Lab Fellows are the pioneers of a new financial system – one that works for people and planet.
Our 2016 cohort were selected for their potential to scale their businesses, change the narrative on finance or prove that alternative business models in finance are possible and profitable.
Joel Benjamin: Community Reinvest
Joel has ten years’ professional experience in infrastructure planning and environmental consultancy roles, and for the past four years has been immersed in research and campaigning for Move Your Money UK and Debt Resistance UK.
Community Reinvest works with the fossil free divestment movement, NGOs, community energy organisations and civic institutions, such as local authorities and universities, to facilitate divestment from fossil fuels and reinvestment into the local economy, in a manner that has clear social, economic and environmental benefits.
A key element of Community Reinvest’s work is to undertake compelling research that makes the case for change. A report released in February 2017 revealed that more than half of Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) in England and Wales have not taken appropriate action to protect members’ funds from the financial risks associated with climate change, leaving pension funds vulnerable to financial losses and legal challenges. The research will enable Client Earth to refer potential breaches of fiduciary duty in the LGPS to the pensions
Neil Chandler: Cathartic
Neil built Cathartic.co using his 17 years of experience as an enterprise IT architect for FTSE100 companies, including JP Morgan and the Financial Times.
Cathartic.co is a platform designed to allow anyone to express their thoughts, feelings or entire story in complete anonymity and in a safe and secure environment, including those with mental health problems. A white label version offers a solution to individuals working within the financial sector who may be reluctant to speak out about wrongdoing within their organisation, for fear of suffering personally as a consequence.
Neil has now established a new, profit-making product called Endinel to enable Cathartic to remain free to use and to avoid monetising its users. The finance sector has shown a lot of interest in Endinel Chat, which enables employees to anonymously whistleblow, and Endinel has onboarded two financial organisations. Following the Lab Fellowship Demo Day, Neil started working on with the Chartered Banker Institute to provide one of the oldest banking institutes with additional support to their 30,000 members.
Steve Clarke: Bristol Prospects
Steve is a lawyer by training, a founding member and Director of the Bristol Pound, and a recent former director of Bristol BIG Green Week.
The Prospects Network is a ‘mutual credit circle’: a network of local companies that group together to offer each other credit. The scheme uses a digital ‘currency’ called Prospects, which ‘matures’ and can be traded for Sterling after a fixed period of time. In this way, a broad group of companies can utilise their collective economic capacity to issue credit and to increase their economic purchasing power.
Kat Davis and David Floyd: Flip Finance
Kat is an architect by training and works with a wide range of social enterprises, charities and innovative organisations, using participative, design thinking approaches to research, strategy and organisational development.
David is Managing Director of Social Spider CIC, a social enterprise based in Walthamstow, and an independent expert on the UK social investment market.
Flip Finance is a collaborative project born out of the efforts of a small group of actors working across the social investment sector and wider social enterprise space in the UK. They want to enable collaborative investee-led approaches to social investment creation, and to transform more widely the way in which social investment products and services are designed and delivered.
Johnny Denis: Low-cost housing, co-ownership and social finance
Johnny has founded a number of co-ops and social enterprises and now advises others on start-up, funding, project management, and evaluation. He also manages a rural fuel co-operative saving residents thousands of pounds and making warmth more affordable.
Johnny’s Fellowship project explored new ways of financing and controlling housing to address issues of availability and affordability of rented housing, initially in the Lewes District, East Sussex. It looked at community shares, in particular, as a means of investment to give tenants a real stake in their housing by making them co-owners of the co-operative business.
Today, Johnny is advising community organisations, local councillors and neighbourhood planning groups about how neighbourhood plans offer a way forward for genuinely affordable community-led housing development. With community investment, these can offer community buy-in to appropriate development and mobilise social capital for community benefit.
Sam Gill: Environmental tracking
After starting his career at Google, Sam led the Environmental Investment Organisation (EIO), a not-for-profit research body to become the first and only organisation in the world to rank the world’s largest listed companies by their greenhouse gas emissions and disclosure.
In 2014 he co-founded ET Index Research to commercialise the work of the EIO. Sam is author of Environmental Tracking 3.0 and serves on the Board of a human rights NGO. He also mentors several other young companies in the climate change sector. Sam holds a first class degree in French from the University of London Institute in Paris.
In 2016, ET Index Research raised over £1.1m in seed funding from investors and in 2017 will be expanding their offering beyond carbon emissions to other carbon- and climate-related metrics.
Leonie Kelly: Rhino Impact Investment
Leonie is Head of Impact Innovation and Investment at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and previously worked at Deloitte LLP, advising both private and public sector clients on impact investing, assurance and impact measurement.
