When Jack Alcock started analysing business investment opportunities for a leading private equity firm, it’s fair to say that improving the UK’s criminal justice system was not high on his to do list.
But that all changed six months ago when, in addition to his day job at global investment firm Permira, he took on the role of business adviser for User Voice, a social enterprise that gives a voice to people in prison and on probation and aims to increase the number successfully rehabilitated.
User Voice was set up seven years ago and grew rapidly. But to further expand it needed a new level of business expertise that Alcock was able to provide.
“It was an opportunity to use the skills I have developed over my career to do something with social value – a more direct way of helping,” says Alcock. “My role is to look at what makes User Voice attractive from an investor’s perspective so the business can grow securely and have more social impact.”
When he discovered that Social Business Trust (SBT) was looking for a business expert to work with User Voice, he signed up on the spot: “In society the criminal justice system tends to be overlooked. People have preconceived ideas about how it should be run. But User Voice is evidence-based and works with people on the ground who have first-hand experience, and I find that very compelling.”
Alcock’s work is already paying off: SBT has just awarded User Voice £580,000 of investment made up of a cash grant and expert business support from its corporate partners, including Permira. This will enable it to almost double the number of people it supports.
User Voice CEO, Mark Johnson said Alcock’s contribution was invaluable: “Jack gave us a whole new perspective on what User Voice needs to prioritise if we are to grow sustainably in the long term. Jack brought a deep understanding of how successful businesses work. And he’s given us even more confidence to go build on what we’ve achieved so far.”
The relationship with User Voice has been equally rewarding for Alcock: “The challenges confronting charities and small business are very different from those faced by the kind of organisations I normally deal with,” he says. “In my job I analyse but don’t always sit with the business itself so it’s been really educational to actually work closely with an organisation like User Voice and one that has a social impact.
“I would encourage anyone to take on this kind of role. It’s been really rewarding to be able to use my skills in this way and see that they can make a real social impact.”