexts, find social enterprise as compelling as I do!

Oh and don’t forget that European Social Innovation Competition 2015: there are prizes of €50,000 for each of the three top projects and all semi-finalists will be invited to a social innovation academy in Vienna in September to progress their ideas. Find out more here



March 30th, 2015

Want to see more clothing manufactured in the UK and jobs created in the process? Get ready to with the launch last week of the Fashion Technology Academy.

The Academy will open up employment opportunities for thousands of people and encourage the growth of UK garment manufacturing. It is targeting school leavers, with an emphasis on those without jobs, who can study for free.

Jenny Holloway, Director of Fashion Enter, said “The FTA shows how true partnership can succeed. We have worked so closely with Creative Skillset to create the new qualifications, Haringey Council for the funding of the new site, Asos and the Department for Work and Pensions for their support too and then of course SBT which has had the confidence in the social enterprise work that we undertake! We can now help literally thousands of learners progress into real work with real skills.”

Fashion Enter has been assisted by SBT since late 2013 with funding and hands-on professional assistance from our corporate partners, including EY and the private equity firm Permira. The result has been phenomenal change and growth.

Adele Blakebrough, CEO of SBT, said: “This is a fantastic development for Fashion Enter and we’re delighted to be supporting them to grow and create employment opportunities for thousands more people. It’s a prime example of business and social enterprise working together for positive change.”

The Academy builds on Fashion Enter’s existing programmes, The Apprenticeship Programme and The Stitching Academy and will include qualifications across the entire garment life cycle incorporating pattern making, fabric inspection, quality control and more.



March 25th, 2015

By Damon Buffini, Co-Founder and Chair of Social Business Trust

Going back to school can generate mixed emotions: pleasure at seeing and meeting young people full of ideas, energy and potential; wonder at how the years have flown by since I was sitting in a classroom; fear that I’ll be put on the spot, asked to solve equations or recite the periodic table and not know where to begin!

But a few weeks ago I felt excited as I went to speak to teenagers at Rushey Mead School in Leicester about my own experience of growing up in their home town and going to school down the road from them.

The main message I wanted to share with these young people was to aim high and think big. Some, like me, may not have the most privileged start in life but with ambition, commitment and hard work they can achieve great things.

Nearly all pupils at Rushey Mead are from ethnic minority backgrounds so I hope that meeting me helped them understand that simply isn’t a barrier to success. It’s vital that young people, particularly ethnic minorities, don’t turn away from ambitious career paths and think, ‘This isn’t for me’ or ‘I can’t work here because there won’t be anyone else like me.’ Get over that mindset and you can go far.

My desire to see people succeed, whatever their start in life was a key motivation for setting up the Social Business Trust, along with our CEO, Adele Blakebrough, four years ago. We’re still young but growing fast and have already directly impacted the lives of 400,000 people, and double that number including those indirectly affected.

We do that by bringing together outstanding social enterprises with leading businesses, including Bain, British Gas, EY and the company I founded, Permira, who provide cash grants and expert resources to support those enterprises to grow and scale-up their impact.

We don’t tinker at the edges but get in deep: shaping strategy, developing business plans, establishing a finance function, sorting out IT – whatever it takes to enable these fantastic organisations to grow and extend their positive social impact.

Of the 12 social enterprises currently in our portfolio, many, like The Challenge, Challenge Partners, Fashion Enter and Shakespeare Schools Festival are working day in, day out to support and inspire young people, whatever their background, to succeed.

With support from SBT, The Challenge, now the largest provider of the government’s National Citizen Service programme has achieved outstanding growth, with revenues increasing from £5.3m in 2010/11 to £36.6m in three years.

Most importantly, they’ve been able to massively expand the number of young people they reach from just under 4,000 in 10/11 to over 22,000 in 13/14 and they’re forecast to reach 85,000 by 2018. It’s a great success story and one that SBT is working to replicate to address other social challenges.

So I hope that the teenagers I met at Rushey Mead and young people across the country, will be motivated to aim high wherever and whoever they are. After all, in pure economic terms young people are our most vital national resource, so let’s make sure that we support each and every one of them to do the best they can.



March 19th, 2015

BBC Radio 4 Today programme feature tells how Damon Buffini went ‘back to school’ to encourage young people in his home town of Leicester to aim high

Damon Buffini, Social Business Trust Chair and boss of the private equity firm Permira, was featured on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, talking about his journey from being brought up on a council estate by a single parent to working for some of the UK’s top companies.

Listen to what he had to say at

Damon was speaking to pupils at Rushey Mead School in Leicester, where 98% of pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds, as part of the BBC News School Report annual News Day, which gives thousands of young people from across the UK the opportunity to make news reports.

Damon, who studied at Cambridge University and Harvard Business School, advised young people from ethnic minorities to stay positive and not to be put off by anyone.  He told Reporter Sima Kotecha: “Motivating them wherever they are, whatever they are, to do the best they can, that’s crucial.”

When questioned by one of the pupils on whether being black in 1970’s Leicester was tough, Damon said: “There was quite a lot of tension in Leicester in the 70’s. But I never felt that it held me back in any way.”

Damon co-founded the Social Business Trust with Adele Blakebrough four years ago to invest capital and professional expertise in social enterprises and set an ambitious goal of improving the lives of a million people in the UK.

SBT now works in partnership with seven leading businesses: Bain and Company, British Gas, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, EY, Permira, and Thomson Reuters. It’s on track to achieve its target and is currently supporting 12 social enterprises across a range of social issues to grow.