Paul Barry Walsh and Fredericks Foundation – investing in infrastructure
As an entrepreneur, social investor and philanthropist, Paul Barry Walsh recognises that different forms of capital need to work in tandem – especially in these unprecedented times. It is so easy to criticise others, but perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is what are we doing?
Philanthropy provides a safety net and an opportunity to innovate fast. Social investment is needed to take social enterprises to scale. Meanwhile, responsible investment provides the basis for economic transformation.
Paul has deployed all three in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of his first actions was to make two donations. The first went to the Big Issue Foundation.
“With government advice to stay indoors, one of the immediate and devastating consequences of low street-based footfall is the dramatic reduction in numbers of people buying the Big Issue,” Paul says.
“There we be an inevitable loss of income for people who were trying hard to set their lives on track and whose lives have been made more fragile by this situation.”
The Big Issue Foundation, with its tagline “working not begging” aligns closely with the ethos of Paul’s own foundation, the Fredericks Foundation, which works on social inclusion by providing access to small business loans to those unable to get mainstream credit.
His second donation went to Feedback, a non-profit committed to reducing foodwaste. In response to Covid-19 in Merseyside, the organisation’s volunteers have been deployed to provide a direct supply chain from farms to families in need providing fresh organic food to the poor. Paul sees them as a small highly effective organisation where his donation will go to good direct use.
However, Paul’s main focus is social enterprise, which he believes can be used to support infrastructure that can help to manage the longer-term impact of the pandemic. He has invested £50,000 in do-it.org a platform that matches volunteers to charities. It is also able to be a platform for local communities to link up which he thinks is vital in this time of national crisis.
He also acknowledges that small and medium sized businesses will need cash and banks cannot be relied upon to be the exclusive conduit of funding. Askif.co.uk is a collaboration of responsible lenders with a state-of-the-art platform, making its first loans this quarter. Paul has invested £100,0000 to help this worthy initiative provide rapid and ethical loans to keep SMEs afloat.
Finally, The Society Company, which provides home deliveries of sustainable products to local communities contacted him for funding. Paul says:
“I loved their enthusiasm and determination to tackle multiple issues such as non-reusable packaging, industrial farming and too many people crowding into supermarkets. I have only invested £ 10,000 in this but if they can prove the model I will provide further support”.
He recognises these are risky investments, but his focus is on the potential social return.
Paul’s own Foundation has been busy during this time. Fredericks Foundation has funded nearly 1,700 micro businesses since 2001. Typically funding those who cannot get credit from traditional sources thanks to poor ratings. Many are at the periphery of society and employment is not an option because they may be a carer, ill themselves or a single mum. There have been unprecedented calls asking for payment holidays which are being considered and the foundation will help where possible.
Paul concludes: “Now is the time to think of how we can help, working together with the skills we have to ensure the most vulnerable are cared for and their futures are not made more uncertain.”