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WISE Ways to Lead a Social Enterprise

WISE Ways to Lead a Social Enterprise
18 November 2020

We are proud to announce that Shared Interest Managing Director, Patricia Alexander, has been recognised for exceptional leadership.  The NatWest WISE100 Awards (Women in Social Enterprise 100) were replaced this year with a search for women leaders in social enterprise and impact investing, ‘who have been showing Covid-19 who's boss.’

Patricia was extremely candid when speaking to Pioneers Post earlier this year, saying: 

“When we closed the office [in March], I said that nobody is going to be thinking about investing in Shared Interest at a time like this but I couldn’t have been more wrong. That shows quite a lot about the British public.”

30 years of investing in a fairer world

In fact, as Shared Interest marks its 30th year, investment is at a record high of £46m, an increase of £3m this year, which helps meet the high demand for finance.  Shared Interest’s Regional Manager for Latin America, Paul Sablich said: “We are currently unable to visit our lending customers due to the quarantine across the world, but it does not prevent us being close to them through alternative means, and finding ways to continue supporting them.”

Providing a reliable source of finance

Patricia said: “Our colleagues in Ghana, Kenya, Costa Rica, Peru, and Europe continue to relay stories of solidarity in remote communities.  What remains clear is that our mission to provide support to fair trade producers is more relevant than ever.  Amidst the extensive disruption caused by the pandemic, Shared Interest continues to provide a reliable source of finance at a time when the future remains uncertain for most.

Impact of Covid-19

“However, what also continues to be apparent was that, in addition to restrictions on movement and trade, and the health implications of Covid-19, developing world communities are dealing with the impact of climate change.”

For this reason, Patricia decided to relaunch Shared Interest’s Livelihood Security Fund, which you can read more about here.

Smooth transition to remote working

Patricia was also commended for her forward thinking approach to remote working and efforts in keeping colleagues engaged. Considering that Shared Interest has a team of 39, spread across three continents, she made the decision to move everyone to remote working a fortnight before any restrictions were imposed, to ensure a smooth transition period.  By the time UK offices were told to close with immediate effect, Shared Interest was operating an international finance organisation, making payments in 51 countries, to full capacity and completely remotely.

Her main takeaway on running a social business through a pandemic?

“I don't think you can over-communicate in this situation.” Each month since March, Patricia has personally called every team member across all offices, several times.  An employee engagement survey took place in July, with a 97% response rate and positive results, with one comment stating:

“[Shared Interest] have done a fantastic job of maintaining a high level of engagement throughout the pandemic. I feel more valued than ever before.” 

Patricia said: “An organisation can only be successful with the right people involved, and Shared Interest has a brilliant team behind it.”

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