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CAN Wakes up Social Market with £50m Social Investment Plan



CAN, the social enterprise for office space, skills and social investment, has announced plans to launch a game-changing social investment fund backed by the huge growth it has achieved in its property portfolio.

At a time of significant distress for the voluntary and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, CAN has bucked the trend by doubling its owned social property assets under management to a value of almost £40m, an increase of 120%.

CAN’s reputation as a network builder and accelerator for social ventures dates back to its days as the ‘Community Action Network’ in the early 2000s when it represented hundreds of social entrepreneurs and innovative charities across the UK.

But during the past few years it has been quietly revolutionising its business model – and the ‘sleeping giant’ has emerged as London’s most prolific provider of office space, investment and skills for charities and social enterprises.

Its annual accounts, published this month, reveal that CAN’s net assets have increased 525% from £3m to £24m. In addition to its owned property, if leasehold property under management is included, then the organisation’s ‘social assets’ have more than tripled to nearly £70m.

This major growth in its balance sheet allows CAN to seek additional capital to create a £50m social investment fund in the near future. This will complement CAN’s existing social investment offering. Most recently, the CAN Invest team doubled the organisation’s Early Intervention Fund, in partnership with UBS, to a fund of £1m, with match funding from Funding London, and are pursuing other options to enlarge the fund size & geographical reach further.

In eight years CAN has gone from totally grant-dependent to achieving 99% trading income, enabling it to provide high quality, affordable premises for the third sector. It now provides office space for 1,400 individuals working for social impact – helping 200 organisations to stay in London with the added benefits of a supportive infrastructure and peer-to-peer networking.

With some charities moving out of London in order to find cost-savings, CAN Mezzanine is a sustainable model that provides much-needed resources for the sector, including a new “fast growth” floor known as CAN³, which will be providing up to 10 of the UK’s most promising social ventures with hugely subsidised desk space and business consultancy to accelerate their growth and impact.

Andrew Croft, Chief Executive of CAN, said “This is a very exciting time for CAN and our aim to grow our social mission. We have a healthy income and profit – but, unlike many traditional businesses, we are not measured on our turnover but on the strength of our assets under management mobilised for social purpose.

“CAN is mindful that we earn much of our income from sector organisations. So we’re incredibly pleased that our teams work to create huge leaps in our commercial property value can now be used in direct pursuit of our charitable objectives. Just as we have been on a journey to build our own sustainability as a successful, charity-based social enterprise, our success allows us to help other social ventures go on a similar journey.”