We’re nearly three months into the discovery phase for Tonic so it’s time to share a quarterly update with you all before we head off on our Easter holidays.
We’re delighted that Comic Relief has just committed as the fifth and final funder to contribute to our development budget, alongside Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Tudor Trust, Barrow Cadbury Trust, and Trust for London. Not only is it reassuring at this early stage to have grant-makers showing confidence in us and our proposition, but some of them are also active in the social finance sector where they make investments in initiatives that will deliver both a social dividend as well as an economic return. That’s an investment case that Tonic is hoping to make, perhaps with the support of one of the leading brokers in this area, Social Finance, whom we’re currently exploring ideas with.
Other than the usual administrative duties of a newly registered Community Interest Company including efforts to gain a little social media traction (note to self- blog more, tweet more…), we’ve been engrossed in defining potential business models. We started perhaps in the most obvious space by exploring possible joint ventures with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs, largely housing associations) and have been overwhelmed by an almost competitive enthusiasm to work with us. We’ve met with seven RSLs to date, including with the CEOs of Anchor, Extra Care Charitable Trust, and East Thames Housing. There’s a recognition that older LGBT people are at risk of a renewed isolation, something which all of those RSLs we met with seemed keen to address.
As a second option, we’re considering a partnership with an established, smaller social enterprise, ideally one which has access to land and which may share a vision of community housing. Although not an appropriate match for a Tonic partnership, we’ve been inspired by a meeting at Toynbee Hall in Aldgate (East London). It’s encouraging to hear how charities established in a different era are breaking new ground, in terms of fundraising and development partnerships, in their efforts to provide contemporary solutions.
As a possible third option, we’re considering a joint venture with a private housing developer. For example, we’re drawn to the communities currently being built by PegasusLife all over the country, not least because they prioritise the customer experience and borrow ideas from other successful businesses such as Virgin to guarantee a service level of excellence and innovation (compellingly, PegasusLife isn’t looking to make money out of the management of their properties, the activities for which are contained within a separate non-profit structure which all residents become shareholders of).
We feel privileged of course to occupy an ideas space where others would seemingly like to join us. In April, we’ll be recruiting a housing development specialist who will help us navigate through the potential complexities of choice. We’re also looking forward to being more outward-facing, amongst other things in seeking to define the “look and feel” of the living space that we want to create. As ever, we continue to welcome your input and feedback.