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Director’s blog - Join us on our Social Bridging Finance journey

Please note that The Robertson Trust has published its new Giving Strategy. This sets out the priorities we will have when awarding funds through our open grants programme. The existing application form and guidelines can still be used until July 31st. In line with our existing procedures, we will aim to assess and present all applications received by this date to our September Board meeting. In the event that we are unable to do so, your application may be held until our November meeting. In such cases a member of staff will contact you and provide any assistance required to realign your application with the new Giving Strategy. Find out all you need to know here.

Last month, I wrote about The Robertson Trust’s plans for the year ahead and reiterated our commitment to finding ways of maximising the impact of our resources beyond traditional grant-making. 

That’s why I’m particularly excited about the work we are now doing around Social Bridging Finance (SBF), a funding model we have been developing over the last few years - and also why I am so keen to see others join us on this journey. 
 
The model evolved in response to issues identified with other social finance innovations, such as Social Impact Bonds and Public Social Partnerships, most notably limitations around effective public services being sustained in the long term.  
 
In contrast, SBF has been designed with the explicit intention of enabling public services to innovate and move to greater preventative spend through bringing together a working partnership of public sector, third sector and funders.  
 
The model enables grant funding to take the risk of the initial demonstration phase of an evidence-based service, whilst also ensuring that the public sector sustains those which successfully meet agreed outcomes. Central to it all is the inclusion of a binding contract, signed by all partners once criteria for success are agreed. 
 
While the principles of the model have been successfully tested in two sites to date; MCR Pathways in Glasgow and the Includem Raising Attainment Project in Dundee, 2019 is the year we really take the Social Bridging Finance story forward. 
 
Over the next 3 years, we will trial and evaluate the model in three demonstration projects, to understand the strengths and challenges of implementing SBF, and whether it achieves the desired outcomes. Then, if successful, what elements of the model enable these to happen. We have already issued an invitation to tender for this evaluation, and we will also be sharing details of the demonstration projects shortly.
 
It has been great to see the enthusiasm for SBF, not just in the UK but internationally as well. For instance, a Norwegian foundation is working with the City of Oslo council on how it might implement the model. I also had many people approach me at the EVPA Annual Conference in Warsaw towards the end of last year interested in finding out more, while the model was recently featured in Social Finance NL
 
While we will be sharing our learning throughout the demonstration period, we are also encouraging others with an interest in social innovation to share their own experiences and learning. Our dedicated Linkedin group is the main tool for this but all resources we create will then be shared on our SBF hub page
 
Meanwhile, I would encourage anyone with an interest in SBF to register for our webinar with the Improvement Service next week, in which we will be providing an overview and going into a little more detail about our experiences to date. 
 
By the end of the demonstration period, we hope to produce a suite of ‘how to’ materials that can be used to implement this model and, in turn, effect genuine public sector reform across Scotland and further afield. It’s going to be a fascinating journey – so please join us!