Andrew Muirhead

4th November 2011 at 00:00
The chief executive of Inspiring Scotland discusses progress - and the barriers to it - as his organisation seeks to enlist individuals, charities and the Scottish Government in tackling major social issues and achieving positive long-term impact on the lives of the country's most vulnerable children and families

What is Inspiring Scotland?

It's an opportunity for those inspired by social impact to come together and tackle some of Scotland's most crucial issues. It works through building resources and working very closely with talented social organisations in Scotland, building capacity and effectiveness to meet the needs of people living in challenging circumstances. We do that through investing money, investing time and providing developmental support alongside that money. We ask people to think of what they can do not in one or two years, but in up to 10 years, which is fairly radical. We don't want people to be constrained by an arbitrary timeframe.

Where does the money come from?

From individuals, charitable foundations, business and the Scottish Government.

How much of the work relates to young people?

We work with approximately 80 Scottish charities, supporting from pre- birth to the age of 19. The first social issue we tackled was young people who find the transition from secondary school to later life very difficult. The 14:19 Fund, which invested pound;6.9 million in 2010, has been running for three years, and we have also managed to launch three new funds, one around free play (the Early Years Early Action Fund) and the third (Link-up), which is about supporting communities to become more cohesive and more resilient.

How do you measure the success of 14:19?

It aims over its 10 years to work with 56,000 young people and to support 35,000 young people into a positive destination - education, training or jobs - and we are on target. We capture things like young people passing SVQ and The Duke of Edinburgh's Award, and there are lots of softer milestones along the way towards the hard outcomes. So we have a progression timeline and we measure across that.

What is the Early Years Early Action fund about?

It supports parenting and family development. There are various themes, but a lot is about building attachment in younger kids. If you get to the age of five and you have a consistent and solid environment around you, your attachment is high. If you haven't had that, you've got a real problem, because you don't know how to make things happen. If you don't know how to make things happen, you try to get things done by less legitimate means or you get frustrated. There are ways in which I believe we can support people not to get to that point.

Whenever big business is involved, people get concerned that they might be dictating the agenda. We are very fortunate that none of the investors has taken that position. Our investors are driven by social impact. Clearly, we shared the baseline before people became investors, so they knew the social issue they were investing in. But they trust us to make wise decisions, and we report fully and are very accountable. The position we give to supporters is very clear - that 93 per cent of the money they give goes straight to front-end delivery, and most of the rest of that money is used to build other support around the charity.

In addition to money, what other support do you give projects?

Using our 14:19 Fund as an example, we have three performance advisers at Inspiring Scotland and they perform a "support and challenge" role with the charities in the portfolio. They facilitate collaboration, they try to share information across the different charities, and they sit down quarterly and discuss outcomes. There is a performance score card they collate on the performance, then they talk through what the strategic skill gaps and barriers to progress are. Support could be legal, financial, HR, IT, business mentoring or coaching. We simply try to meet the need - we are entirely focused on outcome.

How do you choose who you are going to support?

Due diligence will go through a fairly typical assessment. We also assemble expert groups and try and get as wide as possible an understanding of proposals before we make a decision. We try to assess ambition, and preparedness or willingness to collaborate, and that can often be a big determinant. If we don't sense that a charity is going to be an active member of the portfolio and bring its whole self to the table, we won't invest.

How much are Inspiring Scotland's principles for support influenced by your banking background?

I did a psychometric test once and I can exclusively reveal I am the least evaluative person that has ever walked the earth. So it is probably not that. What I do believe is it is not enough to simply live off the fact that something is intrinsically good.

If you look back in 25 years, what would need to have happened for you to regard Inspiring Scotland as a success?

I think the success in 25 years' time would be that we didn't exist. We need to be very different in the way we deliver social impact. More has to happen at a community level. We will manage dependency from day one to a point where I hope that we leave and the things that drive wider community impact are still happening.


Born: Lesmahagow, 1959

Education: Lesmahagow Primary; Lesmahagow High; Larkhall Academy; Glasgow University

Career: Bank manager with TSB Scotland; first employee of the Lloyds TSB Foundation; chief executive of Inspiring Scotland.

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