Pioneering tax relief social investment fund makes third investment in Bristol
City magazine “Bristol 24/7” is the latest Bristol-based social enterprise to receive investment from the Resonance Bristol Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) Fund. The Fund – the first of its kind – has invested £150,000 into the publication, a Community Interest Company, in order for it to be able to offer more training, work placements and internships in journalism, for young people from marginalized neighbourhoods.
Bristol 24/7 is a popular ‘free to the reader’ online (website, mobile app, digital) newsletter and monthly printed magazine, dedicated to celebrating Bristol, its people and their stories to help build stronger communities and communication between those communities. In addition to “What’s On” in the area, it covers social issues and current affairs that affect the people of Bristol.
Though the publication is a well-known, Bristol brand, what is less well-known about the organization is that it was set up as a Community Interest Company with a clear social mission to produce a compelling range of local content on a variety of formats to support and stimulate the City; and have a large part of that content, written and produced by young talent from marginalized neighbourhoods. These young people might otherwise not get the opportunity to gain work experience in journalism without a degree level education. Profits from the publication are ploughed back into the magazine to grow its social impact.
The founders of the CIC, Dougal Templeton and Mike Bennett, both media professionals, were conscious that Bristol is often referred to as a “divided city” with clear social, economic and cultural differences that mainstream media often portray in a negative way, further serving to exacerbate the challenges and inequalities that certain communities face. Most Bristol publications are aimed at a small number of Bristol wards, ignoring other communities, which have been under-represented and therefore underserved by the media. Bristol 24/7 uncovers positive stories of inspiring people across all the Bristol wards connecting them in a single publication where one community can learn more about what is happening not only in their own neighbourhood but that of others.
The investment from the Fund will help Bristol 24/7 set up local hubs in the various areas of Bristol allowing local people to contribute articles and photos that will be uploaded to the main site, whilst allowing them also to raise their own revenue from advertising. This creates a catalyst for career opportunities in media for those who are currently marginalized, whilst dissipating negative attitudes.
Dougal Templeton said of its investment from the Resonance Fund: “I heard about a new social impact fund being set up in Bristol and was delighted to find out that it was from Resonance, a social impact company which we feel shares our mission to “dismantle poverty” in our great city. This gives us the investment we need to take the social impact of our enterprise to the next level.”
Donna Thomas, Investment Manager from Resonance said: “Being a resident of Bristol, I knew of Bristol 24/7 but was delighted to discover that this very successful magazine also had a clear social mission behind it. Talking to the Bristol 24/7 team, it became clear that the investment they needed would make a big difference in the lives of young people who might like to work in journalism but would be unlikely to be considered in normal circumstances without a degree-level education or previous work experience. Resonance is engaging with many social enterprises in the city who are making real impact and need investment to do more – we want to speak to even more.”
One early success story has seen one of Bristol 24/7’s first work experience candidates Meena Alexander, who is from a BME background with no appropriate qualifications or media background, progress from a short stint of work experience, to a part time role with the magazine as editorial assistant and now a move to London where she is doing a journalism course at News Associates in Wimbledon. Meena has also landed a job at the Times on the production desk in the evenings.
Meena commented: “I really couldn’t think of a better place to start my journalistic career than Bristol24/7. I was thrown in at the deep end and treated like an important member of the team from day one – not a tea tray or photocopier in sight. I learned such a wide variety of skills that have been invaluable; from writing to editing, interviewing to photojournalism. I know I will be putting everything I learned about journalism at Bristol24/7 to good use for years to come.”
This is now the third investment made by the Resonance Bristol SITR Fund into a Bristol social enterprise in the last 3 months, The Fund uses Social Investment Tax Relief to enable social enterprises to access more affordable, more patient finance, from individuals that share in their social mission, whilst still offering investors a financial return that reflects the risk. For many enterprises, this is the missing link that can help them access the finance they need to scale their social impact. For many investors, the tax relief puts social investment on a level playing field with their other investment opportunities, encouraging them to commit more investment to the issues they care about.
The Fund has raised £1.8m of investment to date and will remain open for eligible investors throughout 2016 with the aim of raising a total of £5m this year, and will then grow further in response to both the need for investment from social enterprises in Bristol and investor demand.