Case Study


June 18th, 2019

How a Permira executive is applying his expertise to help The Challenge grow

As an Investment Professional in Permira’s global consumer team, Eli Crystal has a demanding schedule pursuing investment opportunities around the world.

But he makes time to work with social-integration charity The Challenge, through Social Business Trust (SBT), because of the difference the organisation makes to nearly 50,000 young people every year.

Eli says: “With very little free time, it’s challenging to pick a cause you strongly care about and still have the ability to make an impact. In this context, applying your daily job skills to benefit others is probably a decent medium.”

“Enabling change in younger populations is where you can have an impact on development and social integration which will last over the individual’s lifetime.”

With SBT’s support, The Challenge has grown to be the largest provider of the government’s National Citizen Service programme. Since launching in 2009, it has worked with 225,000 young people from diverse backgrounds across England, with the goal of creating a more integrated society.

Every year, young people contribute more than one million hours of volunteering in their communities through The Challenge’s programmes, which also include HeadStart and HeadStart Action.

Eli’s role with The Challenge is to be a sounding board for the senior management team and support them to be as effective as possible in their decision-making.

He explains: “With a first principles approach, even applying the fundamentals of unit economics to social change can have an effect. It’s clear that The Challenge is an enterprise for social change but private sector know-how can help drive efficiencies in the ways these services are delivered: it’s a powerful combination.”

Oliver Lee OBE, CEO at The Challenge, said: “Led by our longest-standing trustee and Permira Managing Director, Paul Armstrong, with contributions by his colleague Eli Crystal, we are, as always, incredibly grateful for this pro bono SBT support.  This is particularly so at a time when we have been bidding for future NCS contracts.”

Interacting with The Challenge’s leadership has benefitted Eli too: “It’s exciting to meet different types of people and learn from each other. Having diversity of thought is what makes us better in our day-to-day decision making both inside and outside the office.  The interactions I’ve had with The Challenge have truly underpinned this.”

Eli wants to encourage other team members to also get involved in SBT’s work, helping social enterprises grow: “It’s an enriching and rewarding experience and a terrific opportunity to have personal, long-lasting societal impact.”