A NEWLY released report has revealed the North West social economy to be thriving when compared against national averages, whilst also detailing what needs to be challenged to bring about further growth. The report was independently commissioned by the First Ark Group, a leading social impact business in the North West, in order to gauge the strength of the social economy and identify viable opportunities for investment. The report reveals that 63% of social enterprises in the North West have diversified into new markets in the past twelve months, putting the region’s sector leagues ahead of the 43% national average. 83% of social enterprises in the North West have attracted major new customers over the past twelve months, giving the region a slight lead over the national average of 79%. Tony Cahill, executive director at First Ark, said: “The report shows that the North West social businesses sector is ahead of national trends in business confidence, growth ambition, the diversification of its products and services and its customer base. “The report is key to helping all of us understand the challenges and opportunities that face both investors and social businesses in identifying the appropriate funding structures and channels to enable this growth ambition.” The First Ark Group work across the North West and beyond to create the foundations for lasting social and economic growth, helping to shape a better social landscape through informed investment and increased access to real opportunities. As a leading social investor, First Ark report that an unprecedented level of social enterprises in the North West have developed to a high level of stability, and are now actively seeking investment to scale up. However, in order to drive further growth, the report highlights the need for greater understanding between investors and investees. When interviewed, directors of social enterprises reported that they felt investors needed to foster an appreciation of markets for social businesses and the challenges associated with trading with the public sector. There was also a demand for better information flows and a willingness to provide risk capital to start-up businesses. Investors, on the other hand, have called for social enterprises to have an increased ability to demonstrate viability and forecasts of social and environmental impact. They also highlighted the need for social enterprises to have a greater understanding of each investor’s objectives and target markets. Following the completion of a clear social investment strategy, The First Ark Group will soon be launching its first social investment fund. This will play a key role in developing a vibrant and thriving social investment market in the North West over the coming months. The full report can be found here. For more details on the social investment fund, contact email@example.com or head to www.firstark.com/.