Emma Hale, Grants Manager and CIP Lead at Clarion explains why moving into the world of social investment felt like a natural, and positive next step for Clarion Futures.

For Clarion Housing Group, joining the Community Impact Partnership (CIP) and venturing into the world of social investment is a natural next step in our commitment to supporting the communities we work in. We are already grant funders and commissioners so why not consider becoming lenders?

We have a long and successful history in offering non-repayable funding to organisations to deliver our community development programmes and we, alongside our three CIP partners, will continue to commission and grant fund the important services they deliver.

However, we were conscious we had to address and adapt to the new challenges faced by our delivery partners. Time and time again we see hugely impactful work delivered locally by driven, often small, organisations trapped in a cycle of ‘survival-by-contract’ with no resource to grow. Social investment provides an extra dimension to our funding offer. Housing Associations can step in with a different kind of funding model, to facilitate sustainable and scalable impact in our communities via a mix of grant funding and loan.

We understand a big part of our role in launching the CIP Fund is in educating new and existing partners who have may have never considered taking on repayable finance. As part of our efforts to build capacity in the community investment sector Housing Associations have a responsibility to upskill partners and support the diversification of their income streams. We will be working hard to support organisations and their boards to understand the benefits of supplementing their income from traditional fundraising activities and explore social investment as a vehicle for organisational growth.

Collectively the CIP partners contribute circa £30million each year in largely one-off investments with limited scalability. Our new blended finance offer of part grant, part repayable, unsecured loan will allow us to deliver larger sustainable social and economic impact.

With 1 in 10 people in England living in a Housing Association home and 360,000 people across 170 local authorities calling a Clarion property their own, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to achieve the best outcomes for our residents. Deciding to diversify our offer through the repayable finance of the CIP Fund will empower our communities with a new opportunity to thrive.

This unique partnership – and sector first – will allow us to better understand how our resources can be invested in communities in the future. This is an exciting moment and we hope the social and economic impact of the organisations we support will demonstrate to our sector, and wider civil society, the value of flexible, mission focused social financing in producing real and lasting impact.