Sunday, 29 April 2007

UnLtd: The Foundation Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

• On my last day in London, I visited the headquarters of UnLtd: the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs. This Foundation was established in 2000 by a consortium of groups (including Ashoka / Changemakers and the School for Social Entrepreneurs) who successfully bid for and were awarded £100 million from the UK Millennium Awards Endowment (part of the National Lottery).

UnLtd gives financial support to individuals who want to make a difference. They don’t fund organisations. The UnLtd awards are enabling emerging social entrepreneurs to tackle a wide variety of issues such as racism, the minimum wage, social exclusion, hungry schoolchildren and food poverty in inner cities.

UnLtd offers two levels of award: The first level gives between £500 and £5,000 to individuals or informal groups of people who have an idea and want help getting it off the ground. The second level (of between £10,000 and £20,000) is for supporting key people or paying for the living expenses of the award winners to enable them to devote more time to their projects.

UnLtd also runs a UK-wide Fellowship of the people who have received their awards, and undertakes research into the impact of social entrepreneurship on society.
— The website for UnLtd: The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs
The Guardian UnLtd Social Entrepreneur Awards
Everyday Legends: The Ordinary People Changing Our World, the Stories of 20 Great UK Social Entrepreneurs by Justine C. Law, James J. Baderman (book pub 2006 by WW Publishing)

• My interest in visiting UnLtd wasn’t so much about their funding programme — which was extraordinary enough — but to follow up on a conversation I had with Cliff Prior, UnLtd’s Chief Executive, when we were having dinner during the Skoll Forum.

I had mentioned a project we were exploring with the New Zealand ChangeMakers 5-10-5-10 group which is to establish a micro-philanthropy trading website. The idea is to provide a website where the network of people involved with ChangeMakers can be connected with the funding requests from local groups and organisations. Such a website (modelled on the popular NZ trading site TradeMe) would be a useful addition to the tools for generosity in our country, and could be especially useful as a fundraiser for smaller grant and donation requirements for individuals and community organisations.

Cliff Prior told me that UnLtd were pursuing much the same idea as a way of supporting the people and projects involved in their own network of social entrepreneurs. He put me in touch with their website developer, who was able to point me towards several existing examples of websites that were pursuing a similar strategy.
Some of these philanthropy marketplace websites include:
Just Giving
Generous Giving
Global Giving