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Joanne Wedderspoon

Funder Relations Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

An equal world is an enabled world

9 March 2020

Sunday 8 March 2020 was International Women’s Day 2020, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Equality is not just a women's issue, it's an issue for the whole world. Gender equality is essential for communities to thrive to become healthier, wealthier and more harmonious. 

CAF’s latest research Ireland Giving shows that women are more likely to engage in charitable and civic activities; a trend that has also been seen in our UK Giving research.

At CAF Venturesome we provide social organisations with affordable, repayable finance to help them make the world a more equal place and, according to the latest Social Enterprise UK figures, 40% of social enterprises are led by women.  Across the whole CAF Venturesome portfolio that number is 38%, while for our smaller fund the SE-Assist Fund, which offers interest-free loans to early stage social enterprises to help them grow, it is 52%.

CAF Venturesome is led by Holly Piper who was named as a member of the WISE100 in 2019, a list of the top 100 women in social enterprise, and 72% of us are women.  Our main investment committee is 43%, and our smaller specialist fund investment committees are approximately 70% women.

Smiling woman on laptop

So let’s celebrate some of the wonderful women we are working with to build more equal society. We’d like to share here more stories of some of the inspirational women running social organisations in our portfolio as a follow-up to our International Women’s Day 2019 blog


Zoë Raven, CEO,
Acorn Early Years Foundation

Acorn Early Years Foundation began as a single nursery in 1989 in the village of Castlethorpe in Milton Keynes, where the organisation is still led by the founder and Chief Executive, Zoë Raven.  Thirty years later, there are 13 nurseries across three counties, several out-of-school clubs, extensive forest school provision, a catering service and a training centre. In 2012, the organisation began its transition into a charitable social enterprise and this has enabled their strong ethical grounding to be protected for the long-term benefit of the children and families using their services.

Zoe is passionate about retaining a personal touch in the organisation, and is determined to manage Acorn’s growth to lead the sector in being a learning organisation.  Alongside her role as CEO Zoe is undertaking a PhD on how social enterprises can provide affordable, high quality childcare that is accessible to all.

Alison Baum, CEO, Best Beginnings

Alison is an Oxford University science graduate with a background at the BBC where she worked on programmes including Horizon and Tomorrow’s World, communicating key scientific and medical breakthroughs. She has used her leadership and executive production experience to pioneer the development of innovative resources including DVDs, art and mobile apps to support the emotional and physical transition to parenthood.  Before launching Best Beginnings, Alison set up an internet-based social enterprise called Express Yourself Mums, providing information and products for new mothers.

In 2006, she founded Best Beginnings and within just four weeks, the charity formed and led a coalition of more than 35 organisations, including five Royal Colleges and UNICEF, to lobby for the implementation of the Breastfeeding Manifesto. A year later, Alison won the Sheila McKechnie Foundation award for Health and Social Campaigner of the Year. In 2014, Alison was awarded CPHVA Campaigner of the Year and Woman of Democracy. In January 2017 she was awarded an OBE for services to Tackling Child Health Inequalities.

Mandy Powell & Kelly Davies, Founders, the Good Wash Company

Mandy and Kelly wanted to create a luxury Welsh brand with a humble social conscience. A brand that would look good in the finest of establishments, feel good for the most sensitive of skin and fur, and yet would address some of the social issues within local communities….. without a compromise on quality. They started working with locally sourced organic essential oils on their kitchen table in Barry, developing new luxury products based on age old remedies.

Mandy is passionate about improving the lives of animals and driving a conscious consumer movement. Mandy hopes to use her learnings from her sporting career and the commercial world to create a sustainable business that achieves social change for both animals and people.  Kelly is passionate about providing opportunities for those individuals at risk of unemployment and suffering from disadvantage, to realise their true potential. With a proven track record of transforming over 10,000 lives in the past 8 years, Kelly sees Goodwash as an opportunity to test an emerging model in the social enterprise sector and further upscale impact within this important space.

Bethan Scolding, Co-Founder and Director, Greenwich Music School

Greenwich Music School (GMS), co-founded by Bethan Scolding, provides access to low cost and high quality music education, which is often difficult to access and often too expensive for many families. Bethan, a classical pianist, has over ten years experience teaching students of all ages and uses this experience to work to improve access to music education in Greenwich and surrounding boroughs (Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Newham). The boroughs that GMS reaches are ranked amongst some of the most deprived areas in England.  Every week GMS teaches 125 children and adults through one-to-one instrument or voice lessons, 29 families with young children in their early years programme, and 112 children in groups such as beginner piano, choir and orchestra.

Pippa Smith, CEO, Student Hubs

Student Hubs was founded in Oxford in 2007 by a group of students who believed that universities should be more connected to the communities in which they are based. Student Hubs works in partnership with universities to provide social action programmes for students. Their work includes long-term volunteering in the local community: running free extra-curricular activities for disadvantaged children, befriending older people and tackling educational disadvantage through academic tutoring in schools. They train up teams of students to act as consultants for local charities through their Social Innovation Programme.  Student Hubs is now led by Pippa Smith who is passionate about youth leadership and further education.

Kemi Folarin, CEO, Young People Matter

Young People Matter is an award winning, diverse charity and community action group with people of all ages and backgrounds joined together by a shared commitment to nurture children’s potential, promote healthy living and develop a greater sense of social responsibility.  It was set up in 2007 by its inspirational CEO and Founder Kemi Folarin, when she was 22, in the Stockwell area of London as a response to the shooting of Billy Cox.   Kemi is dedicated to supporting children and young people to make positive life choices.  She is also the Founder of Aspire to Elevate Training Centre, an author and an advisor to many organisations and non-profits on youth engagement dedicated to supporting BME children and young people.

These inspirational women are but a handful we have chosen this year and we celebrate all the women working in charities and social enterprises to create a more equal world.


My experience of social investment is that it is a lot more gender balanced, and so my advice to any woman looking to join social investment, either as a team member or a committee member, is to go for it!

Holly Piper, Head of CAF Venturesome



If you want to know more about a social investment from CAF Venturesome or want to use your philanthropic capital to support our fund, talk to our team on 03000 123 300 or email us at venturesome@cafonline.org and we’ll be happy to help.


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