Fifty years of friendship and finance – meet Dave Thornett

As the end of our fiftieth year comes into sight, we’re speaking to our current partners and those we work closely with. Today we meet Dave Thornett, Business Development Manager at Key Fund investments, the social investor in the North of England.

“My personal connection with ICOF really began in the mid 1990s. I was working for a social enterprise support organisation in Sheffield and ICOF and ICOM were the long standing players in the game, a source of expertise around that early resurgence of Industrial and Provident Society (IPS) models that were taking place in Sheffield at that point in time. We worked quite closely with Sheffield co-op development group who had some strong links with ICOF.  I’ve also had an involvement with Key Fund in one way or another since 1998, and I formally started working here in June 2014.

The relationship with ICOF has been one of casual questioning, and ad hoc partnership and support. We became involved as a partner in the More Than A Pub (MTAP) fund, and our working relationship became very close. I had known Tim Coomer a bit before then, but for a few years, we spent quite a lot of time in regular conversation. It was partly project management but also comparing notes on some of the proposals coming forward, and that turned into Tim becoming a real point of reference. We were then involved in a few Connect fund projects, one of which was particularly around trying to turn investment documentation into a more user friendly set of documents, and Tim was one of the people that I spoke to about what that might look like and whether he would have some interest in taking those on. He’s a good person to check your thinking with so it’s been nice to have that kind of relationship as well.

When the More Than A Pub programme came along, it would have been easy for ICOF – with their particular specialism around cooperatives and their national profile – to say, ‘We can deliver MTAP,  it doesn’t need another social investor’. But they were open to a collaboration on a north south split, and that relationship was characterised by really good levels of open communication, and sensible discussions around who was best placed to deliver which part.  There was a real kind of mutuality about that and ensuring  division of labour as well as division of business. It was a really simple relationship. There was a lot of stuff within that, that, in theory, could have could have been the source of an argument but it was an open, focused and really straightforward relationship. That has an immense value to it when you find that culture in an organisation but also a group of individuals that make up the organisation. It made it a pleasure and that to me is the hallmark of the relationship with the ICOF

One of the things that runs through my experience of ICOF is the growth of the IPS model that became the Community Benefit Society. There’s been increasing recognition of that as a really good way of running a social business, but also creating that engagement between a member and function. And the contribution that ICOF have made to that with their contribution to community shares, their work with Cooperatives UK, and so on – it’s huge. They are really living those co-operative principles of developing the sector and contributing to that wider good. That stands out, I think has stood out. You’ll always see parts of the ICOF team involved in those discussions and that’s a real demonstration of an organisation truly living its values.

Happy birthday, to all at ICOF!. You’re an absolute pleasure to work with!”