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Building Better Lives For Ex-Offenders

Bank Triodos Bank
Client Bristol Together
Location Bristol, United Kingdom

When Jim left prison he was determined to turn his life around. After applying for 100 jobs, and being rejected at every hurdle, he felt defeated. Then he found Bristol Together.

For Triodos Bank, the success of Bristol Together further supports its approach to seeing the opportunity in small-scale ideas, which might otherwise be overlooked.

Bristol Together is a Community Interest Company that provides employment to ex-offenders, enabling them to have a fresh start in life. It buys up properties at auction, and with the help of trades-people, trains up ex-offenders with the skills necessary to become builders themselves, with the long-term aim to get back into full-time employment.

The benefits of the scheme go beyond the people they support; it also addresses wider societal issues such as the UK’s housing shortage and the cost to the taxpayer of ex-offenders reoffending. Moreover, it is a self-financing project, not relying on grant funding, and therefore sustainable as a business model.

Triodos Bank has been involved in the enterprise from the start, nurturing the project from idea to implementation; working closely with the founder to build the business from concept, to a viable investment proposition. ‘Paul Harrod approached us with a concept and we believed the project offered significant potential, but which had yet to be proven’ says Dan Hird, Head of Triodos Bank’s Corporate Finance Department.

‘Triodos Bank’s work goes beyond that of a conventional bank, providing advice and support along the way. This was crucial to the idea taking off,’ explains Paul. ‘There were many advisors around who offered brokerage services but we needed much more than that.’ As a values-led organisation, Triodos Bank could see the high social impact of the idea, but without a proven pilot model, it was a risky project to invest in and hard to justify on strictly commercial grounds. Seeing the potential of the idea, the bank’s Corporate Finance Department took a long-term view, supporting it with a vision to scale and replicate the model in other cities.

Developing meaningful relationships with entrepreneurs who have the potential to create transformations, sums up Triodos Bank’s approach to investments. With a combination of the entrepreneur’s raw enthusiasm coupled with the Bank’s commercial acumen and financial prudency, it is a recipe for success and a long-term partnership. ‘You really felt like Triodos Bank were on your team, trying to make it work,’ says Paul.

At a time when government funding cuts have put charity and public service provision under extreme pressure, Bristol Together provides a model for a self-funding solution to multiple social problems, and an example of the power of impact investing in delivering social and financial returns.

For Triodos Bank, the success of Bristol Together further supports its approach to seeing the opportunity in small-scale ideas, which might otherwise be overlooked. Having had the right support, the company are now in a position to replicate the model elsewhere with Triodos Bank’s support. And once it reaches scale, it has the potential to go a long way towards helping solve a significant social problem.

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