CBE for Social Investment

At Cause UK, we've worked with Key Fund since we began ten years ago. It was a real thrill to see their CEO Matt Smith CBE recognised in the Queen's…

At Cause UK, we’ve worked with Key Fund since we began ten years ago. It was a real thrill to see their CEO Matt Smith CBE recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to social investment.

This client really chimes with our own outlook and work, and we hope to build on our work positioning Matt and Key Fund in the media for the pioneers they are.

Below is our full press release on Matt’s CBE, and you can read a brilliant interview which we set up for Saturday’s announcement in the Yorkshire Post by John Grainger, here.

It was also fantastic to see one of Key Fund’s clients, Ann Harding (pictured left), a community pioneer in Settle, recognised for her contribution to her community during Covid-19. We covered her story of how she re-positioned her social enterprise Victoria Hall into a frontline response hub for the vulnerable and elderly here.

Matt Smith Receives CBE for Services to Social Investment

Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his services to social investment.

The Commander of the Order of the British Empire is awarded for having a distinguished, innovative contribution in a prominent role at national level, or a leading role at regional level.

Key Fund is recognised as a pioneer in the social investment sector. It was formed in 1999 in response to the collapse of the coal and steel industries in South Yorkshire, and now operates across the North and the Midlands. Matt joined the Key Fund in 2002 when he was just 24 years old, initially as a Grants and Loans Officer, rising to the position of CEO in 2015.

Key Fund’s central mission is to provide flexible finance to support community and social enterprises traditionally excluded by mainstream finance. Community and social enterprises generate profit as any business, but reinvest their profits to achieve social impact. One of the most high-profile examples in the UK is the Big Issue magazine, sales of which provide employment to homeless and vulnerable people.

Matt, 42, grew up in Doncaster, the South Yorkshire town famous for its former industries of coal mining and train building. He obtained a degree in Psychology at the University of Central Lancashire, with further qualifications in counselling from Doncaster College. His own experience of growing up in disadvantaged areas in the town fuels his drive for fairness and a desire to create equitable opportunities for all.

Under his leadership, Key Fund has invested in areas that are hugely disadvantaged, with 80% of its investments in organisations that are in the top 30% most deprived on the indices of multiple deprivation, actively targeting the main causes and impacts of poverty in the UK.

Matt Smith said: “It’s humbling to be personally acknowledged with a CBE for my work. It’s also a fantastic recognition of the role Key Fund has played over 20 years, helping to support organisations working in some of the most disadvantaged areas in the UK. However, the real honours should go to the passionate social entrepreneurs and community activists that we have supported, who do the most amazing things every day. I should also acknowledge the remarkable team and directors that I have the pleasure to work with, who make Key Fund what it is – they aren’t just doing a job, they really put their heart into this work because they see how it can change lives. Of course, none of this would be possible without the support of our many funders and partners, to whom I am very grateful.”

Over the last 20 years, Key Fund has supported over 2,500 social and community enterprises, enabling 1,315 new jobs, safeguarding 2,094 jobs and creating 519 new businesses, all working to tackle deep-rooted challenges, from homelessness and NEETs to mental ill-health and the environmental crisis.

Matt has vocally led and driven the debate around finance models for the sector, designing funds based on practical, realistic and proven experience. He was instrumental in the early development of funding models that are now at the forefront of the social investment movement, particularly blended grant and loan funds. Ground-breaking work includes developing the finance model for Yorkshire’s first community-owned pub, the George and Dragon, and Yorkshire’s first community-owned renewable energy scheme, Settle Hydro. Settle Hydro went on to use this model to advise over 400 communities worldwide on how to take responsibility for their future.

An approach by the Big Lottery Fund saw Matt undertake a two-year secondment (2013-15), during which time he shaped policy with civil servants and then Minister, Nick Hurd, and steered the thinking and early development of the Access Foundation and the Growth Fund, as well as the Big Potential – an innovative investment readiness fund.

Returning to Key Fund, Matt worked with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, shaping and launching a new Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund in 2019.

Matt’s ability to forge partnerships, to take people with him who trust his expertise and vision, proved pivotal to Key Fund’s clients during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis. Working with partners, Matt helped secure the £18.7m Social Enterprise Support Fund, made possible by The National Lottery Community Fund. It enabled Key Fund to provide a lifeline of emergency grants.

He has also shared his experience, skills and learning across the sector, providing training, consultancy and learning to set up other funds, including Kent’s Community Foundation Fund and the Greater Manchester Voluntary Community Organisation. Involved with several leadership programmes, he is regularly invited to speak at regional and national conferences. He is currently the interim Chair of the Social Investment Forum.

Matt said: “Covid-19 has brought huge challenges, but the sector has shown its ability to respond and be fleet of foot. Our approach is to empower people and communities. Social investment is a movement that’s never been so vital or needed offering hope, regeneration and recovery, especially to those even more at risk of falling through the cracks in society with the fall-out of the pandemic.”

In 2018, social enterprises were estimated to contribute £60bn a year to the UK economy. They have become integral to delivering key services to society as well as generating over a million jobs in the UK.