How values can shape a social business

6 December 2017

Shelby Bradley, Head of People and Values, looks at our five key values and how they have changed the way we operate as a social investor.

Many organisations have a guiding set of values that help guide their mission. The hard part is embedding them into what you do and how you do it.

We first developed a set of values back in 2011 but these weren’t ingrained in our day to day work as much as they could have been.

Then in March 2017 something exciting happened.

After lengthy discussions involving all colleagues we unveiled our five key values and thus embarked on a brave new journey of thinking and working.

Our Five Values
Our five values: Putting people first, being curious, bold, collaborative, accountable

But implementing fundamental change is no easy task – especially with the continuing pressures of day to day demands.

So what do these nice-sounding promises actually mean in practice? And what have we changed so far?

Putting people first

Whether you were with us from the beginning with the Adventure Capital Fund or you’ve just signed up to our newsletter, we’ve pledged that charities and social enterprises, will be the focus of all that we do.

We’ve formed a customer panel from charities and social enterprises to get feedback and improve what we do. Having hosted our first meeting in Bristol in November where we established how the panel will operate, we’re now looking forward to working with them.

We have also embedded our values into how we invest in our colleagues. A few examples include improving our diversity monitoring, changing our appraisal approach and using our values to help make recruitment decisions.

Being curious

Over the last fifteen years we’ve provided over £230m in grants and £175m in loans to 2,800 organisations but have we learnt enough about the impact of our work in that time?

We’ve now made the strategic choice to increase our investment in research and evaluation to better understand the impact of our work. We’ve started by researching the impact of our investment readiness programmes – including via a series of workshops – and we’ll be releasing a report on our findings in the new year.

Being collaborative

We now we can do more by working with others and we’ve been in talks with various partners, some new and some old, to launch exciting new projects.

Already this year we’ve worked closely with all the partners on the Impact Management Programme to transform the way charities examine their own impact and with the Asda Foundation through the First Steps Enterprise Fund. Expect to hear about more collaborative programmes in 2018.

Being bold

It’s important that all voices are heard and that’s why we’ve given colleagues the opportunity to get more creative in designing programmes.

We recently launched ‘The Challenge’ – an invitation to all colleagues to submit proposals to tackle some of the challenges in the social investment market. This is a new approach for us but one we believe can make the best use of new talent and ideas.

Being accountable

As champions of social enterprise it’s only right for us to include them in our supply chain.

Consultancy, groceries and even who we bank with are just a few of the products and services included in our push to ‘Buy Social’ and we will continue to campaign in this space.

Once a month we also give colleagues the opportunity to nominate another who has ‘lived up’ to our values. From helping a colleague meet a deadline to remembering to water our thirsty plants our ‘Made a Difference’ award recognises positive work.

Impact so far

While our journey has just begun the feedback from our annual colleague survey has been positive.

"Having clear values has helped - it's made the organisation more inclusive."

"There has been a good sense of trying to embed the new values throughout the business."

We’ve already learned the advantage of using the values in our everyday work. When all colleagues subscribe to a common set of values it can create culture in which success can thrive. It’s still early days but we hope this approach will improve what we do, and how we do it.

We want to hear from you on how we are doing with living our values. Get in touch and share your thoughts.

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Shelby Bradley

Director of People and Values

Shelby  has been with us since 2009, and become Director of People and Values in November 2020.

Shelby is an Associate member of CIPD and has experience in a wide range of HR practices.

Before joining us Shelby worked in various roles across the Department for Work and Pensions in Sheffield and then 2 years at HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire.


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The Social Investment Business is the trading name for the Social Investment Business Foundation, Registered Company No. 05777484 (England), Registered Charity No. 1117185 (England & Wales), The Social Investment Business Limited, Registered in England No. 06490609, VAT No. 927456693, Futurebuilders-England Limited, Registered in England No. 05066676 and Forward Enterprise FM Ltd, Registered in England No.11238102. Registered Office: CAN Mezzanine, Borough, 7-14 Great Dover Street, London, SE1 4YR.

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