Friends Provident: Transforming The Use of Financial Systems

Friends Provident: Transforming The Use of Financial Systems

Friends Provident is a grant providing charity which is in the business of looking at the way in which money and financial systems can be used for social good. The company was formed in 2001 as the result of the demutualisation of Friends’ Provident Life Office and the flotation of Friends Provident plc. It is a charity that is independent and has its unique board of trustees. The company has a variety of aims. These include trying to encourage ways of thinking that explore the causes of problems and transforming the use of financial systems so that they are not limited to focusing on economic benefits but also offer social benefits including focusing on inequality and social disharmony. A third aim is trying to innovate to find new ways of thinking regarding how money can be utilised to solve social problems.

How Friends Provident makes a difference is largely through funding that it provides. It reviews requests that it receives with regard to revenue requests, core funds or project costs, and it is an advocate of the principle of Full Cost Recovery (FCR). The organisation will also consider loan requests and underwriting in certain cases, and this is in addition to funds that it provides in grants. Its trustees are also active in making direct investments in social enterprises. In addition as the organisation reports:

“We are working toward a portfolio of social investments of up to 5% of our expendable endowment funds.”

However, the organisation does not just hand out the money and step back. It also monitors and reviews the ways in which outcomes are achieved so that the most appropriate projects may be supported in the future. It is also committed to sharing its learning with others for the benefit of all.

Friends Provident has supported a variety of different projects to help them to succeed. Since April 2015 it has been supporting a project which seeks to provide the UK’s first sociologically-informed analysis of alternative finance, in particular looking at local economic resilience. This project is supported to the value of £30,000 and the organisation supported is the Bauman Institute. The project is named the FITTER project. The project is to be carried out by interviewing people in the alternative finance sector to better understand social, economic and ethical positions of players. It will then review the extent to which aims are being achieved, drawing out insights and examples of good practice.

Another project currently being supported is being run by Wessex Community Assets, and Friends Provident are supporting this project to the value of £98,080. The project aims to investigate the ways in which strong relationships with community groups can be built on by a Community Land Trust to enhance achievements within the community. This project was driven as a result of the decline that people in the UK have seen in their communities for various reasons. The project is considered to be an “active learning” project to gain a deeper understanding of how communities can be best supported and how resilience can be built.

NewStart is another project that Friends Provident is helping out, this time to the value of £35,000. The project seeks to look at mapping and activating local economic activity in 10 UK cities. This is to be achieved through events that are aimed at developing coalitions for local resilience. The events require the building of a microsite, the creation of a publication and a best practice compendium. New Start is part of CLES (the Centre for Local Economic Strategies) and NEF (the New Economics Foundation).

Core Econ is another, bigger project that is being supported to the value of £180,362. CORE is defined as curriculum open access resources for economics. It is the work of academic economists who hope to change the way in which economics education is provided. The following video, explains in 30 seconds how the program works:

There is a free online introductory economics resource which has a goal of informing learners but also empowering them to really get into debating the challenges of financial problems such as economic disparity, financial instability and environmental sustainability. The project aims to have a long term influence and has a desire as an end game to help to empower students and citizens to change decisions that are made by policy makers. The Economy 1.0 is planned to launch in September 2017.

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