Initially described to us as “more bleeding edge than cutting edge”, the Acquiring Business 4 Good (AB4G) programme was developed to support third sector organisations to acquire small businesses and to convert them to social enterprises. As a high profile test programme, there was a commitment to build in a learning component to the programme. Social Value Lab was therefore appointed Learning Partner to capture some of the emerging lessons from the programme and to help gauge its success.
The team at Social Value Lab observed and learned from AB4G as it evolved. We collated views and distilled learning from interviews with a variety of the main actors in the AB4G programme, as well as a survey of others that came into contact with it in some way (a survey that yielded 112 responses). This process incorporated the views of:
- programme staff
- third sector purchasers
- business sellers
- professional advisors
- social investors
- other interested intermediaries.
This offered an important 360-degree perspective on the work of the programme
We compiled a Lessons Learned report based on the findings. This explored the main elements of the support process (from initial engagement and screening through to due diligence, investment, acquisition and aftercare). The report produced has since been helpful in taking stock of this new approach, what it takes to support successful corporate acquisition activity by the third sector, and the conditions that need to be in place for this to occur. The report has been important in informing social enterprise policy and practice.