Meet our new Trustees – Owen Dowsett

Meet our new Trustees! We are profiling three brilliant new Trustees, elected to our Board at our June AGM.

Here we talk to Owen Dowsett, a Senior Consultant at the British Council, about his experience of working in the field of social finance, and why he chose to join us.

My current job is based around the Investment Climate Reform Facility. This supports organisations in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries to create better conditions for businesses to thrive and for women’s economic empowerment and inclusion, which in turn boosts economic growth and sustainable development at large. For the first two years of my role at the British Council I was part of the global social enterprise programme. This took an ecosystem approach, not supporting social enterprises or entrepreneurs directly, but informing policy and education and finance systems to build the conditions for social enterprises to thrive.

My previous job was within the Equality Impact Investing Project and that was all about trying to bridge the gap between the equality sector and social investment in the UK, looking at how social investors could better promote equality using a number of different strategies. These strategies often involve looking at the diversity of people invested in, and their teams, or how their work promotes equality. CCF and its target borrowers offer another aspect which I’m interested in which goes beyond the who and what described above and looks at how borrowers are organised, ie, democratically, often with flat structures – this is where at least some of the equality impact lies. 

I’ve seen time and again that there is an interest on both sides – there is a keenness to invest and a demand for the investment. I think it’s really important to be clear that while there is a need for capital for income for all sorts of organisations, social investment isn’t suited to every organisation. There was historically a risk that this was being positioned as a direction for everyone which could have justified the reduction in grants etc – we have to remember that there are and always will be projects that can’t work with repayable finance. But for those that suit it, there are lots of things that can be done to turn what they do into something that pays back. That can happen through all kinds of models – for example, services could be chargeable at different rates in different sectors to subside the work with key beneficiaries. The main thing is that investors and investees need to be willing to express needs and concerns, and ask questions, especially when things are unknown. And both need to hear those of the other party.

The opportunity with CCF felt really attractive to me. As a lot of my work at the British Council is and has been international, I’ve missed having a focus in the UK. And I live in Bristol, where CCF is headquartered, so that’s even more local to me! I am very keen to learn about cooperatives – even though they are such a globally accepted model, I’ve not really engaged with them before. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the cooperative sector – how it works, what coops feel like and look like on the ground, and meeting the people within them.’

We’re pleased to be working with Owen – welcome to the team! Meet the rest of our Trustees here