City Funds

Today’s guest blog comes from Edward Rowberry, Chief Executive of Bristol and Bath Regional Capital (BBRC), following the launch of Bristol’s £10million City Fund in Bristol.

It always amazes me what can be achieved in the City of Bristol. I’ve lived here for ten years now – running BBRC for nearly five – and when it comes to shaping the future of the city, the possibilities for collaboration are strong. Bristol definitely has an ‘all-hands on deck’ approach, and the hard work of many of our Bristol citizens is now beginning to bear fruit via City Funds.

BBRC was built on collaboration, but in terms of new ways of collaborating, I can confidently say that this year has been the busiest yet against the backdrop of the hope-filled vision outlined by the One City Approach.  Alongside Bristol City Council, Big Society Capital, Power to Change and Quartet Community Foundation, BBRC has managed to secure just over £10million in investment for this initiative to get going.

These resources, entitled ‘City Funds’ have been created to fund Bristol-based initiatives that are working to solve some of the biggest social and environmental challenges that the City faces.  City Funds seeks to achieve this by funding organisations with real social purpose that are seeking to make a change in the system.  Part of our approach will be to fund smaller socially and environmentally focussed organisations to access the kind of finance previously not accessible for them.

City Funds has already been recognised nationally as being the ‘first of its kind in the UK’ due to its approach to collaborative place-based funding model – in other words a variety of grants and investment focussed on only one place – Bristol.

But it is more than just money, what makes this fund really work is the wide variety of citizens, drawn from our City, who have volunteered to shape this initiative.  So I am particularly grateful to those citizens who work tirelessly to innovate alongside us.

Regarding investment, both Big Society Capital and Bristol City Council have invested £5 million each into the fund, so that the fund can invest between £50,000 and £1million into social and environmental projects. This first round of funding is now available for organisations to apply for via Power to Change has also provided £250,000 into the fund, this money is specifically for community businesses to access grant and loans alongside the other available investment.

So, this is a positive start, but we have only reached the starting line.  City Funds will only succeed via the positive impact that it generates once the funds are deployed.

But there is another opportunity for Bristol, not only to create positive impact, but also to create a locally led not-for-profit legacy fund for our city, a revolving fund that outlives us, as well as the economic and political cycles that will inevitably come and go.

So how the money will be deployed?  We anticipate that we will be active across a broad spectrum of sectors, but our focus will be determined by our funding themes. This means that we will be actively seeking opportunities within clean energy, circular economy, food and agriculture, affordable housing and community assets, to name a few.

However, we’re mostly focussed on the outcomes that the project creates: if your local organisation is helping people into employment or providing a needed service to the local economy, we’re interested in talking to you.

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