ZSL are working to address the need for sharing of best practice models and innovative solutions – one example is the Rhino Impact Investment, an outcomes-based financing mechanism that directs private and public sector funds to improving management effectiveness of rhino populations. This project is supported by the UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and six other leading conservation organisations working under the United for Wildlife initiative.
Ashley Lewis: Ongeza Fund
Ashley has dedicated the past five years to investing in and scaling social ventures across Sub-Saharan Africa and South East Asia, and previously worked as an Investment Consultant and Accelerator Manager with LGT Venture Philanthropy.
Ongeza Fund is an investment management tool for social ventures and investors active in low liquidity markets. To address to issue that few investors have successfully exited impact focused deals, Ongeza streamlines the investment closing process, creates a real time capitalisation table and runs a controlled secondary market for .
Julian Lewis: LendLocal
Julian has 25 years’ experience as a social entrepreneur, journalist and research manager; his consultancy assignments have included advising the African Development Bank on marketing and communications.
LendLocal is an online platform allowing individual social investors to refinance Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) and Credit Union (CU) loans. Using the Kiva model, LendLocal frees CDFI and CU lenders to originate further loans – a vital source of capital in disadvantaged communities – and challenge the spread of exploitative high-interest lending.
LendLocal is now hosting Kiva loans on CrowdPatch, using the Kiva API, to increase their visibility amongst UK donors and social .
Freda Owusu: Credscope
Freda worked for ten years as a Loan Fund Manager in London, has a PhD in Social Policy and is also a co-founder of iHealth-Direct, a telemedicine service for health inclusion.
Freda is developing an alternative, bottom-up credit reference agency called CredScope (formerly named Insight Report) with a vision to enable more people to become financially included through credit scoring. It is a credit scoring system using alternative data, which is centered on the consumer as a person, rather than on their transactions alone.
Credscope is launching a beta test over the first half of 2017. Its credit rating processes are built and ready to use, it has interim permission from the FCA, and it is registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office for Data Protection. Looking ahead to a full launch, Credscope is seeking seed funding or patient capital to recruit and continues to look for partners, commercial and social.
Simon Petley: Ecosystem Collateral
Simon is a markets professional, with a diverse background spanning engineering, finance and sustainability consulting, an Associate Member of the UK Securities and Investment Institute, and a technical advisor to the Climate Bond Initiative.
Ecosystem Collateral aims to address the difficulties faced by small land-use enterprises in raising the finance necessary to more sustainable management practices. It addresses one of the key constraints – a lack of collateral – by utilising the economic value of ecosystem services as collateral for loans.
Simon Rowell: Creating a social pensions industry
Simon works at Big Society Capital as Senior Director, Strategy & Market Development. He began his career as a corporate lawyer for Linklaters LLP and is currently deputy chair of the Disability Law Service.
Simon’s Fellowship project aimed to establish social pension funds as a new segment of the UK pensions industry, which all pension providers have an obligation to offer and pension savers feel a personal interest to invest in.
Simon continues to work to set up the first few pathfinder social pension products and encourage their broader take-up to become a core part of all pension portfolios. In February 2017, research commissioned by Simon explored how DC pensions can help people save for retirement and meet their values.
Olivia Seddon-Daines: Mapping the financial system
Olivia is a policy analyst, anthropologist and advocate specialising in the global governance of critical risks. She is currently Senior Research Analyst at ET Index.
This project will explore the links between finance and the real economy to map and present the financial system via an interactive tool. By tackling the opacity of the world of finance, the project will visualise how carbon risk in the financial system will affect real people, working real jobs.
Ben Warren: Crowd Match Fund
Ben works in the investment team at Big Society Capital and was previously a Policy Adviser in the Social Investment and Finance Team at the Cabinet Office.
Crowd Match Fund aims to create a fund to match investments made by individuals on crowdfunding platforms to Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)-eligible charities and social enterprises. This facility aims to encourage greater participation by the crowd in funding socially motivated projects, enable social sector organisations to raise more capital and encourage more mainstream platforms to engage with SITR.
Ben led the development of the £10m Crowd Match Fund that launched in December 2016. Working with Crowdfunder, Ethex and ThinCats (through Community Chest), the fund – the first of its kind – will help connect the public with the causes they really care about by listing social sector organisations who want to raise debt and equity finance. You can read more about the Crowd Match Fund here.
Josef Wasinski: Unmortgage
Josef is a designer and experienced architect. He got into finance after working at Techstars, where he saw a lack of financial service products that aim to help people, rather than maximise profit.
Josef initially joined the Fellowship with Ample, a personal finance app that aimed to empower people to engage with their money by removing jargon, giving people simple choices, and providing support through human ingenuity and artificial intelligence.
He later pivoted and became co-founder of Unmortgage, which offers home ownership through an equity product, which means people can get on the property ladder without a deposit.
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